As a former umpire, I can tell you that one of the hardest plays to call is when two runners wind up on the same base. It’s especially difficult because it’s an obscure rule that you’ve rarely got to call, which makes it even harder to remember.
Tony, I thought you might speak up about this one… I’ve read the rules book a number of times and I agree: two baserunners at one base gets confusing. Everything happens in an instant and it’s so unfamiliar that what to call can be confusing. I was waiting for someone to say one can’t return “home” because “home” isn’t a base but home.
I just looked up the official rules. The umpire called it correctly in ruling out Braun, the following runner, who was tagged while occupying second base concurrently with Segura, the preceding runner, according to Rule 7.03:
“7.03 (a) Two runners may not occupy a base, but if, while the ball is alive, two runners are touching a base, the following runner shall be out when tagged and the preceding runner is entitled to the base…” (The exception to this rule applies when the following runner is forced to advance because the batter has become a runner, which was not the case here.)
The commentators, however, stated the matter incorrectly in saying that Braun was automatically out because he had passed Segura. Had Braun passed Segura before Segura was out, then Braun would have been out on that account [Rule 7.08 (h)]; but, in fact, Braun had not passed Segura–they were simply on the same base (and, in fact, Braun reached second based before Segura did).
So, Braun is out, Segura is safe at second base under Rule 7.03 (a).
Now for the really interesting question: Was Segura entitled to return to first base after Braun was tagged out at second base? Here’s the applicable rule:
“7.01 A runner acquires the right to an unoccupied base when he touches it before he is out. He is then entitled to it until he is put out, or forced to vacate it for another runner legally entitled to that base.”
This, by itself, doesn’t settle the matter because at the time Segura returned to first base it was not occupied and no other runner was entitled to it. But the follow-up comment in the rules does, it seems to me, settle the matter:
“Rule 7.01 Comment: 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.”
Based on this comment, once Segura had advanced from first base to second base on a steal and the pitcher had assumed his position on the very next pitch, Segura had forfeited his right to return to first base. The commentators got it wrong again: you cannot go backwards and retake a base previously occupied once you have advanced bases and play continues.
So, Segura, could have been tagged out while back at first base because he was occupying a base to which he was not entitled.
Applying a different rule, the umpires might also have called him out for running back to first base:
“7.08 A runner is out when– … (i) 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.”
One might argue that, by running back to first, Segura was attempting to confuse the defense (though he looked more confused than anyone out there!), such that the umpire could rule him out automatically.