I was just watching the cubs - mets game on TV (7/1/15) and in the bottom of the 8th, a bit of a bizarre play transpired, which seemed to stump the umpires and commentators alike. There were runners on 2nd (Daniel Murphy) and 3rd (Ruben Tejada) and 1 out, and Tejada took off to steal home. About half-way between 3rd and home, Tejada turned around and got caught in a rundown. Meanwhile, Murphy took off from 2nd to 3rd, and stayed put on 3rd when he got there (expecting Tejada to get thrown out in the rundown). But the result of the rundown was that Tejada ran back to third, on which Murphy was still standing, and passed through the bag (believing he was out somehow), running behind Murphy and proceeding to get tagged out. The Cubs player then tagged Murphy, standing on 3rd, and the third-base umpire ruled both men out.

However the umpire quickly took back his ruling and went into conference with the other umpires, finally ruling only Tejada out, as he was tagged while behind 3rd base, but ruling Murphy safe at third.

My question is, should Murphy (the following runner) have also been called out for passing Tejada (the preceding runner), when Tejada ran back through third base and behind Murphy before he (Tejada) was tagged out?

I suppose the issue comes down to the wording of the rule concerning runners passing other runners. According to Rule 7.08 (h): "Any runner is out when: he passes a preceding runner before such runner is out."

Therefore, should Murphy have been automatically called out when Tejada (still not out) ran behind him, thereby putting Murphy in front of the preceding runner Tejada? Or would Murphy only be considered to have "passed the preceding runner" if he himself were to run ahead of Tejada, rather than remaining stationary while Tejada ran behind (or "unpassed") Murphy?

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    I'm too clueless about baseball to dare to answer, but there seems to be an explanation here, something about him going home without a bag. m.mlb.com/news/article/134132540/… – Fillet Jul 2 '15 at 14:10
  • Ah, I see — so they considered Tejada out of the base path, automatically making Murphy the leading runner and allowing him to stay safe on third. – Nick Jul 3 '15 at 2:42

No grey area. Two runners can occupy the same base. When there are two runners on the same base the lead runner can go to the next base or the following runner can go back. At no time can their paths cross (being on the same base does not count as paths crossing) or the following runner is out.

Now if they are on the same bag and they are tagged the following runner is out. But in this case no one was tagged. Tejada ran past the bag and got tagged. Which is a perfectly acceptable way to be out. He could also have been called out for going outside of the baselines.

Tejada and Murphy actually made a tactical mistake. Tejada is the superior runner and he was "caught" so he should have taken third base. From there Murphy should have ran back to second before he was tagged. Even though chances are slim there could be a wild throw in Murphy's rundown allowing Tejada to score or more importantly keeping the faster runner on third (but with two outs not a huge deal but still matters if there is a passed ball).

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    This answer is somewhat errant (Tejada was called out, per the umpires in the article, for giving himself up, not for being tagged; and Murphy was tagged prior to Tejada being tagged. Had they ruled he did not give himself up, most likely both players would have been ruled out) but mostly has it right. However, it lacks sources; answers of questions like this should refer to the official rules. – Joe Jul 2 '15 at 15:24
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    @Joe - Running outside of the baselines is the same as giving yourself up. Also Murphy was tagged but not while he occupied the base with Tejada which just happened briefly. Even if they ruled that he didn't give himself up he is still out being tagged and that has nothing to do with Murphy. There is no way to justify them both being out unless the umpire made a case that Tejada was trying to return to second - which he never appeared to be. – Coach-D Jul 2 '15 at 17:17
  • Running outside the baselines is explicitly not the same thing as giving yourself up, though they have the same result - their timing is different, sometimes in important ways. If they'd ruled he hadn't given himself up, then he was certainly no further along than third base, and so Murphy would've been out. – Joe Jul 2 '15 at 17:19
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    Running outside the lines is explicitly for one of two purposes: to avoid a tag or to interfere with the play. A runner who runs slightly outside the lines (such as on the left of the first baseline, which is technically outside the lines) will not usually be called out unless the play comes along that line, for example. A player giving himself up is someone who simply quits on the play and heads towards the dugout (or does some similar action that acknowledges he is out). I agree that it's a small distinction, but it is a technical one. – Joe Jul 2 '15 at 17:26
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    There is just nothing in the rulebook that cites that a player that is closer to home plate overran another player. For instance I have see plays (especially at youth level) where a runner rounds third too late and ends up over by the dugout. The trailing runner hits third base. At that point in time he might be "closer" to home than the guy ahead that slipped. So would he get called out for passing? (This is why I didn't start citing the 3-4 rules that this play covers) – Coach-D Jul 2 '15 at 17:34

What I saw was that Tejada got back to the bag and then ran a few steps off down the left field line (without being tagged). The defensive player first tagged Murphy, then tagged Tejada while he (Tejada) was off the base. If I saw it correctly, by my understanding of the rule, both runners should be out. If two runners occupy the same base at the same time, and both are tagged, the following runner is out. In this case, Murphy, the following runner was tagged, so he is out, and Tejada was tagged when he was off the base, so he was out. The order of the tag matters! If Tejada was tagged first while he was off the base, then he is out and Murphy has the right to the base, so he is safe even if he is tagged (while he is on the base). I think the umps got it wrong. But then again, they are pros and I am only a HS/rec ump!

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    They weren't on the bag at the same time of the tags so Murphy at no point in time was a following runner occupying the same bag while being tagged. The umps got it right. I guess the "grey area" was by Tejada running past the bag was he making an attempt to go back to second base... which he can and then Murphy is out automatically. So they had to decide if he was going to second or just running outside the baselines. It was pretty obvious he was making no attempt to return to second so they made the right call. – Coach-D Jul 2 '15 at 14:25
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    from umpman - I can certainly see many sides of this after thinking about it some more. What is considered "on the bag"? Was Tejeda out of the baseline? Did Murphy "pass" Tejeda as Tejada retreated back to third? I bet you would get a variety of opinions from coaches and umps. I think if it happened in a game I was doing, my gut instinct would have been to call both out. However, after doing that, I certainly would have called time to confer with my partner(s). A very interesting situation to discuss. – umpman Jul 2 '15 at 16:41
  • Were I umpiring that situation in a high school or lower level, I would've called only one out, because it seems the fair thing to do without an explicit rule saying otherwise. At the MLB level that sort of reasoning shouldn't apply, but in a game with amateur children some degree of fairness is appropriate. – Joe Jul 2 '15 at 17:20
  • As umpires we are taught to use common sense. The runner already occupied third. So when he steps off the bag he is either occupying third to home or third to second. If a runner is on third and steps off the bag two feet in the direction of second base does he now need to touch third before going home? (please say no) Same thing as talking to the third base coach which sometimes happens past the bag... He is still occupying third to home. If you think about it in player states then you have 3rd-to-home, 3rd base, or 3rd-to-2nd. He has to be in one of those states at all times. – Coach-D Jul 2 '15 at 17:26
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    So a related question pertaining to the situation is: R1 on first, double hit into the gap. R1 is slow to get around 2nd (but does), but batter beyond second also (but behind R1). R1 retreats back to second passing batter-runner (going backwards). Batter-runner did not actively pass R1, but now he is passed him! What is your call Coach-D? (Arent baseball rules fun?). – umpman Jul 2 '15 at 19:07

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