It WAS "Obstruction"--Get Over It !

Since I have umpired for 60 years [first game when I was 8] I can say that every call is never going to please everyone; most times, it breaks down 50/50.

umpireAlso, I think the rules need to be amended to add clarity; when a rule is not specific and precise, it allows for interpretation, which means that individual perception gets involved and you all know about the reliability of “eye witnesses” and that 12 umpires watching the same car accident will have 12 differing impressions.

In the case of the Middlebrooks’ obstruction call, hypothetically, a case can always be made for either side, but is it worth noting that both the 3rd base and home plate umpire made the same call almost simultaneously.

The word “intention” or “intentionally” adds a dimension to any ruling; here, the umpire is not only asked to make a ruling on what he saw, but he is also expected to impute the intention of the player’ that is, read the player’s mind.

NOTE:  Neither “intention” or “intentionally” appears in the wording or Rule 2.0.

Here are the perceptions that are nearly unanimous about the play:

  • The catcher tried to make a play on the runner at 3rd and threw to his 3rd baseman.
  • The throw was wide [to the SS side] of the 3rd base bag and Middlebrooks had to lay out flat to try to get his glove to reach the ball; the ball grazed the webbing of his glove and went into foul territory where the LF picked it up.
  • The runner was watching the ball and, when he turned to head home he stumbled over Middlebrooks, who was flat on the ground with his legs at a 45-degree angle to the ground; his legs from the knee to the foot rose twice from the ground, while the runner began to go home.
  • The throw from the LF arrived before the runner and he was tagged out.

SEE FOR YOURSELF HERE:

http://ftw.usatoday.com/2013/10/the-mlb-obstruction-rule-that-ended-game-3-of-the-world-series/

http://wapc.mlb.com/bos/play/?c_id=bos&content_id=31186613&topic_id=11493214

http://wapc.mlb.com/play/?content_id=31186609&topic_id=62219982

7:17 the play; 8:45 Farrell reacts; 9:06 Umpires explain their call.

CASE FOR OBSTRUCTION

Once the 3rd baseman was allowed, without interference or obstruction from an offensive player, to try to catch the ball and failed, he was no longer involved in the continuing play.

The runner tripped on the hip/leg of the 3rd baseman and fell down.

Whether Middlebrooks intentionally lifted his legs to impede the runner or not, the runner’s natural running motion was interrupted.

Home plate umpire, Dana Demuth, explained that, in his judgement, the runner would have scored, had he not been obstructed by the Third baseman.

Here is the rule that applies:

When obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal “Obstruction.”

(a) If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batter-runner is obstructed before he touches first base, 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. The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction. Any preceding runners, forced to advance by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction, shall advance without liability to be put out.

Rule 7.06(a) Comment: When a play is being made on an obstructed runner, the umpire shall signal obstruction in the same manner that he calls “Time,” with both hands overhead. The ball is immediately dead when this signal is given; however, should a thrown ball be in flight before the obstruction is called by the umpire, the runners are to be awarded such bases on wild throws as they would have been awarded had not obstruction occurred. On a play where a runner was trapped between second and third and obstructed by the third baseman going into third base while the throw is in flight from the shortstop, if such throw goes into the dugout the obstructed runner is to be awarded home base. Any other runners on base in this situation would also be awarded two bases from the base they last legally touched before obstruction was called.

Since the word “intentionally” is used in Rule 7.09(j) Comment, someone might attempt to make the case against the obstruction call in Game Three of the 2013 World Series:

Rule 7.09(j) Comment: When a catcher and batter-runner going to first base have contact when the catcher is fielding the ball, there is generally no violation and nothing should be called.

“Obstruction” by a fielder attempting to field a ball should be called only in very flagrant and violent cases because the rules give him the right of way, but of course such “right of way” is not a license to, for example, intentionally trip a runner even though fielding the ball. If the catcher is fielding the ball and the first baseman or pitcher obstructs a runner going to first base “obstruction” shall be called and the base runner awarded first base.

The key to this rule is that it describes a fielder that is “in the act of fielding a ball.”  [See 2.0]

In the Middlebrook’s case, he had already made his attempt, so the section does not apply.

*RULE 2.0:

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. 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.

Minor Quibble:

The above quote from rule 2.00 has a minor flaw and needs to be amended.

It says: “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.

Lets’ remove the words “very likely” to improve the clarity; to wit:

“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 has obstructed the runner.”

TO MY FELLOW CITIZENS OF RED SOX NATION:

The umpires made a correct ruling.  Let’s not hear people whining about it on Sports talk radio.  There’s no whining in baseball.

ADD:  Commentator and former Dodger pitcher, Orel Hershise opined that he had seen the rule applied to plays at Second base [when a sliding runner may get tangled with a fielder], but had never seen it applied to a play a Third base.

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*2.00

OBSTRUCTION is 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.

Rule 2.00 (Obstruction)

Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered “in the act of fielding a ball.” 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. 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.

**7.09

Rule 7.09

(e) Any batter or runner who has just been put out, or any runner who has just scored, hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate;

Rule 7.09(e) Comment: If the batter or a runner continues to advance after he has been put out, he shall not by that act alone be considered as confusing, hindering or impeding the fielders.

(f) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.

(g) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a batter-runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball, with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead; the umpire shall call the batter-runner out for interference and shall also call out the runner who had advanced closest to the home plate regardless where the double play might have been possible. In no event shall bases be run because of such interference.

(h) In the judgment of the umpire, the base coach at third base, or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists him in returning to or leaving third base or first base.

(i) With a runner on third base, the base coach leaves his box and acts in any manner to draw a throw by a fielder;

Rule 7.09 to 7.10

(k) A fair ball touches him on fair territory before touching a fielder. If a fair ball goes through, or by, an infielder, and touches a runner immediately back of him, or touches the runner after having been deflected by a fielder, the umpire shall not declare the runner out for being touched by a batted ball. In making such decision the umpire must be convinced that the ball passed through, or by, the fielder, and that no other infielder had the chance to make a play on the ball. If, in the judgment of the umpire, the runner deliberately and intentionally kicks such a batted ball on which the infielder has missed a play, then the runner shall be called out for interference.

PENALTY FOR INTERFERENCE: The runner is out and the ball is dead.

7.06 When obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal “Obstruction.”

(a) If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batter-runner is obstructed before he touches first base, 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. The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction.

Rule 7.06 to 7.08

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Any preceding runners, forced to advance by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction, shall advance without liability to be put out.

Rule 7.06(a) Comment: When a play is being made on an obstructed runner, the umpire shall signal obstruction in the same manner that he calls “Time,” with both hands overhead. The ball is immediately dead when this signal is given; however, should a thrown ball be in flight before the obstruction is called by the umpire, the runners are to be awarded such bases on wild throws as they would have been awarded had not obstruction occurred. On a play where a runner was trapped between second and third and obstructed by the third baseman going into third base while the throw is in flight from the shortstop, if such throw goes into the dugout the obstructed runner is to be awarded home base.

Any other runners on base in this situation would also be awarded two bases from the base they last legally touched before obstruction was called.

(b) If no play is being made on the obstructed runner, the play shall proceed until no further action is possible. The umpire shall then call “Time” and impose such penalties, if any, as in his judgment will nullify the act of obstruction.

Rule 7.06(b) Comment: Under 7.0 6(b) when the ball is not dead on obstruction and an obstructed runner advances beyond the base which, in the umpire’s judgment, he would have been awarded because of being obstructed, he does so at his own peril and may be tagged out. This is a judgment call.

NOTE: The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score. The base line belongs to the runner and the catcher should be there only when he is fielding a ball or when he already has the ball in his hand.

7.07. If, with a runner on third base and trying to score by means of a squeeze play or a steal, the catcher or any other fielder steps on, or in front of home base without possession of the ball, or touches the batter or his bat, the pitcher shall be charged with a balk, the batter shall be awarded first base on the interference and the ball is dead.

7.06. When obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal “Obstruction.” (a) If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batter-runner is obstructed before he touches first base, 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. The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction.

Rule 7.06 to 7.08. Any preceding runners, forced to advance by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction, shall advance without liability to be put out.

Rule 7.06(a) Comment: When a play is being made on an obstructed runner, the umpire shall signal obstruction in the same manner that he calls “Time,” with both hands overhead. The ball is immediately dead when this signal is given; however, should a thrown ball be in flight before the obstruction is called by the umpire, the runners are to be awarded such bases on wild throws as they would have been awarded had not obstruction occurred. On a play where a runner was trapped between second and third and obstructed by the third baseman going into third base while the throw is in flight from the shortstop, if such throw goes into the dugout the obstructed runner is to be awarded home base.

Any other runners on base in this situation would also be awarded two bases from the base they last legally touched before obstruction was called.

(b) If no play is being made on the obstructed runner, the play shall proceed until no further action is possible. The umpire shall then call “Time” and impose such penalties, if any, as in his judgment will nullify the act of obstruction.

Rule 7.06(b) Comment: Under 7.06(b) when the ball is not dead on obstruction and an obstructed runner advances beyond the base which, in the umpire’s judgment, he would have been awarded because of being obstructed, he does so at his own peril and may be tagged out. This is a judgment call.

NOTE: The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score. The base line belongs to the runner and the catcher should be there only when he is fielding a ball or when he already has the ball in his hand.

7.07 If, with a runner on third base and trying to score by means of a squeeze play or a steal, the catcher or any other fielder steps on, or in front of home base without possession of the ball, or touches the batter or his bat, the pitcher shall be charged with a balk, the batter shall be awarded first base on the interference and the ball is dead.

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