Correct call made in Giants-Dodgers game despite gaffe of third-base coach Roberto Kelly

From left, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly argues with third base umpire Fieldin Culbreth as San Francisco Giants third base coach Roberto Kelly and Gregor Blanco wait for resolution in the ninth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 22, 2015, in San Francisco. San Francisco won, 3-2. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

From left, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly argues with third base umpire Fieldin Culbreth as San Francisco Giants third base coach Roberto Kelly and Gregor Blanco wait for resolution in the ninth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 22, 2015, in San Francisco. San Francisco won, 3-2. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly had a legitmate beef on Wednesday night.

But, ultimately, the correct call was made in the bizarre play involving Giants third-base coach Roberto Kelly and Gregor Blanco in the ninth inning.

OK, let’s set up the play.

With runners on first and second and one out in the ninth of a 2-2 tie, Brandon Belt shot a single into left field. Blanco, on second base, got a late break on the line drive and had no intention on trying to score as he rounded third base.

But as he rounded the base, Blanco bumped into Kelly, who was standing about six feet from the base.

Mattingly came out to argue interference with third-base umpire and crew chief Fieldin Culbreth, as Blanco clearly came in contatct with Kelly.

“The third-base coach blocked him,” Mattingly said. “I guess that’s the way I’ve been taught – the third-base coach is not allowed to block the runner from continuing on. It’s obviously interference and they missed the call, basically. I don’t know who was supposed to be watching but they weren’t.”

He continued: “He didn’t see it. He was watching the play. I don’t know why the third-base ump is watching the play. There’s nothing for him to watch. It’s a ground ball to left. I don’t know who’s watching to see if he touched the base. I really don’t know what the umpires’ responsibilities are there. But I do know there’s no way in baseball they allow the third-base coach to come up and basically block the runner from going forward, and that’s what happened tonight. That’s obviously a missed call. It’s not reviewable from their explanation.”

It seems that the Dodgers’ main beef is based on the idea that Culbreth didn’t see the play, because he wasn’t looking. And he wasn’t.

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But let’s take a look at the facts.

  • FACT: Blanco bumped into Kelly.
  • FACT: Culbreth didn’t see it.
  • FACT: Blanco was not attempting to score.
  • FACT: Kelly did not prevent Blanco from attempting to score, not did he assist him in getting back to third
  • FACT: There was no play at third base by the Dodgers.

So, it would appear that the Dodgers were hoping to get bailed out of a ninth-inning jam not by a play that they made, but by a technicality or an umpire’s interpretation.

But one problem. Here’s the rule concerning the play from the MLB rulebook.

Rule 7.09
It is interference by a batter or runner when …
(g) In the judgment of the umpire, the base coach at third base, or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists him in returning to or leaving third base or first base.

So, by the rule, Culbreth’s ruling was correct.

“Don came out and asked me did I see him grab him,” Culbreth said “I told him no, I did not see him grab him. . . . The rule is pretty specific in the fact that he had to touch and physically grab him and assist him in returning to the base. That did not happen. If he doesn’t physically assist him in returning to the base then there’s no interference.”

Blanco concurred: “It wasn’t like he stopped me. I was stopping on third. I don’t feel he was stopping me at all.”

The problem comes in that some umpires would have seen the contact and ruled Blanco out … simply on the basis of stupidity.

There is absolutely no reason for Kelly to be standings THAT close to third base. There is no reason for contact to ever happen in that circumstance.

But it’s another example of a learning curve for Kelly, who made the move from first-base coach to third-base coach to replace the retired Tim Flannery.

You may remember on Opening Day, Kelly got Nori Aoki thrown out with a late stop sign.

On that play, Aoki was rounding third on a double by Joe Panik, when Kelly threw up a late stop sign. That led to Aoki to get caught too far off of third base. He was thrown out in the resulting rundown.

Not surprising, a few days later Aoki scored on a play when he blew threw a Kelly stop sign.

Kelly’s still learning his new job. Hopefully, it doesn’t cost the Giants in the future.

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