The Rules of Professional Baseball: A Comprehensive Reorganization and Interpretation, also known as the “Jaksa/Roder Manual,” is billed by its authors as “The World’s Only Complete Rewrite of Baseball’s Official Rules.” Chris Jaksa and Rick Roder set out to interpret the elusive meaning of the Official Baseball Rules ("OBR") in clear and practical terms.
The Jaksa/Roder Manual is well organized and uses clear language. The J/R Manual is sectioned into topical chapters that beg to be read and digested as a whole and assist the reader in understanding both the meaning and context of the OBR. The chapters cite the OBR by number and terms are defined with exacting language to avoid ambiguity. The J/R Manual also incorporates 2008 Major League Baseball and Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation interpretations in its discussion of the rules. Although the focus and emphasis is on the professional rules, NCAA, NAIA, and NFHS rule differences are also annotated within the J/R Manual for easy reference. The J/R Manual also contains a very useful index for quick reference.
So how useful is the J/R Manual? Co-author Rick Roder acknowledges in the Preface that the J/R Manual is only one resource for the aspiring umpire. Rulebooks, casebooks, and supplemental books like the J/R Manual and the Baseball Rules Differences by Carl Childress are vital to understanding the rules at the various professional and amateur levels. While the J/R Manual is an authoritative interpretation of the Rules, it is only one helpful resource for interpreting the Rules.
The importance of these authoritative interpretations is that it aids the umpire in understanding the rules, but ultimately it is the umpire’s own interpretation of the Rules that matters. To illustrate this point, consider the (in)famous voluntary release play during game 4 of the 2008 American League Divisional Series between the Angels and Red Sox. Jason Veritek recorded an out by tagging the Angels Reggie Willits during a run down after a botched squeeze bunt. However, after the tag Veritek lost control of the ball. Third base umpire Tim Welke called the out even though the ball was lying on the ground.
Was Welke right? Well, that depends on who you ask.
OBR Rule 2.00 defines a “TAG” as “the action of a fielder in touching a base with his body while holding the ball securely and firmly in his hand or glove; or touching a runner with the ball, or with his hand or glove holding the ball, while holding the ball securely and firmly in his hand or glove.”
This definition is only a starting point in interpreting the Veritek play, and tells us nothing about control after the tag. So let’s look at some authoritative interpretations on when a tag occurs:
The Official Baseball Rules Annotated by Jim Evans determines a tag by “the status of the ball at the time the runner or base is touched and not on the final proof of possession."
The J/R Manual states that for a tag the player must have “complete control of the ball during and after the touch.”
The Wendelstedt Rules and Mechanics Manual states that for a tag to occur the player must show “complete control of the ball during and immediately following the touch of the runner.”
The foregoing makes clear that an interpretation of the rules is simply someone’s opinion, but isn’t that the point of umpiring? As arbiter of the game an umpire is compelled to give an opinion, so the prudent umpire will study the rules, read the casebooks, and pore over the authoritative interpretations in order to formulate his or her own opinion (of course an opinion based upon and within the rules). Authoritative interpretations are based upon the game’s traditions, common sense, and the author’s experience (and sometimes biases).
The bottom line is: an authoritative interpretation of the OBR like The Rules of Professional Baseball: A Comprehensive Reorganization and Interpretation is a necessary element of an umpire’s education in order to understand and apply the rules of baseball.
Available at the ABUA website for $39.95