Baseball BeatOctober 13, 2005
"Y'er Out" or . . . Not
By Rich Lederer

Rob McMillin of 6-4-2 asked me if I saw the call in the Angels-White Sox game on Wednesday night, and here is what I told him...

The umpire clearly called "strike three" by signaling with his right arm in an outstretched manner. He also clenched his fist, which normally means "y'er out." What we don't know is if he said anything. I get the impression that he didn't. Not that he has to, but if he said "y'er out" in addition to the hand signals, then the batter is out. Plain and simple.

As a former umpire, my opinion is as follows: if he didn't say "y'er out," then it is much more ambiguous as to whether the ump thought he was out. I would like to see a replay of the game so I could re-evaluate how he called strikes and strike-three outs the rest of the game. That would be very telling.

Catcher Josh Paul made a huge mistake by rolling the ball back to the mound if he didn't hear the ump say "y'er out." Instead, he should have either:

  • turned around and showed the ump the ball and gotten confirmation if it was ruled an out or not ...

  • tagged out A.J. Pierzynksi right then and there, just to be sure ...


  • thrown the ball to first to complete the 2-3 putout.

    Pierzynski gets kudos for his heads-up play. It was the first time all series that a Chicago White Sox baserunner did something right.

  • * * * * *

    In a postgame interview, Doug Eddings, the home plate umpire, said "I'm watching Josh Paul, I'm seeing what he's going to do. Sometimes you go off the reaction of the player."

    Well, if he Eddings was going off the "reaction of the player," he should have called Pierzynksi out. Paul didn't hesitate one bit. He caught the ball and immediately rolled it back to the mound. That shouldn't, in and of itself, mean the batter is out, but it makes no sense for the umpire to determine that the pitch hit the dirt if he was basing his call off Paul's reaction.

    Solution to the problem: Major League Baseball needs to develop uniform and distinct signals for "strike" and "out" calls that would be required of all umpires. There should be no ambiguity like there was Wednesday night. Substance should always win out over style. We don't go to the ballgame to watch an umpire make a call.

    Umpires, in such situations, also need to commit to a call right then and there. Either call the batter out by giving the out sign and yelling "y'er out" or signal bobble/no catch and yell "no catch, no catch."

    * * * * *

    I was also asked by Rob and another writer why manager Mike Scoscia didn't protest. The short answer is that such a call is one of judgment and, therefore, not something that can be protested.

    From Major League Baseball Official Rules:


    (a) Any umpire's decision which involves judgment, such as, but not limited to, whether a batted ball is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike or a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out, is final. No player, manager, coach or substitute shall object to any such judgment decisions.

    * * * * *

    Let me be clear here: The call or non-call wasn't the reason the Angels lost. But it was the reason why they didn't have a chance to win.


    I was watching Baseball Tonight (I know, I'm going to hell), and the showed a clip where after every swing-and-miss the ump puts up his right hand straight out, palm down, and then does his holds his right fist in front of him.

    It was late, and is later still, so correct me if I'm wrong but the way the ump's mechanics work (and the ESPN clip showed he did them consistently throughout the game), is that he puts his right hand straight out after a swing and miss to indicate no contact and then makes the fist to indicate it's a strike.

    I happen to like watching different umpire's styles, but his...not so good. what BBTN showed is that the umpire's mechanics were consistent all evening. That's a good thing. But the clenched fist signaling a strike after extending his arm outward is redundant and was the cause for confusion in this particular case.

    The strike call should be the same for a swing and miss as well as a called strike. If the ball is tipped and held onto by the catcher, then the umpire is supposed to brush his one hand against the other to show the contact, followed by the same strike call.

    The key is that there needs to be a distinct motion for a strike and a separate sign for an out. Third strikes that are outs should be the only time an umpire uses one, followed by the other.

    There is, of course, no way the umpire could have seen whether it hit the ground first. Could Scocia have asked whet the 3B ump saw it? Apparently he didn't until later.

    I guess the question is whether a vocal call or the arm movement is the definitive call. I don't know the answer, but the batter was correct to run, the catcher was incorrect in not completing the play, having heard nothing.

    I didn't see the beginning of the game, but apparently the batter was running hard as the pitcher overthrew 1st baseman, leading to the first unearned run in the game. So this play at the send was the SECOND time a WSox runner did something right.

    A. He caught the ball

    B. As an ump you have to know not to make a call like that in the ninth of a play-off game

    To my mind, in this particular play, it is almost irrelevant whether the umpire made the right call. The problem is that he didn't communicate his call very well. If, as Rich suggests, he yells out "No catch! No catch!", the catcher tags the batter (or throws him out at first) and the play is over. As far as the call goes, it's very close and I don't blame the umpire the tiniest iota for making the ruling he did. I do blame him for not communicating his ruling quickly and decisively, especially considering the situation (9th inning of a tied ALCS game). He should be reprimanded for that. Hopefully, he will be clearer in announcing his rulings in the future...

    Sometimes the truth is erroneous. Umpires make wrong but honest calls all season long. It's part of the game. If the Angels win the series, it's moot. Or maybe they'll win because they were energized to right a wrong. Who knows?

    I enjoy something new and this was great...Excellent work all around! Who could have invented this scenario!?

    And baseball may be our last stand against digitilization, video replays and cyber control. Let the humans play ball!

    Remember...a strike is not a pitched ball in a certain zone. A strike is whatever the umpire says it is. Just like outs. When the count is full, the strike zone often becomes the Twilight Zone.

    Umpires are permitted to use guesses in making certain calls. For example, if there's a runner (R) on first who takes off on a run and hit play and is rounding second and haeding to third as the batter (B) hits a line drive that bounces in the stands, the rules say the umpire awards R the base that the umpire reasonably expects the runner would reach had the ball rtemained in play. In this example, B is awarded second base and R [b]should be[/b] awarded home.

    I can't recall the last time I've seen that happen, but it is the rule.

    In this case, the undisputed facts are:

    1. Eddings was clear and unambiguous in his strike three call.
    2. Eddings had no ability whatever to see whether the ball was a trap or a clean catch from his vantage point, therefore he had absolutely no basis to call it a trap without HIS asking assistance from another umpire, which he did not.
    3. The only unusual "player reaction" (Eddings' words) that occurred was when Pierzynksi started to the dugout then took off for first. Eddings instinct had to be that Paul must have dropped the ball, otherwise why does Pierzynksi run?
    4. The entire Angel team is trotting off the field and has no reason to think that the inning wasn't over.
    5. None of the umpires, other than Eddings, appears to be aware of any continuing action, especially the first base umpire.

    In other words, Pierzynksi may have established a new strategy for third strikes; always take off for first and hope the umpire is as slow and/or dimwitted as Eddings was last night.

    In any case, if he shows up on Friday night at the Big A, count on a voice or two of derision for the guy. Out of sympathy, Selig should replace him with someone else altogther.

    I can't recall the last time I've seen that happen, but it is the rule.

    No, that is not the rule. The umpire, in the case you cited, has no authority to award the batter and the baserunners anything other than two bases on a groundrule double as you described.


    (e) A fair ball, after touching the ground, bounds into the stands, or passes through, over or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, in which case the batter and the runners shall be entitled to advance two bases;

    Wouldn't it be great after the first Chicago strikeout on a pitch right down the middle of the plate at Friday's game to have the Angels catcher tag the batter just to make sure. In fact, why not do it after every strikeout just so to help the umpire out.

    But, as Rich said, the call wasn't the reason the Angels lost. The Angels had their chances to throw Pierzynski out, and they failed. They had their chance to get the batter out and they failed. Scocia showed a lot of class in his post-game interview (could you see Pinella taking the high road?).

    I think there is basis to look at other organized games to see what happens in situations like these. Most games have a whistle, and if the whistle blows while the ball is in play then the ball is immediately called dead and play would be resumed from that point. Like in the case of a quarterback "in the grasp" as he fumbles, yet the referee blows the whistle, intentional or unintentional. The play would be stopped with no fumble and the line of scrimmage would be at the point where the whistle blew. Basketball would be about the same thing along with a host of other sports.

    But since baseball has no whistle to start and stop play we must rely on the "men in blue". They must communicate, in no uncertain terms, the call, while the ball is in play. That means speaking and using familiar and universal hand signals. That is where this whole thing broke down.

    The plate umpire called the strike with his right hand out and followed it up with a closed fist; universally know as "y'er out". Because he did not use his voice players must rely on his hand signal which obviously were neither familiar nor universal. The umpires should have had a meeting of the minds, I use that term loosely, and made a decision that because he signaled with a closed fist and it was interpreted as "y'er out" by the Angels that the batter should have been called out. One of the umpires commented during the press conference that he looks at players' reactions to judge certain calls. Well the Angels' reaction of running off the field should have been a hint. Just as a football referee would have been obligated to call a play dead, even with an unintentional whistle, the correct call should have been "BATTER Y'ER OUT!"

    "Let me be clear here: The call or non-call wasn't the reason the Angels lost. But it was the reason why they didn't have a chance to win."

    Whoa! they had nine chances to to create circumstances necessary to win when they were batting! And despite the umpires decision...they still allowed the Stolen base, and the following hit.

    The umps decision led to circumstances which allowed the WS to win. But to say that this was why they didnt have a chance to Win is definitely wrong.

    I like Rich's suggestion to make strike and out calls by the home plate umps uniform. This is a much more palatable solution compared to implementing instant replay. I hope this idea gains some steam, but I haven't seen it brought up anywhere. Time to get the word out!

    Thanks everyone for another intelligent discussion.


    The umps decision led to circumstances which allowed the WS to win. But to say that this was why they didnt have a chance to Win is definitely wrong.

    I should have added the words "in extra innings" to my last sentence. I thought it went without saying but apparently not. My fault.

    I've probably watched six baseball games all the way through in my forty-six years. Just happened to see the controversy the other night while clicking through the channels (I refuse to pay for cable, and broadcast T.V. gets boring.)

    Being a born and raised red(?)-blooded American,I thought I knew the rules of baseball and was shocked at what I saw! I mean, the batter took a third strike and wasn't out? What'd I mis? So, I started Googling.

    All I can come up with is this from official MLB Web site:

    (a) A strikeout shall be scored whenever: (1) A batter is put out by a third strike caught by the catcher; (2) A batter is put out by a third strike not caught when there is a runner on first before two are out; (3) A batter becomes a runner because a third strike is not caught

    Now. Help me out here. Wasn't the batter a runner under (4)?

    At any rate, I don't get paid $millions/year to know these things. The catcher, pitcher, manager etc do. If (4) doesn't apply, then everyone but the runner was asleep at the wheel and not deserving of their paychecks.

    Still, WHAT A GRAND WRECK DOWN THE STRAIGHTAWAY to peak my interest in baseball. I might just watch a little less NASCAR and a little more baseball. I enjoyed finding out that there is SO much ambiguity allowed in the playing of this game that maybe this is a thinking-mans sport; no instant replays, no clock, secret hand signals. Man, you gotta take what you can get. You gotta be thinking. The batter the other night is a real thinker/winner and earned his pay.He taught everyone else a lesson they won't forget.

    Just my take. I will be watching tonight to see if anyone blows a tire rounding second.