Willfull and Deliberate

It was a strange Cubs game yesterday. I already discussed a goofy review play.

Here was another play from the game. The umpire ruled that David Ross interfered with the pivot man. This caused the batter runner to also be called out.

Did they get it right – there are two parts to the play. Let’s cover the easier part first. Rule 7.09(f) covers this:

7.09 It is interference by a batter or a runner when—

(f) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.

Rule 6.05(m) was added later to give clarity to this specific situation:

6.05 A batter is out when—

(m) A preceding runner shall, in the umpire’s judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play:

Rule 6.05(m) Comment: The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Obviously this is an umpire’s judgment play.

If in the umpire’s judgment there is interference, then yes, a second out can be gained. Now, for the tough part – did Ross interfere.

The guidelines for when to call interference are located not in the rule book. Rather they are in the Professional Baseball Umpire Corp. Umpire Manual.

Let’s go through the guidelines one at a time – remember these are just guidelines. They are not gospel but they aid in the judgment of this call.

1)  In sliding to a base, the runner should be able to reach the base with his hand or foot.

Ross could clearly reach the base.

2) A runner who, in the judgment of the umpire, contacts or attempts to make contact with a fielder with a slide or roll block that is not a bona fide effort to reach and stay on the base may be called out for interference and, when appropriate, a double play may be called.

Ross clearly was trying to make contact with the pivot man. Of course, every runner tries to make contact with the pivot man. I do think you can say Ross made a bona fide attempt to reach the base because he was on top of the base. Ross also was on top of the base after the play – so he could stay there.

3.) Any definite change in direction by the runner to contact the fielder would be considered interference.

This is probably the one the umpire saw. Did Ross change his direction to hit the fielder. I am tempted to say “yes” but again, he could clearly reach the base. This is close.

4.) If a runner hits the dirt, slides, and rolls, it does not constitute a rolling block unless the runner leaves his feet and makes contact with the fielder before the runner slides on the ground. If the initial contact is with a fielder instead of the ground for the purpose of breaking up a double play, it is a roll block.

Ross’ initial contact was clearly with the dirt and not the fielder.

Of the 4 criteria given by interpretation, 3 are definitely not broken. One could be broken if chosen to look at it a certain way. The PBUC also lists sample plays. The sample plays consistently deal with the runner grabbing the pivot man. Ross did not do that, but his arms come in contact with the fielder. It is possible (I cannot read minds), the umpire thought there was a grab.

The play took away an AB from the Cubs in extra innings so it was a big call.

Not that anyone cares, but I guess the question is “would I have called it”. At the level I umpire which would be high school and below – yes, I would call this. Safety is a huge concern at these levels. The benefit of the doubt goes to the fielder. In the major leagues…I don’t think I would. Ross did not strongly meet any of the interference guidelines. He truly did nothing out of the ordinary for this level.

This play is covered on page 56 of RuleGraphics.

 

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