Newspaper article International New York Times

Infield Grounder; Welcome to My Neighborhood ; No Plans for Video Review as Unwritten Rule Protects Players from Baserunners

Newspaper article International New York Times

Infield Grounder; Welcome to My Neighborhood ; No Plans for Video Review as Unwritten Rule Protects Players from Baserunners

Article excerpt

The "neighborhood play" -- the unwritten rule protecting infielders from runners who try to break up a double play -- is, for now, not reviewable on video.

Runner on first, one out. Ground ball to the second baseman. He flips the ball to the shortstop, who seamlessly catches it, leaps above the sliding runner and fires to first base for a double play.

There is just one catch: The shortstop never touches second base, pivoting several inches behind the bag. The umpire, although right on top of the play, rules the runner out.

It is the so-called neighborhood play, an unwritten rule going back decades that allows middle infielders to protect themselves by getting out of the way of hard-charging runners. In the process, they fail to complete the most basic task: touching the base while holding the ball.

Last year, when Major League Baseball announced the expansion of video review, the neighborhood play conceivably seemed endangered. Stephen Drew provided a blatant example during the American League Championship Series -- with his foot noticeably off the bag, he drew a forceout call at second and threw to first, where the batter beat the relay -- and there were those who imagined how managers might be able to challenge a potentially crucial play like that one.

"The double play is a game changer because with one pitch, you get two outs," said Alex Cora, a former middle infielder and an ESPN analyst. In the case of Drew, Cora added, "he wasn't even in the neighborhood; he was in a different county."

Maybe so, but in the end, there was no real appetite to make the neighborhood play reviewable. Like ball and strike calls, it remains immune from video scrutiny.

"This is for safety," said Tony La Russa, a Hall of Fame manager who was a key member of the replay committee, when asked why the neighborhood play remained protected. "Nobody wants these guys getting clobbered."

Tony Clark, the head of the players union and a former major league first baseman, declined to discuss the decision to leave the neighborhood play alone, saying through a spokesman that he would comment on the video review only after a "significant sampling size" of such plays. …

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