Rule Book 101: Little League Re-Entry

Baseball has been America’s national pastime for well over a century and a half, yet it still provides long-time spectators with events that they have never seen before – or will again. And on Player’s Weekend, it wasn’t just the uniforms that were reminiscent of Little League.

In the top of the ninth inning of Friday’s Baltimore/Boston tilt, the Red Sox – down by 13 runs – enlisted starting first baseman Mitch Moreland to take a trip to the mound and save the battered pitching staff. While Moreland matched Robby Scott’s scoreless eighth inning with his scoreless ninth, it was the action in the bottom of the ninth where the MLB Rule Book was conveniently forgotten.

The 2017 Major League Baseball Rule Book defines the concepts and parameters of the designated hitter within Rule 5.11. In the case of a defensive player becoming a pitcher, Rule 5.11(a)(14) states:

If a player on defense goes to the mound (i.e., replaces the pitcher), this move shall terminate the Designated Hitter’s role for that club for the remainder of the game.

So, in this instance, when Mitch Moreland – a player who was already in the game as a fielder – went to the mound, the Red Sox lost the benefit of the designated hitter rule. Of course, the Red Sox need not have lost the services of designated hitter Chris Young, as 5.11(a)(5) states:

The Designated Hitter may be used on defense, continuing to bat in the same position in the batting order, but the pitcher must then bat in the place of the substituted defensive player, unless more than one substitution is made, and the manager then must designate their spots in the batting order.

So, if the Red Sox had wanted to place Chris Young at first base as a direct replacement to moving Moreland to the mound, they could have. Obviously, other permutations on the same theme were also available. However, the Red Sox instead chose to place Hanley Ramirez – who had been given a day off – at first base. Rule 5.10(a) says:

A player, or players, may be substituted during a game at any time the ball is dead. A substitute player shall bat in the replaced player’s position in the team’s batting order.

Furthermore, Rule 5.10(d) states:

A player once removed from a game shall not re-enter that game.

The two rules in concert put first baseman Hanley Ramirez in the lineup in place of Chris Young, who is out of the game. Simple and basic.

Except that… Chris Young – not Hanley Ramirez – strode to the plate as the second batter of the ninth inning resulting in the strange boxscore seen here, where Young pinch-hit (and singled) for the batter that replaced him:

Now, if the Red Sox and Orioles were in Williamsport participating in the Little League World Series, Young’s reappearance would have been less of an issue. After all, Little League Rule 3.03 allows for re-entry into the game. On the other hand, the Red Sox still would have run afoul of the rules:

A player in the starting line-up who has been removed for a substitute may re-enter the game once, in any position in the batting order, provided:
  1. his or her substitute has completed one time at bat and;
  2. has played defensively for a minimum of six(6) CONSECUTIVE outs

Since Ramirez had not yet batted or played six outs, the Little League Sox would have still broken the rules.

So, what should have happened when Young came up in the tenth? Rule 5.10(d) continues:

If a player who has been substituted for attempts to re-enter, or re-enters, the game in any capacity, the umpire-in-chief shall direct the player’s manager to remove such player from the game immediately upon noticing the player’s presence or upon being informed of the player’s improper presence by another umpire or by either manager. If such direction to remove the substituted for player occurs before play commences with the player improperly in the game, then the substitute player may enter the game. If such direction to remove the substituted-for player occurs after play has commenced with the substituted-for player in the game, then the substitute player shall be deemed to have been removed from the game (in addition to the removal of the substituted-for player) and shall not enter the game.

That is a long-winded way of saying this:

  1. If anyone had noticed Young coming to bat in the ninth, he would have been removed and replaced by Ramirez.
  2. If no one noticed until after Young had started his at-bat (or after he got on), Young and Ramirez would both be removed from the game, and John Farrell would have had to go to the bench to bring another player – like Christian Vazquez – in for Young.

Additionally, a comment on 5.01(d) says that Farrell could have been ejected for this transgression:

If, in an umpire’s judgment, the player re-entered the game knowing that he had been removed, the umpire may eject the manager.

But, what if someone – for example, Baltimore Manager Buck Showalter – finally noticed the transgression after Young had singled. Is Young not only out of the game (again), but is he also out? The comment on 5.01(d) gives the answer:

Any play that occurs while a player appears in a game after having been substituted for shall count.

No wonder Showalter didn’t call the Red Sox out for this transgression, assuming he even noticed. In a 16-3 game in the bottom of the ninth inning – the only real effect of making the umpire aware after Young hit the single would be to substitute Vazquez for Young and possibly have Farrell ejected. Sometimes, it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie.


Follow Brandon on Twitter @cuzittt

Featured image courtesy of mlb.com

 

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