If you were to consult the official play-by-play scoring for Friday's game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Chicago Cubs
, you would find nothing unremarkable about the bottom of the 8th inning. As the scoring tells it, Jean Segura of the Brewers hit an infield single, then stole second base. Ryan Braun walked and was thrown out on an attempted steal of second, Rickie Weeks struck out, and the inning ended when Segura was thrown out attempting to steal third base.
Except that's not quite how it happened. You can watch this train wreck of a baserunning play and try to make sense of it
, but here's what actually occurred on the field:
- With Braun at bat, Segura stole second base. Braun then walked.
- With Weeks at bat, Segura took off too early on an attempted steal of third, and was caught in a rundown. Meanwhile, Braun made a break for second.
- Segura evaded the rundown and returned to second base, which was already occupied by Braun. While both of them were on second base, the Cubs tagged both Segura and Braun.
- Thinking he was out, Segura began walking back to the Brewers' dugout. And this is when it all went wrong.
Turning to rule 7.03
we find that Segura, as the "preceding runner", was entitled to second base, and Braun as the "following runner" to first. Being tagged while off his base, Braun
was out and Segura was safe. Segura was made aware of this, and promptly scrambled to the nearest available base -- first
base, where he stayed. Now, rule 7.08(i) forbids running the bases in reverse for the purpose of confusing the defense or, in a memorable phrase, "making a travesty of the game", declaring the runner automatically out. But it does not
forbid doing so out of confusion, and in fact a comment to the rule states that a runner who goes backwards because he was "decoyed" is not out under this rule.
So before the play, Braun was on first base and Segura at second. After the play, Braun was out at second and Segura was safe at first. Later in the inning, Segura once again attempted to steal second, and was put out.
But baseball's scoring systems can't handle this
. Specifically, they can't handle the idea that a runner who started a play on second base would end it on first base. So in the official scoring of the game, Braun was thrown out trying to steal second base, Segura stayed at second, and was then thrown out trying to steal third, which is the closest baseball's scoring can come to recording this accurately.
Though, as with any sufficiently obsure or interesting thing in baseball scoring, the legality of the play and the correct scoring is still a matter for discussion
Incidentally, rule 7.08(i) and its particular prohibition on "making a travesty of the game" exists more or less as the direct result of one of my favorite remembered-from-childhood bits of baseball trivia: the career of Herman "Germany" Schaefer
of the Detroit Tigers. Schaefer was a notorious showman, who pulled any number of stunts on the field. Among those is the feat of stealing second base from first, followed by stealing first base from second, which he is known to have done once -- in 1911 -- and alleged to have done another time in 1908, both times followed by attempts to steal second base again.