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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

The obstruction rule and call

I had to look a bit before I found the section of the rule book that directly applies to the end of Game 3 of the World Series on Saturday night. So, I thought I would include it here.

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: 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.

As most everyone knows, Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks made an unsuccessful dive attempt at catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s wild throw. Base runner Allen Craig of the St. Louis Cardinals made a slide into third.

As Craig noticed the ball had gotten away, he tripped over the prone third baseman, who appeared to stick his legs up as Craig was trying to get over him. Third base umpire Jim Joyce signaled obstruction, giving Craig home plate and the Cardinals the walk off 5-4 win.

Unaware of the call, Craig got up off the turf and stumbled home, where the throw arrived just before he did. At that point, the game was already over. In the umpires’ collective opinion, Craig would have scored had the obstruction not occurred. Middlebrooks’ intent or lack of intent was not a factor in the decision.

The result was a wild finish, the first ever such ruling (obstruction or interference call) to end a post-season game in MLB history, per ESPN Stats.

As painful as it was for Boston, by all appearances, the call was correct. Scanning Twitter and the web this morning, I have yet to see a national source disagree with the umpires’ ruling.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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9 Responses to “The obstruction rule and call”

  1. Bw52 says:

    McCarver probably crapping bullets.You just know the call had to tick him off.

  2. Nutlaw says:

    After such a great game, that’s not how you want to see your team win, but we’ll take it.

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    Tough Game 4. We had a pitching advantage, Lynn versus Bucholz, but lost the game. Now its homefield advantage Boston. Game 5 is now a must win.

    Shane Robinson had a pinch-hit double. He apparently excels not only in spring training, but in the playoffs. Happily, Shane should get the start in CF tomorrow night against the LHP, since Jay is having a third straight year of poor hitting in the playoffs. Robinson should start Game 6 and 7 as well.

    Great job by Allen Craig again, another clutch pinch hit.

    Matt Adams contributed a lot during September, but has not been as effective in the playoffs. In Game 3, Beltran tried a bunt and finagled an HBP, indicators his sore rib has sapped power. Lack of power is a problem.

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    Game 4 had interesting dramatic elements. The Red Sox are selling the myth of Boston Strong. The Cards have mostly been power pitching and beating down Sox hitters save Ortiz. The one exception is using sinker baller Maness, who did not overpower Gomes.

    Another dramatic element was two Matheny uses of rookies backfired. The most glaring was getting picked off. This horror can happen to vets too. I remember Molina picking off one of San Diego’s best vets (Brian Giles?) (during a playoff game circa 2005. The one thing you do not need from a pinch runner with two out and your top HR hitter at the dish is to be picked off; his job is not to steal in this situation; fans expect a pinch runner not to get picked off. Getting nabbed in this context is like Game 1’s bush league Bad News Bears routine. Likewise Matheny deliberately chose the Maness versus Gomes matchup. Game 4 was tough on Mike as well as two rookies and fans.

    The answer is to be strong ourselves and get right back after the Red Sox in Games 5 and 6.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Kelly gave up a couple of bombs in Game 5 versus LA. Even though Kelly throws harder than Maness, he too can be solved for HRs. In general, Maness does not give up a lot of HRs.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      The Cards probably have trained Wong to take aggressive leads. This is probably ingrained as a reflex. When the rookie gets allowed into the game, it is reasonable that he wants to make a positive contribution. He ends up making a contribution, only for Boston. A vet used to the majors will know his greatest value lies in not getting picked or doubled off. A vet will tend to be more comfortable about playing within the context of a game.
      TLR used to get a bad rap from some fans about disciplining eager rookies. Its not clear this criticism was deserved. Rookies need discipline. Matheny said they warned Wong to be careful about the closer’s pickoff move. But he just had to find out about this for himself anyway.

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