Add the final play on Saturday night to the annals of Bill Buckner, Carlton Fisk, Bucky Dent, Aaron Boone, the 2004 Yankees comeback et al and you have another chapter in the historic saga of baseball in Beantown.
With one out and
Two outs with Allen Craig rounding third. In the heat of the action, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia instinctively threw to third trying to nab Craig as he was getting back to the base. The throw went to the right of Will Middlebrook’s glove. Middlebrooks dove to prevent the ball from going into left field but could catch it.
Craig then broke for home, tripping over Middlebrooks, who was face-first on the ground, while Daniel Nava retrieved the ball and made a perfect one hop throw to the plate for the final out.
When the home plate umpire signaled Craig was safe all hell broke loose and, for a moment, nobody knew what had happened.
In a quirky rule, which is rarely called, both umpires at home and third agreed that Middlebrooks was guilty of interference, or “obstruction”, as it is called in the baseball rulebook.
Clearly Craig had to jump over a diving Middlebrooks and, in the process, he tripped. Many observers incorrectly believe the call was wrong because the interference was not intentional.
The rules disagree, however. They say that it does not matter whether the obstruction is intentional or not. End of story, right? Wrong.
Rarely is “obstruction” ever called. Generally umpires do not like to impose their interpretations into the outcome unless there is a flagrant violation. There was no intent by Middlebrooks to interfere, but the play became magnified because it resulted in the winning run in a World Series game.
Rules are rules you say. Yes, but did the umpires actually make the correct call?
“Rule 2.00 (Obstruction): 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.”
It sounds cut and dried until you read the last seven words, “he very likely has obstructed the runner.”
Those words leave “obstruction” open for interpretation, which raises a question. Because the play was based upon an umpire’s interpretation, does
During the regular season, protests are reviewed by the commissioner’s office and decisions are rendered later. In the post-season, however, protests are arbitrated immediately. Had
The umpires insist they went by the book. On the other hand, the book does have a loophole which leaves room for debate and, when an umpire does not rule correctly, a team has the right to protest.
As for interpretation. From Craig’s position in the picture above, another opinion could be that he was out of the baseline.
Since baseball has no replay until next year, except for home runs, why no let the powers that be make the decision in a game with so much importance?
Then again, that is what makes sports fun. For
Non-baseball fans may call the game boring if they like. Perhaps. But there is baseball and then there is Red Sox baseball.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
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