Segura's bizarre baserunning play still under debate
MILWAUKEE -- Chalk it up to the beauty of baseball. They were still debating the strange baserunning play from the night before at Miller Park on Saturday afternoon.
You probably have seen the video now of Brewers shortstop Jean Segura stealing second base, retreating to first in a weird rundown and then trying to steal second again, only to be caught the second time. Some details were still being worked out on Saturday afternoon, like:
1. Can a runner occupying second base really retreat to first?
The umpires told a pool reporter the answer was yes, because of Rule 7.08(i), which only prohibits running the bases in reverse order "for the purpose of confusing the defense or making a travesty of the game." Segura didn't do either -- he simply made a mistake. A comment appended to that rule says, "If a runner touches an unoccupied base and then thinks the ball was caught or is decoyed into returning to the base he last touched, he may be put out running back to that base, but if he reaches the previously occupied base safely he cannot be put out while in contact with that base."
Does that comment address the Segura circumstance?
Not exactly, argued one Brewers broadcaster, and he was not alone. The debate went all the way up to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The best way to put it is that Rule 7.08(i) is the closest thing in the rulebook to what happened, and according to that rule, Segura's scamper was not specifically illegal.
2. Can you steal a base and be caught stealing the same base, in the same inning?
Yes, though this question vexed Cubs manager Dale Sveum on Saturday afternoon.
"That goes unnoticed a little bit, that a guy got a caught stealing and a stolen base in the same inning of the same bag," Sveum said.
It actually happened on six other occasions since 1951, according to ESPN.com master of oddities Jayson Stark.
According to Stark's research, it happened twice because a player's team batted around in the inning and gave him two plate appearances -- the Tigers' Damion Easley on Aug. 10, 1996 and the Reds' Gary Redus on June 2, 1985. Four more times, it happened with only one plate appearance, after runners were technically caught stealing, but were not out because they got back to their original base on an error, then stole again, this time successfully. Those players were the Astros' Michael Bourn on Aug. 10, 2011, the Reds' Jerry Hairston Jr. on May 17, 2008, the Royals' Carlos Beltran on May 7, 2004 and the Reds' Reggie Sanders on Aug. 20, 1996.
3. Was Segura actually out?
Yes, and he may have been out twice.
The consensus in both clubhouses on Saturday was that both Ryan Braun and Segura should have been called out on that strange rundown play. Braun, because he was occupying a base that by rule belonged to Segura (umpire Phil Cuzzi made the correct call there) and Segura because Cubs third baseman Luis Valbuena appeared to tag Segura once while he was in contact with second base and again a split-second after Segura left the bag and started trotting toward the Brewers' dugout, thinking he was already out. The umpires didn't see the second tag, Sveum argued.
"Yeah, I saw that one, too," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said with a shrug.
If that were not enough, Segura may have been out again at first base because the Brewers coach there, Garth Iorg, clearly grabbed Segura to stop him from going to the dugout. That's interference.
According to Rule 7.09(i), it is interference with a batter or a runner when, in the judgment of the umpire, the base coach at third base, or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists him in returning to or leaving third base or first base.
In cases of interference, the runner is out and the ball is dead.
4. How on Earth do you score that?
You don't. So forever onward, the official play-by-play of the game will be, simply put, wrong.
The programming of MLB.com's Gameday application could not account for a runner who previously occupied second base winding up at first. Longtime official scorer Tim O'Driscoll was equally puzzled about how to score the play, even the old-fashioned way.
They came up with the best possible solution, albeit an inaccurate one. One hundred years from now, when someone looks at the play-by-play, it will appear Braun was caught stealing second base for the second out of the inning, even though it was occupied by Segura. And Segura was caught stealing third base to end the inning, even though 28,346 fans in the stands on Friday night saw something entirely different.
"In all the years I've done this," said O'Driscoll, who has been official scorer for more than 1,900 Brewers games over 27 years, "it's the most confusing thing I've ever seen."
5. Does Braun get charged with caught stealing?
O'Driscoll confirmed with Elias that, by rule, Braun was slapped with a caught stealing when he and Segura arrived at second base at the same time. Braun was not pleased after the game, and neither was Roenicke.
"That's not right," Roenicke said. "I've always said this. I'm fine with that there are certain rules about earned runs or caught stealings, but there needs to be a time where common sense comes into play. ... Ryan was the only one that did the right thing, and he gets a caught stealing. That's wrong."
The lesson of Friday's odd eighth inning? Baseball is a weird and wonderful game.
"I don't know all the rules," Roenicke said. "There's too many there, and I'm not smart enough to remember them all."