Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Stark [Print without images]

Sunday, April 21, 2013
New twist to Segura's baserunning madness


Just when you thought you'd heard the last of Jean Segura's excellent baserunning adventure from Friday night, this just in:

It's getting even more confusing!

Remember all that talk about how, as crazy as it sounded, the umpires made the right ruling when they allowed the Brewers' ever-energetic shortstop to "steal" first base?

Jean Segura
Jean Segura's adventure on the basepaths on Friday night against the Cubs was quite entertaining.

Uh, now we're not so sure of that anymore.

I got a call Sunday from a friend of mine, whom I could best describe as a guy who has spent way more time than most of us studying the baseball rule book.

His adamant take on this was: There's no way Segura ever should have been allowed to go back to first base after he'd already made it to second base.

No. Way.

And why is that? Rule 7:01 is why.

Ah, good old Rule 7:01. Forgot about that one, didn't you?

So what's so interesting about the introduction of Rule 7:01 into this fun debate? Glad you asked.

It's interesting because that isn't the rule the umpiring crew originally applied Friday when Segura broke off second to try to steal third, got caught in a rundown, and eventually rambled all the way back to first. (For more of the details, feel free to click on Saturday's blog-a-thon on that topic.)

The rule the umpires cited at the time was an addendum to 7:08(i), which allows runners to return to a previous base in instances where they've been faked out by the fielders or weren't sure whether a ball was caught or trapped. That sort of thing.

I've read that rule a bunch of times. It looks to me as if there's a logical case to be made for what that rule applies to this crazy play.

But here's why it isn't, according to my friend:

The rule he pointed out -- 7:01 -- clearly says that once the next pitch is thrown, or, to be technical, once the pitcher "assumes his pitching position" after the runner has safely reached any base, that runner "may not return to a previously occupied base."

Period. End of story.

So if you apply that rule literally, once Segura stole second earlier in the inning, there weren't any circumstances -- A-N-Y -- that would allow him to go back to first.

That other rule -- 7:08(i) -- is only supposed to be used on continuous plays, my friend contended. This would be an example:

A runner is on first base. He is running with the pitch. He pulls into second -- maybe even rounds second -- and then realizes he has to get back to first. Rule 7:08(i) would allow that -- even if he gets stuck in a rundown between second and third along the way.

But that rule was never meant to apply to two different plays, he said. So once Segura found himself in his own rundown between second and third, second base was as far in reverse as he should have been allowed to travel.

Got that?

Major League Baseball isn't done sorting out this play, from what I understand. It's still trying to figure out how to score it, compute it and explain to its computers how a runner on second base wound up back on first base three pitches later.

So now here's one more thing the proper authorities can look into:

Would a different reading of the rule book have turned that whole madcap sequence of events into one gigantic (but highly entertaining) moot point?

I don't know the answer myself anymore. But I'll keep checking, because, clearly, I'm obsessed with Jean Segura-palooza. So all I can tell you is: Stay tuned. We may not have heard the last of this. Still.