World Series Obstruction?

The obstruction call was kind of a big deal last night:

The Play

(If that doesn’t work, try this one or this one.)

The Cardinals and Red Sox are tied 4-4 in the bottom of the 9th inning. There is one out and an 0-1 count on St. Louis’ batter, Jon Jay. Catcher Yadier Molina is on third base, and Alan Craig is on second.

The 0-1 pitch is hit to the right side, and second baseman Dustin Pedroia who is playing up on the grass makes a good throw home to Jared Saltalamacchia. At this point Jon Jay has reached first base safely on a fielder’s choice.

Saltalamacchia tags out Molina who was coming home from third base for the second out of the inning. And he immediately throws the ball down to third base to Will Middlebrooks. The throw was wide and Middlebrooks dove in an attempt to catch the ball, but he was unsuccessful and the ball rolls into left field. As Middlebrooks is diving, Craig is sliding into third base.

As Middlebrooks is lying on the ground, watching the ball go into left field, Alan Craig attempts to run home, but trips over Middlebrooks’s legs. Third base umpire Jim Joyce immediately points at the play and calls obstruction.

As we’ll see in the rule in a second, as soon as Joyce calls obstruction the ball is dead. Obviously in the mass-confusion the play continued and Craig was thrown out at home plate, and everyone within a two block radius that had facial hair ran onto the field to argue, but that was ultimately irrelevant.

The Rule

Rule 2 defines obstruction as “the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.”

But Middlebrooks didn’t do it on purpose!

I can see some people arguing both sides: That it was incidental contact and that Middlebrooks actually raised his feet off the ground on purpose in an attempt to do just what happened—and tangle Craig’s legs up with his. Whether it was done on purpose or not is irrelevant, there is nothing of intent in the rule, all he had to do was impede the runner’s progress. And being that Craig fell on all fours, it’s safe to say his progress was clearly impeded.

Who says Middlebrooks was not “fielding the ball”?

Who is to say that Middlebrooks wasn’t trying to get up to retrieve the ball? Wouldn’t that make him “in the act of fielding the ball”? The next part of the definition tells us that he is not.

“It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the ‘act of fielding’ the ball.”

And as if that wasn’t enough, it goes even further: “For example: an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.”

If you want to claim that Middlebrooks was fielding the ball then you could also claim that Pedroia or the right fielder was too. I mean Saltalamacchia could’ve run out to get the ball in left field, if he takes out Craig on the way so what, he was in the act of fielding! No, you have to draw the line somewhere. The rules have decreed that the line is drawn when the ball gets by you.

It’s obstruction. What’s that mean?

Well we jump to our next rule, 7.06a, which says, “When obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal ‘Obstruction.’” Jim Joyce did just this when Craig fell by pointing at him.

The rule continues, “If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, which in this case it was, the ball is dead and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire’s judgment, if there had been no obstruction.”

And it further clarifies that, “The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction.”

How is the play scored?

Because Middlebrooks was called for obstruction he is therefore charged with an error (as per rule 10.12c) on the play and Craig’s advancement from third base to home place is on the E5.

Umpires are often criticized for blowing calls, however, as we have seen, this was not one of them. This was as big of a situation as could have existed and the umpires were not only able to get the call correct, but call it as soon as the incident happened and in perfect accordance with the rules.

I can’t read, can you do a video explaining the play?


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Filed under Baseball, Baserunners, Batters, Crazy play, Errors

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