World Series - Boston Red Sox v St Louis Cardinals - Game Three

More on Rule 7.06, Obstruction

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The Cardinals just won Game 3 of the World Series on an obstruction call by third base umpire Jim Joyce. You can read how the play went down in the recap right here or watch this video:

This post will deal with the intricacies of the rule for those of you who may find the jargon used in MLB’s official rules confusing. The official definition:

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.

As you can see in the video above, Middlebrooks was clearly “in the act of fielding a ball” as he was attempting to retrieve an errant throw by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but that’s not the part in the timeline that matters. When Craig attempts to run home, the ball had already skipped past the dirt of the infield towards the left field stands. Middlebrooks was no longer “in the act of fielding”.

The next objection many have to the call is the intent of Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks. Intent does not matter. Middlebrooks prevented Craig from attempting to run home, and that’s all that matters. It is patently obvious Middlebrooks did not mean to get involved in a collision, but it does not make a difference.

Another objection deals with the baseline. Rule 7.08 states that “a runner’s baseline is established when the tag attempt occurs and is a straight line from the runner to the base he is attempting to reach safely.” As you can see in the following picture tweeted by MLB’s official Twitter account…

… they were to the right of the third base line but the baseline starts at the spot of the collision. From there, draw a straight line home, as Craig had already reached third base safely. That is the baseline. From there, Craig ran in a straight line home. He did not venture out of the baseline.

As for the rest of the play, Rule 7.06(b) states:*

(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.

Craig was tagged at home, but because of the obstruction, the umpire used his judgment to determine if he would have been safe absent the obstruction. Here, because Craig was running hard home, the umpire ruled — correctly, all video evidence suggests — that Craig would have been safe absent the obstruction.

Ultimately, third base umpire Jim Joyce made the correct call. It will be hotly debated, but all the evidence seems to support Joyce here.

How often does obstruction happen? According to an unofficial look by Baseball Reference, obstruction has been called twice in the post-season: in Game 4 of the 1986 NLCS between the Mets and Astros and in Game 3 of the 2003 ALDS between the Athletics and Red Sox. They found one game that ended on an obstruction call: a 2-1 victory by the Devil Rays over the Mariners on August 6, 2004.

*An earlier draft of this post cited Rule 7.08(a), which automatically awards a player a base for situations in which a play is being made on an obstructed runner. Since Middlebrooks did not have the ball and was not making a play, Rule 7.08(b) applies. We apologize for the error and any confusion it may have caused.

Mets are considering pushing back Jacob deGrom’s next start

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 18: Jacob deGrom #48 of the New York Mets pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning at AT&T Park on August 18, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Mets are concerned with starter Jacob deGrom and are considering pushing back his next start, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports. The club thinks the right-hander is fatigued.

deGrom, 28, has had another strong season, currently standing with a 2.96 ERA and a 137/32 K/BB ratio in 143 innings. However, he’s battled command issues in his last two starts. Against the Giants and Cardinals, he gave up a combined 13 earned runs on 25 hits and three walks with eight strikeouts in nine and two-thirds innings.

The Mets are already without Steven Matz, Zach Wheeler, Matt Harvey, and Jon Niese. deGrom’s recent bout is just the latest in what has been a season-long starting pitching struggle for the club. Nevertheless, only the Cubs (2.85) and Nationals (3.57) have posted a better aggregate starting pitching ERA than the Mets’ 3.66.

Rangers call up Carlos Gomez, designate Drew Stubbs for assignment

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 08:  Carlos Gomez #30 of the Houston Astros waits for batting practice to being before playing the Oakland Athletics at Minute Maid Park on July 8, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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The Rangers have called up outfielder Carlos Gomez from Triple-A Round Rock and designated outfielder Drew Stubbs for assignment, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Gomez is in Thursday night’s starting lineup against the Indians, batting eighth and playing left field.

Gomez, 30, put up a paltry .210/.272/.322 triple-slash line in 323 plate appearances for the Astros. That forced the Astros to designate him for assignment before eventually releasing him earlier this month.

In 14 plate appearances with Round Rock, Gomez racked up two singles, a double, and a triple. The Rangers hope he can fill the void left by Shin-Soo Choo, who is expected to miss the rest of the season.