Before we get into crew consultations and the guidelines for those situations, we have a few examples of situations where umpires can immediately assist one another:
Foul Ball in / near the Batter’s Box
If the ball clearly hits the batter in the batter’s box, it is perfectly acceptable for a BU to simply call the ball “Foul”, as is done here. However, if there is a situation where the batter may have been out of the box when touched by the ball, BUs have two options: if they are absolutely certain the ball struck a batter outside of the box and in fair territory, they shall immediately call “Time” and declare the batter-runner out for interference. If they are unsure of whether or not the batter was in the box when struck by the ball, or whether or not the batter was in fair territory when struck by the ball, they should hesitate to give PU an oppourtunity to make the call; if PU makes no call, BU should call the ball “Foul”.
Third Strike or Foul Tip Caught Near the Dirt
Moving on to a more discrete example, it can be very difficult for the plate umpire to determine whether third strikes and foul tips near the dirt were caught cleanly or trapped by the catcher. In those circumstances, BUs should do one of three things:
1) if the catcher legally caught the ball, give a closed fist and remain stationary, as U3 does here
2) if the catcher trapped the ball, firmly point down to the ground several times while walking toward home plate
3) if you cannot tell or did not see, do nothing. Unfortunately, PU must make the call on his own accord here.
On any ball that is remotely close, PU should hesitate and look out to his BUs before indicating the call, just to be safe.
This immediate assistance provides PU with additional information right away in order to help determine the correct call. For the most part, this should essentially eliminate the need for a crew consultation in this particular situation, but if there is a case where multiple base umpires have different opinions and the call is argued, a consultation may be necessary:
Note here that PU deferred the call to U3. We would prefer to see the call made by PU after swift communication with the BUs as described above.
Before we get into the video, there are a few basic principles to crew consultations:
1) The calling umpire is always the one to initiate a conference. He may do so on his own, or when requested to by the manager. The umpire is under no obligation to ask for help if he is certain of his call. If you are sure of your call, do not get help to simply appease the manager. In most circumstances, as umpires, we immediately know if we should be asking for help on a call.
Note – With the implementation of Instant Replay in Major League Baseball, we anticipate an upward trend in requests to get help. Do not feel obligated to get a second opinion simply because your call is being questioned. See below for guidelines on when and when not to ask for help.
2) If you are going to get help, seek it quickly. An umpire should not be pulling the crew together after an extended argument with a manager.
3) Before the game, work out a signal that a partner can use to alert the calling umpire if he has additional information that would lead to a call being overturned. Ensure the signal is discrete and inconspicuous. However, it is still up to the calling umpire as to whether or not he will ask for help.
4) Conference with other umpires away from players, coaches, and managers. If they try to eavesdrop, ask them to back away in an appropriate and professional manner. It is highly recommended, though not mandatory, that ALL umpires get together, as an unlikely umpire may have important information.
5) The ultimate decision of whether or not to overturn a call rests with the umpire who initially made the call
6) Be sure all factors of the ruling are correct before breaking. This is in an attempt to avoid having to conference a second time.
7) If a call is overturned and runner placement is required, umpires are to ignore any missed bases, failure to tag, passing infractions, interference, or obstruction that occurred as a result of the original call
Examples of situations where crew consultation is appropriate:
– Whether a HR was fair or foul
– Whether a hit was a HR or a Ground Rule Double
– Whether or not a catcher dropped a foul tip voluntarily (foul tip vs foul ball)
– Whether or not a ball was juggled or dropped after a tag or force
– Spectator interference situations (crew consultation is mandatory here in order to properly place runners)
– Balk, where the calling umpire did not realize the pitcher stepped off the rubber
– Whether a batted ball in flight was caught or trapped by a fielder
– Whether or not a fielder maintained contact with the base (usually 1B) on a force play
– Whether or not a batter was hit by a pitch
We should not be seeing crew consultations after steal, tag, or force plays, unless the ball may have been juggled / dropped or there was a question as to whether the fielder’s foot lost contact with the base on a force play.
Here we see an example of the catcher dropping a foul tip on a transfer. The plate umpire, looking through the catcher, saw the ball on the ground, believed the ball to have not been legally secure, called the ball foul, instructed the batter to return to the box, but then realized the protest of the defending team and brought the crew together and the ultimate call was eventually made thanks to the unobstructed views of the other 3 umpires. The video highlights an important concept; right before the umpire signals the out, he notifies the batter he is overturning the call. Umpires have the option to speak to the manager (or in this case, player) before or after overturning the call. Should a call be overturned, the manager is entitled to an explanation, as we see occur here. However, managers may not argue when a call is flipped, especially if it is obviously the correct call.
One thing that we should never see if an umpire needs assistance is that umpire pointing at another umpire in an attempt to have them make the call. This should not be done under any circumstance by HBUA umpires. If you require help, bring the crew together and have a discussion. Do not put your partner on the spot and in a position where he may feel like he is in a sitcom.