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An Exegesis on Scoring Runs; Or, Why the Phillies Beat the Brewers 5-2 Friday Night, and Not 5-3

In the seventh inning of Friday night's game, with Casey McGehee on third base and only 1 out, Yuniesky Betancourt hit a fly ball to center.  Shane Victorino caught it, McGehee tagged from third, and McGehee beat the throw to home plate.  That was the only run Roy Halladay gave up in his eight innings.

But, a close reading of the MLB rules indicates that McGehee did not score a run.  He certainly wasn't out, but he also did not score on that play.  He existed in some odd limbo where he did not cause an out to register, but also decidedly did not score a run.

How can that be?  As every replay showed, McGehee missed home plate.  No angle showed him even possibly touching home.  However, Halladay was so angry at himself for allowing the run and Carlos Ruiz was too occupied with catching the throw from Victorino that neither noticed.  And, for some reason, none of the Phils in the dugout noticed either.

The odd thing is that home plate umpire Angel Hernandez clearly did notice.  He never signaled for a run.  In fact, he seemed to be waiting for the appeal to come from the Phillies.  It never did.  Halladay threw the next pitch without appealing, eventually getting the third out of the inning when next-batter Jonathan Lucroy struck out.  And, the run didn't matter, as the Phillies ultimately won the game by 2 runs.

But that run should never have counted.  The Official Baseball Rules state three times that in order to score a run, a runner must touch home plate.

Rule 2.00 provides the definition of "run": "the score made by an offensive player who advances from batter to runner and touches first, second, third and home bases in that order."

Rule 5.06 repeats the same thing: "When a batter becomes a runner and touches all bases legally he shall score one run for his team."

Rule 7.02 as well: "In advancing, a runner shall touch first, second, third and home base in order."

All three rules clearly indicate that a runner has to "touch" home base.  Merely coming close to home base does not count as a run.  The runner must touch the base.  Casey McGehee did not; therefore, he did not score a run in the seventh inning of Friday night's game.

This makes sense.  Scoring in baseball is in runs.  In order to score the run, the base must be touched.  The umpire should have to affirmatively indicate as such.  Until then, there's no run.  In football, there's no touchdown until the referee indicates.  In basketball and hockey, same thing for baskets and goals.  Merely coming close to the endzone (or basket or net) in the player's estimation is not enough.  The run, the scoring moment, should be something that is affirmatively indicated when the requirements of the rules are met.

The appeal system that umpire Hernandez was waiting for makes no sense for purposes of registering a run.  If a runner runs 3 feet from home plate (within the base lines, but nowhere near home), would the run get registered even though no umpire has signaled the plate was touched?  Is the burden on the fielding team to challenge that?  At this point, who is determining that the minimum requirements for scoring, that the bases be touched, are met?  The scoreboard operator?  If it's anyone other than the umpire, there's little sense to the system.  Hernandez never indicated a run, so the run should not have counted.

Certainly, the official rules provide for appeals of touching home base, but only to determine whether an out is recorded on the play, not for whether a run is scored.  Rules 7.08(k) and 7.10(d) provide for appeals.

7.08(k) provides that an out is recorded when "[i]n running or sliding for home base, [the runner] fails to touch home base and makes no attempt to return to the base, when a fielder holds the ball in his hand, while touching home base, and appeals tot he umpire for the decision."

7.10(d) provides the same when a fielder appeals after "[the runner] fails to touch home base and makes no attempt to return to that base, and home base is tagged."

These rules are very clear - they provide for when the runner is out.  They do nothing to alter whether a run has scored.  The previous rules have defined what a run is, and that requires the runner to touch home base.  Rules 7.08(k) and 7.10(d) do not alter rules 2.00, 5.06, and 7.02.

I'll grant you that this is a little odd - that McGehee did not score a run but also was not out.  But, that outcome makes much more sense than the outcome from Friday night (and what, admittedly, is the norm in baseball) - that a run was scored without actually touching home plate.

That outcome makes no sense whatsoever.  In no other sport can a point be accumulated without the officiating crew indicating that the minimum requirements for scoring were met.  In baseball, the rules agree, and the practice needs to change.