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Obscure MLB Rule Leads To Safe Call After Helmet Dislodges

One of the more bizarre plays of the MLB season occurred in Sunday’s game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Guardians.

The Jays’ Justin Turner was on first base, and after Guardians pitcher Triston McKenzie bounced a ball near the plate, Turner took off for second as Guardians catcher David Fry fielded the ball on a hop and fired the ball to second to try to nab the advancing Turner.

The throw was in plenty of time, and when Guardians second baseman Daniel Schneemann put the tag on Turner, he appeared dead to rights. Or so it seemed.

Here’s a look at the play. In the first photo, we see Schneemann has received the ball as Turner is in a headfirst slide. As he slides, his helmet becomes dislodged from his head.

Schneemann prepares to tag Turner as he continues his slide.

Next Schneemann puts the tag on Turner’s helmet as he does a modified “swim” move to grab for the second base bag.

Schneemann continues to tag the helmet as Turner grabs for second. At no point does Schneemann touch any part of Turner’s body.

Turner grabs onto the base while Schneemann continues to hold the tag on the helmet.

Turner holds the bag as Schneemann then attempts to tag Turner’s body.

Turner is then called out by the second base umpire.

During the replay, Blue Jays manager John Schneider noticed that Daniel Schneemann’s tag was applied to Turner’s dislodged helmet. He subsequently challenged the play. The replay showed Schneemann’s tag only made contact with Turner’s helmet, which had blocked the glove from applying the tag anywhere else.

MLB rules don’t consider equipment as part of the body when it comes loose in the natural course of a play. MLB’s replay office overturned the call and ruled him safe following Schneider’s challenge.

“After viewing all relevant angles, the Replay Official definitively determined that the fielder failed to tag the runner prior to the runner touching second base. Per The Official Baseball Rules, to touch a player during a tag is to touch any part of his body, or any uniform or equipment worn by him. Equipment shall be considered worn by a player if it is in contact with its intended place on his person. The call is OVERTURNED, the runner is safe.”

Here’s a look at video of the play, and the announcers’ description after the challenge.

Crazy, right?

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time a call has been overruled at second base when a defensive player tagged the helmet of a player after it became dislodged. It’s not exactly the same, but pretty close.

Turner ended up not scoring after the play, so the impact of the “steal” had no effect on the game score.

What do you guys think? Is this a good rule? Should Turner have been ruled out (especially since the tag was on the helmet which was touching Turner’s body, effectively blocking the tag)? Or was this the right call, since Schneemann never actually made contact with Turner’s body?


Comments (16)

    I liked the day when the runner was out if the throw beat them and there was a reasonable attempt at a tag. The microscopic analysis of replay video slows the game down… and I thought Manfred League Baseball was obsessed with shorter games?

    The runner should be out because the helmet prevented the fielder from tagging the runner’s chest.

    It wasn’t deliberate, so the call is correct. Had the runner put it there on purpose it would be an out.

    But, the fielder must tag the runner with the ball. The fielder never did that.

    I tend to agree with this take.

    “Equipment shall be considered worn by a player if it is in contact with its intended place on his person.”

    “Intended place” is the issue. Could the runner manually take off his helmet and hold it out to block the tag in this sort of situation? Helmets are for heads, not hands.

    The other extreme to the rule would be to consider the helmet to be part of the player no matter what, but that could lead to the odd rule where a helmet falls off a player while running the bases and the defense simply tags the helmet. I can’t see anyone liking that any better. But it seems some umpire judgement should be able to be applied.

    I recently saw a video about how the Ranger’s Simeon from the 2023 postseason was called out because of a tag applied to the batting glove hanging out his back pocket, which seemed reasonable at the time, but now I wonder if there wasn’t a valid argument that a back pocket isn’t the “intended place” for a glove. I can see a counter argument that it is intended as that’s where the player put it, and that’s how it seems to have been ruled.

    I know it’s not going to happen, but I’ve never cared for batters discarding padding worn during batting after reaching base (especially after watching bat boys run out to 2nd base after a double to retrieve batting pads), and wonder what it would be like if players were required to keep any equipment they enter the batters box with on their person as they run the bases.

    Your point reminds me of two ball-versus-equipment scenarios that seem at odds. If a pitched baseball strikes the batter’s jersey but not the batter within the jersey, the batter is still deemed to be hit by pitch. Yet a thrown ball to the first baseman is deemed to not be possessed for the purpose of recording a force out if the ball enters the first baseman’s jersey rather than being caught in the glove or the hand.

    Baseball is weird.

    Anyhoo, I’m down with the notion of Turner being safe. There’s no indication that he deliberately used his helmet as a shield against the tag. Yet I don’t see how the fielder could have done otherwise without, say, bashing Turner’s face with his helmet, then popping the helmet out of the way while the glove slides across to also bash Turner’s face.

    This seems directly at odds with the call a few weeks ago when a runner was holding his helmet and using it to touch the base. They called him safe.

    FWIW, I think this is the right call, as long as the runner doesn’t do it intentionally. Once his helmet is off his head, it’s not a part of him anymore and shouldn’t count.

    To counter that, if any piece of equipment/clothing is intentionally removed by the runner and then interferes with the fielder in any way, it should be an out for interference.

    In the play you are referring to (Cubs at Mets on 5/2/24), the runner was ruled safe, but SHOULD have been ruled out. The umps got it wrong and the Mets never challenged the call. Paul wrote an article about this play. link

    Editing note – It’s “had no effect” and not “had no affect” in that use, or you could say “didn’t affect the outcome.” Yep, English is stupid.

    Safe. The helmet was dislodged from his head but not on puropse. It did block the fielder so the next question is: does Turner wear his helmet too large in order to have it fly off during a sliding and in doing so is blocking the tagging?

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