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.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Giants 7, Blue Jays 6: Kevin Pillar made his first return to Toronto after being traded away a couple of weeks ago, got a warm welcome from his former hometown crowd ad then knocked in a run in the second inning. I feel like that’s the baseball equivalent of coming back home during Thanksgiving break during your freshman year in college, seeing “old friends” that you were JUST hanging out with in early August and having them buy you shots. I mean, it’s nice, don’t get me wrong, but let’s not pretend this is some long-in-coming reunion or whatever. To extend this tortured analogy, Pillar’s Giants teammates were like the guys from his dorm who nonetheless came back with him and who were kinda rude to all his old high school buddies. Pablo Sandoval, Joe Panik, Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt all homered, which is the equivalent of them drinking too much, hitting on the old high school friends’ sisters and just not knowing how things are done back home, man. “You’ve changed, Kevin” they said. “Why don’t you go back to college. You seem to like those guys more anyway.”

Padres 6, Mariners 3: For the second time in three days someone ally-ooped a would-be fly out into a homer. Here it was Mallex Smith, who did the honors for Austin Hedges:

It didn’t matter that much — the Padres had already established what would be their winning margin — but guys should really stop doing that. Franmil Reyes homered twice for the Friars. He required no assists in doing so.

Astros 10, Twins 4: Minnesota jumped out to a 3-0 lead and then was outscored 10-1 the rest of the way. José Altuve hit a three-run homer. Alex Bregman drove in three. Michael Brantley had an RBI single.

In related news, ten years ago today Michael Brantley went 0-for-4 with a strikeout for the Columbus Clippers in a 9-7 win over the Indianapolis Indians. I know this because, as Facebook reminds me this morning, that was the first baseball game I ever took my kids to. That game also featured Andrew McCutchen leading off, Neil Walker at third base, Luis Cruz at second, Garrett Jones in right and Erik Kratz catching for Indy. For Columbus, in addition to Brantley, David Delucci was in left, Luis Valbuena (RIP) at short, and Chris Gimenez at DH. Matt LaPorta played in that game too. He’s the guy the Brewers sent to Cleveland the year before in the CC Sabathia trade. I thought he’d be a good one, but alas. Torey Lovullo was the manager for the Clippers. My son, not yet four, got kinda sick to his stomach on cotton candy that evening. My daughter, then five, wore all pink, which would mortify her today (she can blame her mom for that). They’re gonna kill me for posting photos too, but I don’t care. Ah, memories.

Tigers 7, Red Sox 4; Tigers 4, Red Sox 2: Chris Sale was a lot more Chris Sale-like in game one of yesterday’s doubleheader, striking out ten guys in five innings and looking much sharper than he’s been. The Red Sox bullpen has continued to be a tire fire, though, coughing up five runs in four innings of work. Josh Harrison hit a tiebreaking, two-run double in the eighth. Ronny Rodriguez had three hits, including a homer. Xander Bogaerts homered twice in a losing cause. Detroit took the nightcap too, with Brandon Dixon hitting a three-run double and Ron Gardenhire using eight pitchers in a nine inning game. This when his starter went five. Dear God, his feet must be tired from walking out the mound so much. But hey, results are results. The Tigers have won four of five.

Marlins 3, Indians 1: Carlos Carrasco was cruising until he injured his knee and had to leave. That sucked for this game but sucks worse long term if he has to miss a lot of time. As soon as he left, Jorge Alfaro homered on the first pitch from reliever Neil Ramírez, giving the Fish a 1-0 lead. They’d never trail in the game thanks to solid starting work from Pablo López, who allowed only one run, unearned, while pitching into the seventh.

Mets 9, Phillies 0: Zack Wheeler struck out 11 dudes in seven shutout innings doubled in two and hit a homer and scored a run on another play. What a night. Todd Frazier hit a grand slam. Late in the game Mets reliever Jacob Rhame sent a couple of fastballs over Rhys Hoskins‘ head, apparently in retaliation for a plunking in Monday’s game. The benches halfheartedly cleared but nothing came of it. Anyway, the Phillies look terrible lately. They’ve lost five of six.

Diamondbacks 2, Pirates 1: Luke Weaver outdueled Trevor Williams, allowing one run to Williams’ two while scattering six hits over six and a third. The winning run came on a diving slide by Jarrod Dyson, who was on third but dashed home on a hot shot to second base with the corners drawn in. He was originally called out but was ruled safe on replay:

Wheels, man.

Reds 7, Braves 6: Yasiel Puig is heating up. He was 2-for-3 with a homer and three driven in. The Reds blew an early 3-0 lead, though, and found themselves trailing by the sixth before battling back and then holding on to thwart a second Braves rally. Reds batters drew nine walks off of Atlanta pitching. Woof. In related news, I’ll be at tonight’s Braves-Reds game, sitting behind home plate. I’ll be the guy in the Braves cap wondering how he’s gonna drive home two hours after the game and get enough sleep to wake up to do tomorrow’s recaps. If the game is anything less than crisp I may just put up a list of scores tomorrow. We’re all allowed to mail one in, right?

Orioles 9, White Sox 1: Dwight Smith Jr. hit a three-run homer and teammates Renato Núñez, Chris Davis and Joey Rickard all went deep as well, all off of Ivan Nova. Andrew Cashner gave up one run over seven innings to win his fourth straight start. It’d own if the O’s lost 100+ games but Cashner somehow won 20. He’s currently in a five-way tie for the AL lead in that department and is on pace for 26 right now.

Rays 5, Royals 2: Jalen Beeks — who came in in the second inning following an opener — struck out seven in four and two-thirds shutout innings and Mike Zunino homered for the second straight game to break the Rays’ losing streak. The Royals, however, have dropped five in a row.

Cardinals 4, Brewers 3Paul DeJong hit a tie-breaking, leadoff homer in the eighth and Yadier Molina had three hits and two RBI. All three of the Brewers’ runs came on solo homers. All Milwaukee’s runs came on home runs in Monday’s big loss too. If they were the Yankees three columnists would be writing “do they hit too many homers” columns today. Thank god they’re not the Yankees. The Cardinals have won four in a row. The Brewers have lost five of six.

Cubs 7, Dodgers 2: Chicago built up a 6-0 lead after the second inning and skated from there. Willson Contreras‘ bases-loaded double in the first was the biggest hit, Anthony Rizzo‘s two-run homer in the second the next biggest. Javier Báez homered for the Cubbies as well. Báez also did this:

Which was somehow not called as running out of the baseline but since he got stranded at first base and since it didn’t matter in the game’s outcome who cares? It was fun.

Nationals 6, Rockies 3: Patrick Corbin pitched six pretty strong innings and singled and scored a run when Víctor Robles hit a three-run double. Not a bad night for a pitcher at Coors Field.

Yankees 7, Angels 5: Luke Voit hit two solo homers as the walking wounded Yankees won again. Mike Ford, who is a person I’ve totally heard of before today, yes sir, also homered. The Yankees have won five straight and seven of their last eight despite having 13 players on the injured list. A dead cat bounce? Maybe. Playing a bunch of games against the Royals and Angels helps too.

Athletics 11, Rangers 5: Seems like every Rangers game features someone scoring 10-12 runs every night, be it them or the opposition. Last night it was the opposition as Matt Chapman homered and walked three times, Marcus Semien had a two-run double and Stephen Piscotty banged out four hits and scored three times. The A’s put up a six-run fourth inning. Game over.