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The umpires let the Mets challenge a “neighborhood play” last night. They’re not supposed to do that.

Jul 8, 2014, 9:16 AM EDT

Neighborhood play

The “neighborhood play” — where the middle infielder catches the ball off the bag, throws to first base in an attempt to both avoid an incoming runner and complete a double-play, and is nonetheless given credit for the force out — is not reviewable by instant replay. And this makes perfect sense as, if it were, some manager would force replay officials to note that, no, technically speaking the bag was not tagged and the runner was thus safe, thereby creating an incentive for middle infielders to stick in longer and have their knees mangled.

But in last night’s Braves-Mets game there was a play that looked an awful lot like a neighborhood play turned by the Braves which was challenged by Mets manager Terry Collins. And, upon review, the initial call of a force out at second was overturned.

Watch the play here. If you can’t watch it, know that, in the bottom of the ninth, with the score tied and a runner on first, the Mets’ Juan Lagares dropped a sacrifice bunt attempt down the third-base line. Braves third baseman Chris Johnson fielded it and fired to shortstop Andrelton Simmons, covering second base. Simmons stretched to receive the throw, dodged the baserunner and then fired to first base. The baserunner coming from first was ruled out on the force, while Lagares beat the throw at first. If you watch the play, it looks an awful lot like a neighborhood play.

Except Terry Collins challenged the call at second, arguing that Simmons didn’t keep his foot on the bag through his catch. And the umpires reviewed it, the repay showed that Simmons’ foot was off the bag and everyone was called safe. Fredi Gonzalez came out to argue and was ejected. Major League Baseball issued a statement after the game:

“The replay regulations allow umpires to determine if they considered a play to be a neighborhood play or not, based on a variety of factors. Some of the factors they consider are the throw and if the player receiving the ball is making the turn. Umpires might consider whether it was an errant throw or if a player receiving a throw who is not at risk of contact made an effort to touch the bag.”

Again, watch the play and try to tell me that Simmons was not trying to avoid a runner bearing down. The umpires said after the game that Simmons was not moving off the bag to protect himself, but that he was really set up like a first baseman and was really trying to get an errant throw. But watch again: the throw was perfectly on-target. At worst Simmons was doing what a lot of first baseman and taking a step off as he fielded the throw. What he was likely thinking and doing on instinct, however, was coming off the bag to make a turn and fire to first, just like he and every other middle infielder is trained to do in order to, you know, not have his ACLs ripped apart.

This didn’t end up mattering in the outcome of the game, but it was a bad call. At the very least it will inspire managers to challenge more of these plays, undercutting the rule about neighborhood plays not being reviewable (“Hey, just trying to see if it was a neighborhood play in the first place!”). At worst, it will create an incentive for middle infielders to stick on the bag longer to the detriment of their safety.

  1. jm91rs - Jul 8, 2014 at 9:44 AM

    “technically speaking the bag was not tagged and the runner was thus safe”

    This is why the neighborhood play is my least favorite thing about baseball. If “technically” a guy is safe, then he should be safe. Simple as that. If the concern is for the guy turning the DP, then make it an automatic double play if the runner takes him out. We should be discouraging the contact at 2nd, not encouraging guys to make fake plays.

    All the time this game comes down to split seconds or inches, and when a season can be decided based on one game’s results it feels wrong that anything like the neighborhood play should be allowed.

    • Francisco (FC) - Jul 8, 2014 at 11:53 AM

      They already ruled out collisions at home, just rule out collisions at second and take out this neighborhood play nonsense.

      Baseball is not supposed to be contact sport. Runners should be trying to beat the throw, not the fielder.

      • 78mu - Jul 8, 2014 at 2:46 PM

        The collision rule at home was argued that runners at other bases cannot take out the fielders covering first, second or third. But now with neighborhood play MLB seems to saying the runner can take out a fielder and to protect him we have to give the pivot man a chance to cheat.

    • moogro - Jul 8, 2014 at 7:06 PM

      Nice comments JM, francisco and 78. Right on.

  2. DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 8, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    IMO, it is a close call. He was not in danger of getting hit – but regardless of that, how was he to know that? He was watching ball, and may have stepped off to be cautious. That favors the neighborhood play.

    On the other hand, he stepped towards the throw, which in turn gave him a micro second quicker to make the throw to first. If that is why he stepped off, then no Neighborhood play.

    Close call, I would say it was neighborhood play. But I think clearly baseball needs to give the umps a better set of guidlines

    • chc4 - Jul 8, 2014 at 9:58 AM

      The rule doesn’t stipulate whether the fielder is actually in danger of being hit by the incoming runner. The only way it’s reviewable is if the umps rule that the throw caused the pivot man to leave the base. That wasn’t the case here. The throw to Simmons was perfect. Umps blew the call.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 8, 2014 at 10:03 AM

        Wait a second – a perfect throw is certainly reviewable under ordinary circumstances, and I believe that is what Collins argued, that it was not a neighborhood play

        Mind you, I agree that it was neighborhood play, and should have been over turned. Just saying it was a close call, and MLB should give the umps better guidelines

      • chc4 - Jul 8, 2014 at 10:37 AM

        They read the rule on the Braves telecast last night and it specifically says the only way it’s reviewable is if the relay throw to second base is deemed to have pulled the fielder off the base. That didn’t happen therefore it should not have been reviewable. There’s no doubt Simmons was off the base but the rule allows for that as long as the throw is accurate. And it was.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 8, 2014 at 11:47 AM

        Ok – but you are arguing with someone who is agreeing with you. I think you are missing that point.

        What I meant about a perfect throw was – imagine a runner is 30 feet from 2nd, and a perfect throw comes into 2nd with the second baseman not on the bag. That is reviewable, as he did not record the out. So if Collins was arguing THAT point, I can see the umps getting confused, not having the ability to Google the rule book, and just saying “Okay, lets take a look”. They are wrong, but I can see why they would be confused.

        But yes, that play last night should not have been reviewed

  3. dmccloskey10 - Jul 8, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    Did Gonzalez protest the game? Seems the obvious route he should’ve taken, since this is based on a rule interpretation.

    • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 8, 2014 at 10:38 AM

      I don’t know – but I recall a Phillies game in 2004 when Placido Polanco hit a ball that got stuck under the padding in left field (UNDER the padding, not in it). It would have been very simple (albeit a second or two slower) to pull out the ball from under the padding. Instead, Jeff Conine raised his hands and the Umps calls a ground rule double as Polanco circled the bases to tie the game. On problem: the ground rules at CPB clearly state a ball under the padding is in play! (before anyone says it, Ground Rules are different from park to park, you could look it up). The Phillies protested that game, and MLB said “Nah, we’re sticking with the umps”

      Crystal clear that the umps misinterpreted the rules, and the protest was denied. So….doubt the Bravos would get anywhere if they protested

    • stupidusername - Jul 8, 2014 at 11:12 AM

      I don’t believe it would be a misinterpretation of the rules. A judgment call was made that the throw pulled the SS off the bag, negating it being a neighborhood play. That’s just poor judgment. I think the last protest ever even upheld is the George Brett pine tar incident (which was, what, 30 years ago??).

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 8, 2014 at 11:50 AM

        I believe you are correct. And THAT one should have been denied. Granted, the rule was stupid, and was correctly changed after that incident. But the ump at the time had the discretion to call him out, and he did.

      • Walk - Jul 8, 2014 at 12:56 PM

        The umpires told terry collins that the play was a neighborhood play and not reviewable. After he protested they decided to review it any way. They then told freddi that it was not their place to make the judgement if it was a neighborhood play that the umpires on video would make that call so they then asked for replay help.

  4. dohpey28 - Jul 8, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    This was not your ‘traditional’ double play attempt. Therefore the neighborhood play is out the window and can therefor be challenged.

    • chc4 - Jul 8, 2014 at 10:38 AM

      Really? Looked routine to me. What’s not traditional about a tailor made 5-6-3 DP?

  5. wilmyers09 - Jul 8, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    DelawarePhilliesFan u sir are wrong if it is under the padding a fielder can lift up his hands and it will be ruled a double it does not have to be stuck

  6. bleested - Jul 8, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    The runner wasn’t close to Simmons. He didn’t come off the bag to avoid the runner, he came off the bag to catch the throw sooner, so he could try to complete the DP sooner.

    • chc4 - Jul 8, 2014 at 11:49 AM

      Yeah but Simmons doesn’t know that as he’s facing the 3rd baseman. And that part is irrelevant anyway… it isn’t part of the rule. The guy could quit running and let the SS complete the DP without a slide and the neighborhood play would still apply. At least based on how it is written into the rule book.

      • bh192012 - Jul 8, 2014 at 1:11 PM

        The “neighborhood play” is in the rule book?

  7. randomjoeblow - Jul 8, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    He had two feet *way* off the bag — it wasn’t even close to a neighborhood play. You should be able to challenge that.

    • chc4 - Jul 8, 2014 at 11:51 AM

      Clearly you don’t know what the neighborhood rule is. It states that you can have both feet of the bag and still complete the DP. Much like banning the catcher from blocking the plate, it’s designed to avoid huge collisions at 2b and therefore injuries.

      • randomjoeblow - Jul 8, 2014 at 12:00 PM

        YOU don’t understand the neighborhood rule. He seriously takes two steps forward off of 2nd before he even catches the ball. The neighborhood rule is, basically, you can receive the ball and be within the vicinity of 2nd, so you can technically touch the base and throw, even if the player doesn’t actually touch the base. Simmons couldn’t have come close to touching 2nd unless he flopped backwards, and still didn’t get the runner at 1st. He clearly came off the base (by like 5 feet) to try to get the runner at 1st, too, and didn’t even do that..

      • blacksables - Jul 8, 2014 at 2:18 PM

        Yeah, there is no such thing as a ‘neighborhood rule’.

        Doesn’t exist anywhere except in your mind.

        An understanding of the rule book will help you in the future.

        I suggest you go down to the nearest little league field and volunteer. They’ll even give you a rule book. It won’t be the same as the Major League Rule Book, but since the ‘rule’ you’re citing doesn’t exist in any league, at any level, anywhere in the world, it’s a good place to start.

        Start small, work your way up. You learn more that way .

      • jjschiller - Jul 8, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        blacksables – Except that, you know, you’re wrong.

        Major league baseball carved out a replay exception for “neighborhood plays.” This is what is being discussed, in short-hand, as “the neighborhood play.”

        “Notwithstanding the foregoing, the following calls will not be subject to review:

        The Umpire’s judgment that a runner is clearly out on a force play at second base under circumstances in which the defensive player may or may not have touched second base in his attempt to complete a double play and avoid a collision with the runner. All other elements of the call shall be subject to review, including whether the fielder caught the ball, had control of the ball, was drawn off the bag, or tagged the runner. In this regard, a determination as to whether the fielder made a catch before dropping the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch shall be reviewable.”

        I suppose it’s fun to be a pedantic jerk, but you should try not to break it out when you are blatantly wrong.

      • blacksables - Jul 8, 2014 at 6:05 PM

        Since when does ‘play’ = ‘rule’?

        I’m not being pedantic. I’m using the English language, and the common definition of those words.

      • jjschiller - Jul 9, 2014 at 12:31 AM

        You said the neighborhood rule doesn’t exist, it exists only in his mind.

        I found you the rule, in the rule book, that states replay can not be used to determine if second base was, or was not touched on a double play attempt.

        When people here are referencing the “neighborhood rule,” they are addressing the explicit exception, cut out in the rules, for plays in which the infielder leaves second base early on a double play attempt.

        Any attempt to parse that, including your previous, is pedantic. You understood that before your last comment, but you are a tiny little small person who grasps at irrelevant details in order to avoid admitting you’re wrong. In other words, you’re a pedant.

        And I wouldn’t be chasing this down so hard, if you hadn’t been such a bung hole about it. But since you were, its really fun rubbing your nose in your intellectually vapid excrement.

    • daveitsgood - Jul 8, 2014 at 12:28 PM

      with all due respect, your spacial estimation skills are crap. When he catches the ball, his right foot is inches off the bag. You should probably watch the video at least once since the mets feed shows it in slo-mo and freezes the shot at 42 seconds. So no, he didn’t come off the base by like 5 feet unless his his foot and heel are over 5 feet long. He steps forward with his left foot to start his pivot as the throw is incoming and his right heel comes off the bag as he receives the ball to make the turn and throw. Does his turn carry him away from the bag by several feet? yes, but when he actually caught the ball, he was barely off the bag, which would seem to make it a neighborhood rule play. You probably do know what the neighborhood rule is, you’re just trying to change what actually happened to make it fit your narrative.

      • randomjoeblow - Jul 8, 2014 at 1:03 PM

        Yeah, I saw the slow-motion review…he doesn’t even make it close. You can’t be running off the bag, and your next step is 5 feet away, and try to claim it was for protection. The runner wasn’t that close. The direction he was going, the runner wasn’t close at all. He was already running away, just lucky the throw was that firm..

    • jjschiller - Jul 8, 2014 at 2:50 PM

      You are just completely making things up.

      He’s inches off the bag with the ball in his glove.

  8. wheels579 - Jul 8, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    All Fredi had to do was protest the game. Gets tossed instead. No idea what the Braves see in this guy.

    • jjschiller - Jul 8, 2014 at 2:52 PM

      The umpires didn’t permit him to protest it. They said “it’s a judgement call, not a rule interpretation.”

      They “judged” that the throw took him off the bag. That is their prerogative, however, the intent of the rule is for ERRANT throws. Their judgement, was basically, that a “late” throw drew him off the bag, as in, too late to record a second out.

      That “judgement” protected the umpires from a protest.

  9. bravojawja - Jul 8, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    Protesting the game would have been pointless – no runners ended up scoring.

    I was listening to the Braves radio broadcast at the time, and they mostly agreed with what the Mets guys were saying in the video (without using the word “cheating”): This was very obviously a “neighborhood play” and was thus not reviewable. It doesn’t matter where the runner is; the shortstop was clearly attempting to turn a double play, receiving a perfect throw. Hell, they almost did turn the DP.

    Umps were wrong. As Don Sutton said, Collins should be given a JD degree for whatever he said to convince the umps to look at it.

  10. nyking1963 - Jul 8, 2014 at 2:24 PM

    MLB deserves everything it gets with their ridiculous replay system.
    The media demanded that since we have the “technology”, it must be used to “get it right”..weren’t those the code words we kept reading and hearing from the media?
    Baseball has always been a game of failure..failue on the players to execute and failure of the umpires to get the calls correct 100% of the time.
    The neighborhood play hs been in existence since the beginning of baseball with few arguments except for the blatant ones. This wasn’t blatant, but a way for Collins to use the replay rule to change something that never would have been considered previously.
    MLB couldn’t just leave well enough alone. Umpires who make bad calls was used as a way to have a conversation about the game..not to affect change in the game.
    Jim Joyce’s brutal call on the Gallaraga perfect game was worthy of conversation, but in the end baseball kept on going and being enjoyed by the fans.
    They caved to the ignorant media and now you have a whole poop stew of issues that never existed before…last nights call and the call in the A’s game on Saturday being perfect examples.
    Way to go MLB. Never listen to the media..they know less than anyone. They never have and never will speak for the fans. Shame on you for not realizing that.

  11. tmc602014 - Jul 8, 2014 at 3:17 PM

    The neighborhood play was supposed to help protect infielders from the vicious sharpened spikes of baserunners in a bygone era. The middle of the DP combo would then accept the ball in best position to throw, as opposed to best position to force i.e. foot on bag. Of course this is a bit of a cheat allowing the fielder a quicker turnaround. Managers argued and were denied. Now reply has made the argument meaningful – and the lack of review was mandated to avoid those arguments that were previously fruitless. Terry Collins played a loophole, that it wasn’t a neighborhood play but a cheat to first, and won the review. Well played, but we still need the replay defined. If the field ump gets fooled by the manager, the replay ump should have barked at the field ump, “Neighborhood play! No review!”

  12. twinfan24 - Jul 8, 2014 at 3:47 PM

    As noted, the play can be reviewed to see if the throw pulled the fielder off the base. If not, then it is (stupidly) still an out, even if not touching the base. But, it is reviewable within that narrow instance. As others have suggested above, just get rid of allowing a take out slide after the runner is out, and then you can go back to making the fielder touch the base.

  13. uuddlrlrbastart - Jul 8, 2014 at 6:40 PM

    I’m admittedly biased here, but it seemed to me Simmons wasn’t trying to avoid a take out slide as much as he was “cheating” (kind of like first basemen often do) in order to get the throw off quicker to turn the double play. And that certainly should be reviewable.

    But I’m still shocked they overturned it and not at all shocked that the Mets were unable to capitalize.

  14. thebaltimoron - Jul 8, 2014 at 6:47 PM

    “…is not reviewable by instant replay. And this makes perfect sense…”

    No, it doesn’t. Out is out and safe is safe.

  15. nobs3 - Jul 8, 2014 at 11:57 PM

    The statement, “This didn’t end up mattering in the outcome of the game”, overlooks two things.
    — Without the blown call/decision by the umpires, relief pitcher Shea Simmons could possibly have made a lot fewer pitches in the 9th inning, and might have been available to pitch — at least some — in the 10th. That would have changed all the matchups in the later innings.
    — Without the overturned out call, the Mets’ batting order for the rest of the game would have been different, and the overall result “could have” been different. Yes, the Mets might have won in the 10th inning instead of the 11th, but it’s also possible that the game could have gone 19 innings, with the Braves winning. We’ll never know.
    That call significantly and totally altered the flow of the rest of the game. Had Fredi Gonzales protested, based on improper rule interpretation, and in the UNLIKELY event that MLB had upheld the protest, the game should have been restarted from the exact point of the incorrect call in the 9th inning.
    Also, those of you saying that the call was overturned because the play was an attempt to cheat to make a quicker throw to first are WRONG. MLB’s explanation was that “the throw pulled him off the base” (which is completely wrong, since the throw was perfect). There were TWO mistakes made. First, the umpires on the field should never have sent it for review because it WAS a neighborhood play. Second, the MLB replay officials incorrectly ruled that the throw pulled Simmons off the bag. It was almost as if MLB was looking for an excuse to overturn the play, and had to “make up” something.

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