Last night was probably the first time I have seen the “Obstruction Rule” utilized in a baseball game, or at least the first time I was actively watching baseball. The 5-4 victory taken by the St. Louis Cardinals over the Boston Red Sox was not justified, but not for the reason you might think.
The call has become controversial and highly disputed among baseball fans everywhere. There are two outstanding questions deriving from the end of last night’s game. Would the St Louis Cardinals runner, Allen Craig, have beaten the ball home had Boston Red Sox third baseman, Will Middlebrooks, caught the ball? And, did Middlebrooks even have a chance to get out of the way?
This is what my research has led to:
“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.
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.”
Yes, I know the runner never touched home, but further description of the rule says, “It does not matter where the obstruction occurs. If a runner is obstructed at first base and the umpire believes he could have made it to third base, he will be awarded third. The umpire must be the judge. If, in the umpire’s judgment, a runner is slowed down by one step at first and then is thrown out by five steps at third, the out should stand.” So realistically, following this description, the umpire was right to say the game was won by the Cardinals.
Middlebrooks did miss the ball thrown to him and was no longer in the process of fielding the ball, but the umpire who made the call still stands correct because the blockage does not have to be intentional for the call to be made. I was extremely upset at first because I did not know the details behind the call.
I believe the biggest mistake made by an umpire for the game was a different call, and could have been a determining factor in the game. Carlos Beltran‘s elbow pad was hit by a pitch and he forgot to ‘try’ to get away from getting hit, he was awarded with first base. The ‘free walk’ was awarded with Matt Carpenter already on base. Matt Holliday hit a double into left field, allowing the other two base runners to score. If the incorrect hit-by-pitch call had not been made, the Red Sox could have won the game.
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