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WHILE THE GAME 3, 2013 WORLD SERIES OBSTRUCTION CALL WAS CORRECT, SHOULD THE RUN HAVE COUNTED?

Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas – After a complete review of MLB Rule 7 and the Obstruction definition under Rule 2, some interesting things have come to light.  Also, further review of the play also adds an interesting dimension.

THE CALL

You know the play: Game 3, Bottom 9, tie game, one out, second and third, infield in.  Hard grounder to Pedroia, who throws Molina out at home.  Saltalamacchia (hereafter “the catcher”) tries to get Craig at third, Middlebrooks can’t handle the throw, which deflects to the wall behind third towards left-field.

Craig gets up, trips over Middlebrooks and starts home. Third-base ump Joyce points at Middlebrooks (apparently calling obstruction) and Nava, with an unbelievable back-up, throws Craig out at home.  Home plate umpire DeMuth signals safe and points towards Joyce (who had raised his hand, presumably to point out obstruction).

Game over.  Unbeknownst to this writer until further review of the play on Sunday, the catcher, with his hands outstretched (you know, seeming to indicate, “How could he be safe?”), has the ball in hand and STEPS ON HOME PLATE (more on this later).

Craig, who never touched home, is lying injured near home and is helped off the field by the trainer while the Cardinals celebrate and manager John Farrell and other Red Sox complain vehemently.

To no avail.  Cardinals 5, Red Sox 4.

LOOK AT SOME RULES AND WHAT HAPPENED

The two main MLB Rules regarding Obstruction are the definition of Obstruction at Rule 2.00 and MLB Rule 7.06 (a).  Obstruction is defined at 2.00 as:

“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.”

The example under the Comment to 2.00 Obstruction is right on point and is exactly what happened on the field:

“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.”

MLB Rule 7.06 (a) states, in part:

 “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 umpires judgment, if there had been no obstruction.”

There was a press conference after the game with Joe Torre, who now works for MLB, and a number of umps.  They made it very clear that they got the call right, they were sure about it and that intent didn’t matter.

Based on these rules, and especially the Comment to MLB Rule 2.00 Obstruction, it appears that the call was correct.  Middlebrooks did obstruct Craig.

Here’s another Note to a Rule that may apply, if, in fact, time was never called by either umpire (Joyce at third and DeMuth at home) and the ball remained live.  The Note to Rule 7.04 (d) states, in part:

 “When a runner is entitled to a base without liability to be put out, while the ball is in play, and the runner fails to touch the base to which he is entitled [in this case, home], the runner shall forfeit his exemption from liability to be put out, and he may be put out by tagging the base or by tagging the runner before he returns to the base.”

DID ALLEN CRAIG HAVE TO TOUCH HOME?

Allen Craig clearly has a responsibility to touch home.  Here’s the Comment to MLB Rule 7.05 (i):

 “The fact a runner is awarded a base or bases without liability to be put out does not relieve him of the responsibility to touch the base he is awarded.”

Clearly, Craig was awarded home and didn’t touch it.

SO, THE REAL QUESTION BECOMES, GIVEN THE FOLLOWING RULES, DID THE RED SOX APPEAL WHETHER CRAIG TOUCHED HOME OR NOT?

Rule 7.08 (k) states that any runner is out when:

“In running or sliding for home base, he fails to touch home base and makes no attempt to return to the base, when a  fielder holds the ball in his hand, while touching home base and APPEALS TO THE UMPIRE FOR THE DECISION.” (emphasis added)

Now, if you watch the replay, the catcher had his arms out (certainly more of a “How could you make that call” as opposed to “I appeal”), the ball in his hand and, it seems to this writer, accidentally stepped on home.  Could this be an appeal?

The answer is clearly “No.”

Why?  The Comment to MLB Rule 7.10 (d) states, in part:

“A player inadvertently stepping on a base with a ball in his hand would not constitute an appeal.”

SO, WHERE DOES THAT FINALLY LEAVE US?

Well, if somebody on the Red Sox had appealed the play by notifying the umpire and stepping on home before the defense left the field, it is submitted that Craig could have been called out and the game resumed as a tie game.  While unlikely, if the ball remained live the entire time (while obstruction was called, no umpire ever called Time), maybe Craig could have arguably been called out without an appeal (see Note to 7.04 (d) above).

Of course, apparently, no appeal was made.  However, looking at the replay, it did not seem that the home plate umpire ever even looked to see if Craig touched home.  And that’s a COLOSSAL mistake.  Since DeMuth had no interest in calling the play at the plate (he appeared to look at it and then stand up and give a safe sign (Craig was clearly tagged by the catcher) and point towards Joyce at third), his SOLE responsibility at that point in time is to see if Craig touched home, much like, when somebody hits a game-ending home run, the home plate ump always waits for the player to touch home and then leaves the field.

DeMuth simply never looked.

SO, WAS IT REALLY THE CORRECT CALL?

The call of obstruction was correct.  But, after Craig failed to touch home, the Red Sox failed to appeal and the home plate umpire never looked to see if the game-winning run in the third game of the 2013 World Series actually touched home.  Had the Red Sox appealed, the home plate umpire would have either called Craig safe or asked for help (and remember, the main reason Craig missed home was because he was trying to avoid the catcher’s tag).  And, unlike the call last week when DeMuth was looking down at players’ feet at that force at second when Pete Kozma did not catch the force throw and five umpires overruled him, on this play at home, no umpire (other than DeMuth) could have seen that Craig missed home.

Lots of blame to go around.  And fascinating stuff.

© Copyright 2013 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.

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One response to “WHILE THE GAME 3, 2013 WORLD SERIES OBSTRUCTION CALL WAS CORRECT, SHOULD THE RUN HAVE COUNTED?

  1. Awesome analysis!

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