Ump Botches Call According To MLB Rulebook And Helps Propel Cubs Past Nationals To NLCS

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

The events of the top half of the fifth inning in the Chicago Cubs‘ Game 5 victory over the Washington Nationals in their NLDS were truly rare.

Like, 1-in-2,730,000 rare.

Except three of those four events should have never happened.

The Nationals entered the frame with a 4-3 lead, and brought two-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer on in relief.

He recorded two outs before the meltdown that shouldn’t have been ensued. Scherzer surrendered two singles, then a double to drive both runners in.

But things should have stopped there.

The inning continued when Javier Baez swung at a third strike then advanced to first while the ball got away from catcher Matt Wieters, who then made a throwing error that allowed a run to score.

It’s the second play in this package:

But wait! Baez hit Wieters with his backswing.

According to rule 6.03(a), the inning should have ended right there on Baez’s swing:

Wieters appeared to lobby Layne to call interference, pointing to his mask during a discussion after the play.

Instead, two more runs scored. Two invaluable runs, because the Cubs barely held on for a 9-8 victory.

Home plate umpire Jerry Layne used the word “judgment” eight times to defend the call, even though the rulebook makes no mention of an umpire’s discretion outside of determining whether the batter intentionally hit the catcher behind him:

Backswing interference is a play where a guy is stealing or there’s a play being made a runner hindering the catch. It was a wild pitch and went past him. That is no longer in that particular description, in my judgment. In my judgment, the passed ball changed the whole rule around to where, in my judgment, it had nothing to do with everything. Therefore, it didn’t have any effect on it. In my judgment. … When the ball gets past him, all right, in my judgment he didn’t have any more opportunity after he had a chance to field the ball. There was no further play that could have been made on it. The graze of the helmet didn’t have anything to do, in my judgment, with anything at all, with that particular play. I understand, it’s pretty much my judgment. I got together and found everybody was in agreement. That’s what we went with. … If you look at the replay, it’s clearly gone past him. That’s where we were in our discussion and the judgment. Now, if it was right there in front of him, we’d have a different night.

This sounds a lot like the rationale of someone who knows they screwed up.

Thank umpire Jerry Layne next time you see him, Cubs fans.