The final play of Game 3 of the World Series has generated some very strong opinions. In the poll just below this (that includes a GIF of the play), most of you have sided with the umpires, believing that the obstruction call on Will Middlebrooks was correct. Rather than offer a strong opinion of my own, I’d like to simply offer some connected thoughts that have come from watching the play a few hundred times.
The rule, as written, seems pretty clear in addressing plays very similar to this. I don’t know how the umpires, guided by the rulebook as written, could have called anything else.
The rule, as written, is problematic. Will Middlebrooks simply had no way to not interfere, given that definition of interference, so once he dove to try and catch Saltalamacchia’s errant throw, his fate was sealed.
The leg kick issue seems to be a sideshow. Craig’s path to home plate included running directly through Middlebrooks, and had Middlebrooks laid perfectly still, Craig still seemingly would have tripped. The leg kick doesn’t appear to be the cause of the trip, to me, but instead, the fact that Middlebrooks body was laying in the path Craig chose to run.
Craig’s path took him to the very edge of the defined baseline. His feet actually touch the grass, and I think one could make a reasonable case that he was attempting to run in an area that is not generally considered to be the domain of the runner.
That was one pretty fantastic play by Dustin Pedroia.
If you believe in karma, the Red Sox kind of deserve this, since Shane Victorino has mastered turning pitches barely inside into free bases. Live by the technicality of the rulebook, die by the technicality of the rulebook.
This ending overshadows a series of pretty brutal decisions by John Farrell. I’m sure he doesn’t feel very lucky at the moment, but had this game not ended in controversy, a huge part of the postgame conversation would have centered on the Brandon Workman/Koji Uehara decision tree.
The more I watch the play, the less of a problem I have with the call, and the less I like how the rule is written. It seems like a fielder should be given a reasonable opportunity to attempt to not interfere. One could argue whether or not Middlebrooks was trying to trip Craig or stand up to get back into fielding position, but we probably shouldn’t have a rule that penalizes defenders for not having the ability to teleport instantaneously off the ground.
Anyone who says baseball is boring is nuts. That game was amazing.