MLB Foul Ball Week in Review (September 5 – September 11): Jim Joyce Wild Pitch Foul Ball, Employee of the Week & Joey Votto Again

The MLB foul ball week in review shows that Major League Baseball ended the week of September 5 – September 11, 2016 with about 156 Foul Ball Facials (#FoulBallFacials) in 155 days of games. These are only those fans hit in the head area at Major League Baseball games as self-reported on Twitter. That equates to one fan per day of play. It seems like a lot, and it is, but it could be fewer since nearly 50% of these tweets indicate the fan wasn’t paying attention. To put that into perspective, it means roughly 65 fans (conservative estimate) would have avoided foul balls to the face had they not been buried in their phones.

But that’s not the only thing going on with foul balls this week. Here’s the rundown of the best and worst foul ball and fan-related actions from the past week:

EMPLOYEE OF THE WEEK

How’s this for a day at work as a non-player? I wonder if they got the Atlanta Braves foul ball certificate. Maybe that doesn’t apply to employees who snag foul balls.

THE JIM JOYCE WILD PITCH

I am not at all a fan of Major League Baseball umpires. I especially dislike Jim Joyce and would love to see him leave the game (I’m a lifelong Tigers fan and the image of him blowing a call that cost Tigers starter Armando Galarraga his perfect game is still very fresh in my memory). Last week, I fell for a “foul ball” call by Joyce. Joyce, behind the dish during the Astros – Cleveland Indians game was brutally maligned on Twitter for a wild pitch call on a Chisenhall at-bat. People, including well-respected reporters all jumped on the “Bash Joyce” bandwagon. I am embarrassed to admit my own distaste for the man colored my response too…until I went to the official Major League Baseball rule book. Then I changed my mind. This is the play that awaken the disdain:

As you can see in the replay, the ball hit the dirt nearly a foot before the plate. How any baseball fan doesn’t see that as a wild pitch is bewildering. Actually, it’s a great deal more complicated than that though. Read on.

Rule 9.13 clearly indicates a wild pitch includes any ball which hits the plate or before the plate on a legally thrown pitch. This one did. As soon as the ball hit the dirt in front of the plate, it was considered a wild pitch BY THE RULE BOOK. However, should it have actually been a wild pitch call? Most likely not.

Rule 6.01 of the official rules for 2016 imply the call should have been interference since Cleveland Indians batter Chisenhall deflected the ball making it impossible for the catcher to field it. The replay shows the ball on a trajectory directly to the catcher.

A continuance of Rule 9.13 regarding fielder’s choice further clouds the call. In a vague manner, this play could have also been called a fielder’s choice.

The fact seems clear though; despite my personal dislike of Jim Joyce he made one of three possible correct calls. He ruled BY THE BOOK. That’s precisely what he’s supposed to do.

I recommend, though, based on Rule 6.01 that the Houston Astros protest that game. It appears it is supposed to be interference. Considering the tight race for the post season, this game could change a lot for the Texas team. I’d protest loudly.

But to be fair, there’s also not rule about hitting a bounced ball ON THE FIELD. By the official scorer’s perspective, that was to be ruled a wild pitch. And I think that is what Joyce was going with; he played the role of “scorer” in this.

The problem, I had pointed out to me in a very clear and respectful way, is that there’s a book and an on-field discrepancy. Play rules don’t always jive. This is what the person said:

“Rule 9 applies only to official scoring, not to play on the field. There is no definition in the MLB rule book that requires a batted ball to be hit before it touches the ground. Corey Dickerson doubled on a bounced pitch in 2013. Vlad Guerrero also singled on one a few years before that.”

But there’s an issue here too. The rules do apply to the field, but at the same time don’t. The fact Dickerson and Guerrero both hit a bounced ball could mean the plate umpire got those plays wrong. The issue with the assertion that others have done it before is that we all know umps are fallible.

I think it’s best if we go with what the official scorer would put. If the previous two hits were scored as wild pitches, then we know the umps got those wrong.

Regardless, this is one of the wonderful things about baseball. It’s not cut and dry. That lends itself to some great debate, and more than a few tempers flaring. But unlike soccer, football, and other sports (except hockey), we don’t kill one another after a loss.

Perhaps Manfred will call for a rules clarification on plays like this. I’m not holding my breath though.

LATE ADDITIONS/MISSED LAST WEEK…KINDA

I occasionally don’t find plays or foul ball discussions for the proper week. Here are two that should have been included last week:

Diving fan foul ball “catches” were a thing for Philadelphia Phillies games last two Sundays and a Monday ago. During the September 4 showdown between the Atlanta Braves – Phillies we had one driving fan. The next day the Phillies met up against the Miami Marlins, and we got to see our second epic fail but valiant effort. Here’s a better view of it:

 


Perhaps no other baseball fan is more attuned to the dangers of foul balls. This is my fourth season studying as many aspects of them and the fan experience as I can. Player injuries figure in to the research to some degree. Contrary to what some folks seem to think, I do know accidents happen. This is one which I wish hadn’t happened: brain surgery.

 

BUCK MAKES GREAT SNAG

Toronto Blue Jays announcer Buck Martinez proved he still has the reflexes to snag balls.

JOEY VOTTO ANGER CONTROL?

Cincinnati Reds outfielder Joey Votto isn’t exactly known for his cool temper. He’s proven that this season many, many times, such as HERE and HERE. But I wonder if he’s finally sought out professional help for his anger issues. Last week the guy GAVE a foul ball to a fan AND give them a high five. WT?!?

BEER, ICE CREAM AND MORE NACHOS

The Miami Marlins- Philadelphia Phillies series didn’t just have the fan who went all out for a foul ball; it had a foul ball beer issue too. See for yourself.

And then there was an ice cream issue. The Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres fans were likely singing “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!” A perfect scoop.

There’s been no shortage of nacho foul ball stories this season. There has been new culinary delights like the Nacho Ball created, and more than a few fans have been plastered with them after going for a foul ball. Last week at the Pittsburgh Pirates – San Diego Padres game we were introduced to Nacho Man.