Jean Segura's baserunning adventures
April, 20, 2013
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com
I think we just found baseball's version of Leon Lett.
I'm talking about Brewers shortstop Jean Segura, who, like the mixed-up grandma who made a U-turn on a one-way street, performed an act of baserunning madness Friday that he'll be seeing, on scoreboard video-screen blooper reels, for the rest of his life.
To even try to describe this adventure is almost as challenging as actually doing it. And all the jumbled online play-by-play accounts out there are living proof.
But here's the simplest way to sum it up:
This guy stole second. Then he tried to steal third but somehow wound up on first. Then he got thrown out trying to steal second again. All in a span of five pitches.
Just try that on your PlayStation sometime. Excellent chance smoke starts pouring out of it within seconds.
"Bizarre," umpire Tom Hallion told Brewers.com's Adam McCalvy. "Technically, he stole second, stole first then got thrown out stealing second."
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images Jean Segura stole second base in the eighth inning Friday night against the Cubs, but the Brewers' shortstop wouldn't stay there for long.
Well, "technically" he didn't, because that's impossible. Here's what actually happened:
On a 2-2 pitch to Ryan Braun in the eighth inning of the Brewers' 5-4 win over the Cubs, Segura stole second. On the next pitch, Braun walked. So far, pretty standard stuff. But not for long.
Three pitches after that, Segura broke for third. But his first mistake was that he forgot to wait until pitcher Shawn Camp actually delivered the ball.
Camp whirled and got Segura hung up between second and third. That led Braun to follow Baseball 101 protocol and roar into second base. Which was proper and cool -- until Segura scrambled back to the bag to join him.
The Cubs started tagging everyone in the vicinity, and the rules say it was Braun who was out. But that was news to Segura, who thought he was the one who was out. So he started trotting toward the dugout.
Along the way, though, he got the memo that he wasn't out after all. So he pulled back into first base. And first-base coach Garth Iorg wouldn't let him leave.
Not until two pitches later, anyway -- when Segura burst toward second again and, in Take 2, was thrown out.
So there you have it -- a man who stole second and was caught stealing second in the same inning.
Without his team batting around.
Spiced up by a whole lot of mad sprinting around the infield in between.
"If I was him, I would've stole again too," Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney told MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. "I don't think anyone has ever stole second twice in the same inning in the same at-bat. That would've been history there. Luckily for us, that didn't happen."
But whatever happened, this goofy baserunning extravaganza raises lots and lots of questions. Let's try to answer them as best we can.
Was this actually legal?
The answer, amazingly, is yes.
"Some people are saying he violated the rules by running the bases backward, but he really didn't," said Retrosheet founder Dave Smith.
Incredibly, that's true. Yes, there is a rule in the books -- good old Rule 7:08(i) -- that prohibits runners from running the bases backward "for the purpose of confusing the defense or making a travesty of the game."
But there's an addendum to that rule that separates Segura's brand of travesty from players who are intentionally riding in reverse. That addendum allows runners who innocently get decoyed or confused to run in pretty much any direction, at their own risk. You can check it out here.
So that's Jean Segura. Even he wasn't sure how he wound up on first. He sure didn't mean to find himself back there. So he's covered.
"What's unbelievable," Smith said, "is that very few major league players know the rule or know what they're supposed to do if two guys wind up on the same base. If I were a coach, I'd say, 'Stand on that base until the umpire picks you up and tells you you're out.'"
How the heck do you score that?
This is almost a trick question. The stolen base of second -- that's easy. The rest? Good luck.
The part where a runner on second base finishes the next play on first base? It's not possible to score that without crashing every computer in America.
AP Photo/Morry GashAfter a mad dash that somehow brought him back to first base, Segura was unsuccessful in his second attempt at stealing second.
"There's no way to do that," longtime official scorer and SABR historian David Vincent said Saturday. "Not covered in the rules. A runner on second base going to first base? That's impossible."
Now obviously it's not "impossible," because it really happened. But tell that to the computer programmers of America.
"All the computer software -- none of it will handle that," Vincent said. "You don't run the bases [from] second to first. Any software that processes play-by-play won't accept that."
So because it's theoretically impossible, the official box score of this game listed Segura as having been thrown out stealing third -- even though he slid into second. Huh?
"That's because the play-by-play listed him as staying at second base [because it couldn't compute that he was actually on first]," Vincent said. "So then he had to be caught stealing third. But that never happened. So that has to get changed."
Right. But that's not all. The official box score and play-by-play also said that Braun got caught stealing second.
"That's not right either," Vincent said. "He was just out trying to advance to second base on a play being made on somebody else. So I'm pretty sure that has to get changed too."
Amazing the havoc one madcap baserunner can wreak on this sport, isn't it? But that is why we love it.
Has this ever happened before?
Sorry. Can't answer that one. Not yet. But we're working on it.
There is lots of precedent for a player stealing a base and getting thrown out stealing the same base in the same inning, Smith said. But normally his team bats around in between.
Having it all happen in a span of five pitches? Good chance that's never happened. I'll keep you posted.
Closest goofy parallel I could find -- three years ago, Michael Bourn pulled off this goofy daily double: On back-to-back pitches, he stole third base, after getting caught stealing third base.
How? Like Segura, he got caught in a rundown between second and third. Except he got back to second thanks to a dropped throw. On the next pitch, he took off for third again and made it. So it was scored "Caught Stealing - E1" and then "SB."
That, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, was the last instance of a player stealing a base and getting caught stealing the same base in the same inning. At the time, I thought that was the wildest base-stealing adventure I'd ever run across.
But along came Jean Segura, the baseball equivalent of the clock that ticked counter-clockwise. And he's now carved out a category totally unto himself.
Segura's Excellent Adventure, Part II
Welcome back to the Jean Segura Baserunning Camp. Told you we weren't done.
With the help of Dave Smith and his fabulous Retrosheet files, we've finally, officially, determined that this man has pulled off a feat every bit as unique as we thought it was.
Ready for the awesome details? Here we go.
We checked every game played in the last 63 seasons (from 1951 on) and found six other players who stole a base and got caught stealing the same base in the same inning. But guess what? Nobody did what Segura did.
Of course they didn't. How could they?
The bat-around crowd: Two guys pulled this off because their teams batted around between the SB and the CS ...
• Damion Easley (Tigers), Aug. 10, 1996 (second base)
• Gary Redus (Reds), June 2, 1985 (second base)
Fun feat. But not Segura-esque fun.
The E for effort crowd: Four others were caught stealing and later stole the same base in the same inning, without a bat-around. But there were two big differences between what they did and what Segura did: A) Those four were "caught," but they weren't actually "out" because they all got back to their original base on an error. And B) they sure as heck didn't get into position to try it again because they went from third to first. Only one man in modern times was that innovative. But we don't want to overlook that other foursome. Here they are:
• Michael Bourn (Astros), Aug. 10, 2011 (third base)
• Jerry Hairston Jr. (Reds), May 17, 2008 (second base)
• Carlos Beltran (Royals), May 7, 2004 (second base)
• Reggie Sanders (Reds), Aug. 20, 1996 (second base)
The man who stole first base
We should mention that, once upon a time, unbeknownst to Segura, it was actually legal to steal first base. Even if you were standing on second base at the time. According to the Hall of Fame, only two men in history are known to have done it.
One was Fred Tenney of the old Boston Beaneaters. According to an old ESPN The Magazine blurb, he did it "around 1900." Hey, close enough.
The other was the legendary Germany Schaefer of the Tigers. In a famous game on Sept. 4, 1908, the Tigers had runners on first and third, with Schaefer on first. Their this-trick-never-fails strategy was to have Schaefer break for second, draw a throw and allow the runner to score from third.
So off he went. No throw. Undaunted, he took off back to first. Still no throw. You know what happened next? He broke for second again. Still no throw. So he stole the same base twice. In one at-bat. Top that, Jean Segura!
Schaefer's antics inspired two developments: A) A book by the great Eric Nadel titled "The Man Who Stole First Base," and B) the aforementioned "travesty of the game rule," which basically bans runners from stealing first -- unless they get as bamboozled as Segura. In which case, the rule is titled "Aw, What The Heck."
What it means
Finally, one more question I know you all had: Is it possible this amazing feat could change baseball in any meaningful way?
I ran that one past former Brewers third-base coach Rich Donnelly. He had the perfect plan:
Once a year, he proposed, baseball should liven things up by having everybody run the bases backward. Hitters would run to third instead of first. And then they'd just keep going, left to right instead of right to left. Hmm, why not?
"What the heck difference would it make?" asked Donnelly, now the manager of the Mets' Brooklyn Cyclones minor league team. "They're still going to wind up in the same place, right?
"Who said that when you hit the ball you have to go to first? Abner Doubleday? No, he didn't. The important thing is you have to get home.
"It's like when we were teenagers," Donnelly concluded. "All your parents said was 'You have to be home.' They didn't say which way you had to go, did they?"
Well, no they didn't, as a matter of fact. So see what Segura started? Pretty soon, this whole sport will be turned upside down.