6

Situation:

  • There is a runner on first base and the defense decides to have a mound visit or change their pitcher.

  • The offensive players group up to talk about strategy and the coach tells the player to go to second base instead of first base when the pitcher is ready.

If the defense, umpire, or official scorer don't notice this and a pitch is thrown, it is my understanding that the player cannot be put back to first after the pitch. This comes from an experience as a player in the past doing this same thing.

  1. Is it correct that once a pitch has been made, the player cannot be sent back to first?
  2. What would be the official scoring for this? A stolen base?
  3. If someone does notice in time, is there any precedence or rule for punishment to the offense? If not, why wouldn't more teams try this, especially at levels lower than professional baseball?
  4. Does anyone know of this actually happening in a major event? Say Professional or Major College baseball?

I understand that it would be seen as Bush League and often may be noticed by a member of the defense or an umpire. However, it could be a way to sneak a better scoring opportunity if there are no repercussions.

  • 2
    I don't see any specifications in the MLB rules discussing this exact issue. The rules explain that no batter may advance when the ball is dead, but do not explain the penalty. I personally would consider this the responsibility of the umpire (not to call Play until the runners are in their proper position) which makes it not an appeal play (so the pitch is irrelevant); the umpire ought to correct the situation and re-pitch. If it was clearly intentional, I would also consider whether 7.08i ('travesty of the game') applies, or 7.08(a)(2) applies (abandoning his efforts to reach base). – Joe Jan 8 '15 at 19:08
  • the odds of this happening in MLB would be pretty slim. They use 4 umpire crews, so the chances of 1 of the 4 not seeing this kind of shenanigans going on would be pretty low. – wax eagle Jan 8 '15 at 19:48
  • @waxeagle I agree, but there are times every year where weird things happen. Guys walking on 3 balls or rules being misapplied. Doubtful yes, but possible. – diggers3 Jan 8 '15 at 20:39
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The official MLB rules don't seem to directly discuss this. However, I did find an umpire help site which explicitly states that this kind of situation (which more commonly would occur when a player returns to the wrong base after a foul ball) is subject to the appeal play. That means, if you do not appeal it (by appealing to the base the player ought to be on), the player is entitled to the base. I'm not sure how it would be scored; I suggest it would be largely ignored by the official scorer or perhaps considered a Team Error. It shouldn't be a stolen base. If the appeal is made, the runner would simply be put out.

If it appears intentional, the umpire would likely have the ability to levy additional sanctions for unsportsmanlike conduct. I would expect the player and likely his manager would be ejected from the ballgame if it appeared intentional and/or was a systematic attempt rather than an accident. How you tell that it is intentional of course is more difficult - unless it's the third or fourth time a team's done the same thing...

  • That makes sense as it happened in a game I was in. A pitch was thrown when the other manager realized the error and the umpire said it was too late to correct. – diggers3 Jan 8 '15 at 19:48

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