Sunday, October 27, 2013

An Umpire's View of Last Night's Obstruction Call

Did they get it right?

In case you missed it, here's the play:

Most players, coaches and fans are saying that last night's game-ending Obstruction call was unusual - even weird - but the umpires got the call right. But did they?

Maybe. As a certified ASA Umpire I attend Rules Interpretation Clinics every year. We analyze and are quizzed on situations that practically never come up...but they might. Like last night.

First, let me explain something that many people - even Joe Buck and Tim McCarver - find confusing. The difference between Interference and Obstruction.  Interference is caused by the offense. For example, when there's a runner on 1st and a ground ball is hit toward the 2nd baseman, the runner cannot interfere with the 2nd baseman trying to field the ball. Obstruction, on the other hand, is caused by the defense. A fielder blocking the baseline and impeding a runner from advancing. Like last night.

Here is the actual rule:
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: If 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.
What would have been the third out at home on the Nava throw to home was negated.
Rule 7.06 (Effect) If a play is being made on the obstructed runner … 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.
Allen Craig was awarded home - the winning run - because "in the umpire's judgement" he would have reached home if he hadn't tripped over Middlebrooks. But would he have reached home? Craig is a gimpy runner and Nava's throw was in plenty of time, so the notion that he would have definitely scored is subjective. He might have, he might not have. 
My call?

Craig would have been awarded 3rd base, not home, the game would continue with a tie score, two outs in the bottom of the 9th and a runner on 3rd. Game on, and may the best team win.



  1. I agree, no one is reporting the second part, that if in the umpire's opinion he would have reached.

  2. I agree, everyone seems to be missing the critical part: "to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire's judgment, if there had been no obstruction"