Explaining the Goofy Play From Tonight’s Twins vs. Royals Game

The Scene

Alexi Casilla on 3B, Jamey Carroll on 2B. Denard Span hits a grounder to Eric Hosmer at first base. Hosmer fires home to Salvador Perez, who chases Casilla all the way back to 3B. However, Carroll also advances to 3B, while Span hustles around and makes it to 2B. Casilla, upon seeing the other two baserunners safe, deliberately runs past 3B. Perez gives up chasing Casilla as he’s now out of the baseline, and he tags Carroll, hoping for a double play. However, after some hesitation, the umpires only calls Casilla out and allows Carroll to stay at 3B. The 4 umpires then have a conversation, and ultimately decide that they made the right call.

As it turns out, they were actually wrong.

Why?

For my explanation, I turn to a slew of rules:

7.01
A runner acquires the right to an unoccupied base when he touches it before he is out. He is then entitled to it until he is put out, or forced to vacate it for another runner legally entitled to that base.

7.03(a)
Two runners may not occupy a base, but if, while the ball is alive, two runners are touching a base, the following runner shall be out when tagged and the preceding runner is entitled to the base, unless Rule 7.03(b) applies.

7.03(b)
If a runner is forced to advance by reason of the batter becoming a runner and two runners are touching a base to which the following runner is forced, the following runner is entitled to the base and the preceding runner shall be out when tagged or when a fielder possesses the ball and touches the base to which such preceding runner is forced.

Why are these important?

7.01
This means that Casilla was entitled to 3B, while Carroll was entitled to 2B when the play began. Although Carroll ran to 3B and was standing on it before Casilla returned to the base, the second sentence of this rule does not apply, as Carroll was not forced to run to 3B (there was not a baserunner on 1B when the play started). This is why 3B remains Casilla’s base throughout the entire play.

7.03(a)
Remember that Casilla was entitled to 3B. Thus, even though he was off the base and Carroll was standing on it, it was still technically Casilla’s base. This rule states that if both runners were standing on 3B, then Carroll would be tagged out and Casilla would stay on 3B. Obviously, this is not what happened. Casilla ran past 3B while Carroll was standing on it, and Perez tagged Carroll before Casilla was called out for running out of the basepath. Since Carroll was the following runner and was tagged before Casilla was called out, this should have resulted in a double play. However, rule 7.03(a) does have an exception if 7.03(b) comes into play.

7.03(b)
But, this rule does not matter. This only applies if Casilla and Carroll were forced to advance, as in if the bases had been loaded or they had been on 1st and 2nd. Since they started on 2nd and 3rd, there was no runner on 1st and Span was the batter, neither runner was forced to advance. Yes, even when Span ran to 2nd base, because Span himself was not forced to advance.

Summary

This play should have resulted in a double play. Casilla was entitled to 3B, so even though Carroll occupied it, it was Casilla’s base. Carroll was tagged before the umpire called Casilla out for running out of the baseline, and since Carroll was the following runner, Rule 7.03(a) states that Carroll should have been called out. Subsequently, Casilla would have been called out for running out of the baseline, thus how the double play should have been the correct call.

How did you know this?

This play has happened in the past. Also, a similar play was featured in the “What’s The Call” feature of Sports Illustrated for Kids many, many years ago.

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7 Responses to “Explaining the Goofy Play From Tonight’s Twins vs. Royals Game”

  1. TT Says:

    I think you are wrong. When the umpire calls someone out has nothing to do with when they are out. Casilla was out at the time he left the basepath, not when the umpire made the call. So Casilla was already out when Carroll was tagged.

    • Bryz Says:

      Sure, if it’s a black and white issue. Did the throw to 1st beat the runner? Then yes, the umpire can take all day making the call, a la Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun.

      But running out of the baseline is not so easy to judge. It’s up to the umpire’s discretion to decide when the runner is no longer in the baseline. The fact that the umpires had to confer after the play, along with the 3rd base umpire’s hesitation in making the call in the first place, suggest to me that he wasn’t entirely sure what to call right away himself.

      If he calls Casilla out immediately, then it’s obvious that Carroll is now allowed to stay at 3B. But in hesitating, that leads to our confusion, and it’s fortunate that Carroll kept his foot on 3rd the entire time.

  2. Greg Says:

    I agree with TT that what matters is the umpires judgment as to which occurred first – was Casilla out of the baseline first or was the tag first. Since there was definitely some hesitation before the tag, I think they got it right.

    Also, while it might have been Casilla’s base if he chose to occupy it, he wasn’t on it, so he was just out of the baseline. Since there weren’t two runners on the base, 7.03b doesn’t apply.

  3. Jere Says:

    I’m going to say that the Umpires interpreted the rule as follows:

    Because Casilla was NOT on 3B AND was out of the baseline, he was out. (Not a surprise). As a result, Jamey Carroll was then entitled to the base and could not be tagged out.

    If you argue that Carroll could be tagged out because he could not be forced to take 3B, then you are stating that the team could tag him out any time as long as the fore runner has not tagged the advancing base because the fore runner is entitled to the previous base.

    If both runners were touching the same base, THEN the secondary runner would be tagged out as the original runner is entitled to THAT base.

    I may be wrong, but I think that is the only way it could be interpreted and I believe that is how the Umps interpreted and called.

  4. Claudio Vargas Says:

    Great analysis, thanks!

  5. Henrietta Harding Says:

    the national associations chose their locations in 2011. The teams trained and resided in these locations throughout the tournament, travelling to games staged away from their bases.

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