To Impede Or Not To Impede. That Is The Question
If you are reading this I am sure that you know what happened last night. But for the sake of the few outliers that may not have been tuned in to Fox and instead were focused on some sad regular season college football games, I`ll paint the picture for you. Game Three, World Series, bottom of the ninth and the game is tied up at four. Runners at second and third with one out in the inning. Jon Jay is up to bat for the Cardinals and hits a soft grounder to Dustin Pedroia.
Let’s stop right there and hold this story in suspense for a second. I want to put some spotlight on Pedroia, this five foot eight and weighing slightly more than a scone at a state fair made a spectacular defensive play. Dustin is playing very shallow at second base and when the grounder comes off the bat it looks like it will hit the expanded gap to Dustin`s right. No, Pedroia leaps, fields the ball, and makes a perfect throw to Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. They get Yadier Molina, who was at third base, out by a German mile and then the game takes an absolutely astonishing turn.
Saltalamacchia fires down to third to try to get the double play and under throws Will Middlebrooks and Allen Craig, who dove into third, gets up and trips over Middlebrooks. The entanglement causes Craig to be tagged out at home and it appears that the Red Sox have completely dodged a bullet. Nobody, and I repeat, nobody thinks Craig is safe at home and there didn`t appear to be any rule violation. Except one man in a black jacket named Dana DeMuth saw something that I nor anyone I know has ever seen. Obstruction.
The MLB rule book has this to say about the seldomly called offense:
[quote]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.
It`s like the baseball gods who wrote the rule book knew this was going to happen and clarified it in the comments of the rule book. Dana is the MAN for seeing this, and calling it on the spot. Again, for those of you who didn`t watch this game, I`m going to use some pictures from Bleacher Report that I found to be very useful. Shout out to them for the find.
The man in grey, Middlebrooks, has just missed the errant throw by Salty-whyishisnamesolong the catcher and is now watching the ball travel down the outfield. We know that Middlebrooks is NOT in possession of the ball and is no longer fielding the ball since “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.”
Now take a close look at where Middlebrook`s legs are. Craig is starting to run and the legs are clearly in the basepath. Not five feet from it and not even close in avoiding Craig`s path. I don`t think Middlebrooks is planning this, nor is he wanting to be there, it is just the circumstance he is in.
Craig falls due to Middlebrook`s legs coming up. I`m not sure if Middlebrooks is attempting to trip or get out of the way here, but he is definitely impeding the base runner and Craig doesn`t stumble, he falls back to the ground. He was impeded upon. (which is hilarious to say.. to be impeded upon)
Dana, the third base umpire, makes the call immediately with no hesitation. Later we find out that all umpires see the same thing and agree 100% that the call was accurate. The moment that Dana points at Middlebrooks and makes the call Craig could have walked to home, shook hands with the Salty guy, high fived the Asian doomsday closer, and popped champagne with his chaps while twerking with Miley. The fact the play ended the way it did and gave all Boston fans the hopes and dreams of another fantastic play didn`t help the fact that the play ended with Dana pointing his finger.
Does this suck? Yah, this call is a bummer. Nobody wants to see a World Series walkoff due to an obscure ruling. But guess what, Dana did a HELLUVA job here. I stand and applaud him, and I think he should get a bonus. I`m sorry Boston fans, I know this isn`t fun, I know that watching your team lose due to a rule violation that you have never seen and that your player had no intent of committing must be the low point of your year (shoutout to my boss Shannon… big hugs and keep the chin up) But guys, this is why we need human umps at games. No robot would have made that call and it was the correct one. This is great for the game and it is getting a lot of ink and air time. Good stuff Dana, keep up the great work.