It took only six days, but Major League Baseball has finally determined that Brewers shortstop Jean Segura — and anyone else who might want to run backward on the basepaths — doesn’t have the right to “steal” first base.
During Milwaukee’s Friday night victory against the Cubs, Segura was on second base and Ryan Braun was on first base when Segura got caught in a rundown between second and third.
Braun ran to second, assuming Segura was going to be tagged out in the pickle. But Segura retreated back to second base, where Braun was standing. With the two Brewers on the same bag, Cubs shortstop Luis Valbuena tagged both Segura and Braun.
Umpires determined Braun was out because Segura owned the rights to the base he previously occupied. Segura, thinking he was out, started walking toward the Milwaukee dugout on the first base side. However, Brewers first base coach Garth Iorg urged Segura to stop at first base on the way to the dugout and — after much debate — he was considered safe there.
The “steal” of first base — after Segura’s steal of second earlier in the inning and before a failed attempt later in the inning to steal it back — quickly became one of the most talked-about plays of the early baseball season.
So just in case this ever comes up again, MLB on Thursday armed its umpires with an explanation of how things should have been handled. It’s statement goes like this:
“In accordance with the Comment to OBR 7.01, the runner from 2B was not entitled to return safely to any base preceding the base that he originally held when the play began. The Comment to OBR 7.01 states, ‘If a runner legally acquires title to a base, and the pitcher assumes his pitching position, the runner may not return to a previously occupied base.
“Moreover, the Comment to OBR 7.08(a) states, in part, that, ‘Any runner after reaching first base who leaves the base path heading for his dugout or his position believing that there is no further play, may be declared out if the umpire judges the act of the runner to be considered abandoning his efforts to run the bases.’ In this case, the runner from 2B should have been ruled out as he abandoned his effort once he left 2B and started towards the first base line.
So next time a guy runs the bases backward, forget everything you learned last Friday about Rule 7.08(i), which was what the crew on hand used as guidance:
“After he has acquired legal possession of a base, he runs the bases in reverse order for the purpose of confusing the defense or making a travesty of the game, the umpire shall immediately call ‘Time’ and declare the runner out; If a runner touches an unoccupied base and then thinks the ball was caught or is decoyed into returning to the base he last touched, he may be put out running back to that base, but if he reaches the previously occupied base safely he cannot be put out while in contact with that base.”