Poll: The Walk Off Obstruction

No GIF yet, because the game just ended, but let’s assume that most of you that are viewing FanGraphs at this time of day probably watched the end of the World Series.

Posted by Twitter User @CJZero, here’s how game three ended.

Game3End

For reference, here is the relevant text from MLB’s official rules:

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: 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.

7.06
When obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal “Obstruction.”
If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batterrunner 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.
(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.

What do you think?



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Timeghoul
Member
Timeghoul

He was laying down right in the middle of the basepath and then lifted his legs up when Craig was trying to jump over him to get home. This isn’t even poll-worthy, very easy call and I’m shocked they got it right.

eayres33
Member
eayres33

Yes he lifted his lower legs, Craig ran into his upper thigh which he did not move. Did you even watch the contact.

B N
Guest
B N

The upper thigh was moving up a bit, actually, but not so much that it should have been hard to avoid.

Chris
Guest
Chris

The best part of this whole thing: after the obstruction occurred, Middlebrooks lays on the ground watching the play from the dirt. If he was trying to stand up, why wasn’t he standing up? He tried to stand, obstructed Craig, he knew he messed up, so he just laid there to try and protect himself from an obstruction call.

Salty is the new Buckner. Two errors, two losses.

Devon
Guest

According to the rule above, it’s irrelevant whether the fielder is moving or not. I don’t think Salty intended or attempted to obstruct the runner, but he impeded Craig’s progress anyway. I think the home plate ump was waiting to see if Craig would be close enough to the throw before he called obstruction. After all, Craig was held up long enough so that if he hadn’t been — he would’ve scored cleanly.

B N
Guest
B N

He was lifting his legs and tucking in his knees in the slow-mo footage until Craig tripped on him. I mean, are you aware of how people actually stand up from a face-down prone position? You typically go to a hands-and-knees, then step up. Part of that motion puts your back legs up a bit.

While I’m not shocked to see it called interference, I’m not sure how the fielder could have known that Craig would run over him at that exact moment. Craig was at the bag, behind him, and any normal runner going to home would round 3B, not run down the inside of the basepath over a fielder.

The more interesting question is if obstruction even requires intent. By the letter, him just existing after the ball got away makes him an “obstruction.” That would be a bit unfair though, considering part of the reason the ball got away was that his glove arm hit Craig who was coming into the bag (and so long as he has the ball, he can’t be obstructing).

Timeghoul
Member
Timeghoul

It doesn’t require intent, as I’m sure you’ve seen from the posts below this one. The rulebook literally states this exact scenario and calls it interference. Accident or not, it doesn’t matter.

NS
Guest
NS

Calls it “very likely interference”, which is a significant difference.

Anon
Guest
Anon

So, if it is very likely interference, the call is very likely right.

B N
Guest
B N

Actually, the rulebook states a scenario where the fielder “continues to lie on the ground.” It is highly ambiguous over the length of time. As a result, it is ambiguous with respect to intent. If you tried to catch a ball and were on the ground for a split-second, no one would call it intentional or non-ordinary for the act of fielding. If you lay there until the end of the play, almost certainly intentional (or you are injured).

Given the possibility of “injury-caused obstruction” (i.e., you get hit by a line drive, keel over, and obstruct someone), intentionality is probably not a direct factor. But the duration of “laying” from an “ordinary lay” versus an “extraordinary lay” might well be a factor, given the extremely vague language of the rule.

In my opinion, the rule is probably intentionally vague to give umps latitude. I think in this case, Middlebrooks’ legs coming up were the reason for exercising that latitude.

Or, if you’re looking for a better headline: “Middlebrooks’ Leg Kicks Show Joyce an Extraordinary Lay.”

NS
Guest
NS

Yes, which is significantly different from being conclusively right – the tone most of these comments have taken.

Jaack
Guest
Jaack

It be pretty difficult to round third base when you are trying to slide into it. It would probably be pretty bad ass though.

Oppo Taco
Guest
Oppo Taco

Like that Old Spice commercial, where the guy slides headfirst into 1st base and then continues his slide all the way home.
As Men do.
As Nick Punto dreams of doing every time he hits a single.

B N
Guest
B N

From where he ends up, he still has a straight shot down the line. He does a movement toward 2B that puts the fielder in his path. I’ve watched a few more times, and I’m pretty sure he pivots and takes a step and change toward 2B while he is trying to look for where the ball went.

Question
Guest
Question

How in the baseball world does anyone make a play on any ball if this play is called interference? The ambiguity of the rule is built in for these exact situations. It’s the wrong application of the rule. Plain and simple.

tripleverbosity
Guest
tripleverbosity

So you believe that the runner should not be able to score because a fielder tried to make a play and is laying in the base path? Without the rule what is the incentive for the fielder to get out of the way? The simple fact is that without Middlebrook there, Craig scores easily. If Boston didn’t want an obstruction, maybe they shouldn’t have made such a terrible throw that resulted in obstruction…

NS
Guest
NS

Craig had a clear open path home and stumbled into Middlebrooks by choice.

“Without the rule what is the incentive for the fielder to get out of the way?”

Enforcing the rule this way, it doesn’t matter if the fielder tries to get out the way. There is literally nothing he can do to avoid obstruction.

mandamin
Member
mandamin

There’s absolutely no chance that he stumbled into him “by choice” — not least because he was looking behind him and had no idea Middlebrooks was there before he started tripping — but I almost wish that were true, because it’d be the most ingenious, devious case of in-the-moment cheating in baseball history. It’s the kind of thing the thought of which keeps A.J. Pierzynski getting up every morning.

williams .482
Member
Member
williams .482

It was probably not “by choice,” but Middlebrooks is off the chalk and mostly out of the baseline, in an area where the runner almost never runs through when trying to score from third on that play.

AC_Butcha_AC
Member
AC_Butcha_AC

In my opinion it was CLEARLY obstruction.

To all the guys claiming it is a bad rule, becuase Middlebrooks wasn’t in any way able to not obstruct him after missing the ball.

What about swinging strikes? The batter gets a penalty for doing everything he could and there was no way he could have hit the ball. Still he gets penalized.

A batter hitting a deep fly ball with an outfielder waiting under it. What should the batter do for not being called out? Hit a Home Run every time?

Exact same thing here. It doesn’t matter at all if Middlebrooks had no chance of avoiding this obstruction. This argument could be taken so far as to say a Home Run should not count as a hit because the OF had no chance to catch the ball. Think about a towering drive with no fans directly behind the fence and the OF already there long before the ball arrives.

I think you get my point… so DEFINATELY OBSTRUCTION! There really isn’t even room for argument…

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