Crash Into Me

The baseball rule book does not get additions very often. On top of that, casual fans cannot recite very many rule numbers. There is one circumstance where these two rarities become a reality: Rule 7.13 (old format).

Some folks call it the Buster Posey rule since his injury was the catalyst leading to the rule. It is the home plate collision rule.

Here it is in all of its glory:

(1) A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate). If, in the judgment of the umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the umpire shall declare the runner out (even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball). In such circumstances, the umpire shall call the ball dead, and all other base runners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision.

(2) Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the umpire the catcher without possession of the ball blocks the pathway of the runner, the umpire shall call or signal the runner safe. Notwithstanding the above, it shall not be considered a violation of this Rule 7.13 if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in order to field a throw, and the umpire determines that the catcher could not have fielded the ball without blocking the pathway of the runner and that contact with the runner was unavoidable.

Without reading the rule most fans believed this rule outlawed collisions – like in high school. A closer reading of the rule shows this is not the case.

What does the rule say? In a nutshell, part 1 says a runner cannot go out of his way to crash a catcher. If a catcher is set up away from the plate, a guy cannot get a cheap shot on him. The runner has to make an attempt to get to the plate.

Part 2 says the catcher cannot block the plate without possession of the ball or without fielding a throw that takes him into the baseline.

What happened in this play?

The catcher had the ball before the runner got to the plate. Once he has the ball he can block the plate. Also, the runner did not deviate from his path to the plate. He can (and actually does) touch the plate.

Since neither provision of the rule are violated this is a…wait for it…a completely legal collision. It is a baseball play. The umpires correctly ruled this is an out and the out stood after replay.

Home Plate collisions are covered on page 59 of RuleGraphics.

Arms and legs everywhere

There was a very odd play in the Cubs/Nats game yesterday.

Where do we begin. First, Kris Bryant seems to reach the area of first base before Gonzalez touches it. But, Bryant does not touch the base.

Of course he does not touch the base because Gonzalez is in his way. I suppose he could have spiked him, but this does not seem to be Bryant’s MO.

Gonzalez then rolls onto the base with his shin before Bryant completely passes the bag. The umpire calls an out.

Did he get it right? I think the answer is yes.

First question – was Bryant obstructed from the base.

Here is the 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.

Gonzalez clearly had the ball so this is not obstruction. Interesting side note, if it was obstruction, the umpire can take any action that nullifies the act. This includes awarding a touch of a base.

Second question – how should the umpire handle the situation where the runner acquires first base but does not touch it.

This is actually handled in the PBUC (Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation) manual. Here is there sample play:

Play 13: Batter-runner hits a ground ball and beats the play at first base but misses the bag.

Ruling 13: The proper mechanic is to call the batter-runner “Safe,” indicating he beat the play. If the defense appeals by tagging the runner (or base) and appealing that the runner missed first base before the runner returns to first base, the batter-runner would be declared out. (See Official Baseball Rule 7.08( k) Casebook Comment.)

Here is the rub though. To “beat” the play and acquire the base – you have to be completely past it. Since Bryant was equal to the base, he had not formally missed it. If he had not missed a base, he is not subject to appeal yet.

Further if he is not subject to appeal, all Gonzalez has to do is touch the base with possession for an out. This is exactly what happened.

Let’s imagine Bryant was completely past the base when Gonzalez touched it (but still did not touch it himself). The umpire would have ruled the runner safe. Then it would be up to the pitcher to formally appeal the missed base. Him rolling over the base is not sufficient to appeal.

From the book:

An appeal should be clearly intended as an appeal, either by a verbal request by the player or an act that unmistakably indicates an appeal to the umpire.

Gonzalez would have had to retouch the base telling the umpire Bryant missed it or went and tagged Bryant.

Crazy play with a lot of moving parts. Bottom line is the umpire got this all right in real time. I watched most of the game last night. The first base umpire had a lot of bangers. He did great on all of them. Those guys are good.

Appeal plays are covered on page 34 of RuleGraphics.

Hey, I’m runnin’ here

Here is a fun play from Friday night:

The runner from second is dead meat. As he gets into a rundown, he remembers the Type A obstruction rule (7.06 (a))

7.06 When obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal “Obstruction.”
(a) If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batter-runner is obstructed before he touches first base, the ball is dead and all runners shall advance,  without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire’s judgment, if there had been no obstruction. The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction. Any preceding runners, forced to advance by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction, shall advance without liability to be put out.

He creates contact with a fielder without the ball while a play is being made on him. Best case scenario is the umpire rules obstruction and he is given third base.

The umpire did not fall for it.

The book defines obstruction like this:

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.

The fielder did not impede the progress of the runner. The runner chose to run into the fielder. Nice try by the runner, but again the umpire had none of it and properly called the runner out.

Quick note from the clip…if nothing else is learned from your time on this blog, please remember this: offensive players interfere and defensive player obstruct.  The runner was trying to draw obstruction and not interference

The announcer, a third generation one at that, got it wrong.

Type A obstruction is on page 63 of RuleGraphics. RuleGraphics is a visual way to learn the rules of baseball. Don’t be the guy that confuses obstruction and interference.

Play blowing up

If I had this play, I think I would have to vomit before making the call. This is a high school play.

NFHS rule 2-22-3 states obstruction happens when

The fielder without possession of the ball denies access to the base the runner is attempting to achieve.

In this video, the catcher was clearly in the runner’s path without possession of the ball. In pro ball, the fielder can be in the path as he is fielding a throw. An argument could be made that this would not be obstruction under that definition – but this is a high school game. This is clear obstruction.

The runner slides into the catcher and then the catcher reaches out, catches the ball, and tags him.

The penalty for obstruction is the umpire placing runners where he/she feels they would obtained minus the obstruction. In high school, there is a minimum one base reward.

The penalty is pretty clear in this case – the runner gets home.

I like how the official consulted with his partner to make sure the call was right. I also like how they controlled the field as they had their conference. Also, I love how the base umpire did not throw his partner under the bus when the coach came to argue the final ruling. He clearly is telling him to go to the calling official.

One minor thing that would have saved the umpire some grief was the original call of out. He does signal out and then immediately signal the obstruction and award. If he would have just signaled the award first, there would have been less confusion.

The fans can be heard arguing “but you called him out”. Of course this does not matter in the final outcome, but it would saved some grief.

Lastly, I loved the umpire’s timing on this. He was very calm, poised and got the call right in the end.

In professional baseball, this could be Type A obstruction. This is covered on page 63 of RuleGraphics.

Let’s Talk Obstruction

Or as Tim McCarver and 85% of baseball announcers say “interference”. Obstruction is one of the most misunderstood rules in the game. in reality it is not all that difficult. The problem is that on most of these plays, the runner looks out only to be called safe creating confusion.

Lots of stuff in this video starting with the obstruction. Quite simply, obstruction is when the fielder impedes the runner when he does not have the ball (or is in the act of fielding a throw). Further, obstruction can happen when a play is being made on a runner or when there is not a play (think of a first baseman tripping a runner going for a double with the ball in left field). These instances are handled differently.

The play above is classic obstruction on a runner when a play is being made. The ball is dead immediately. The runner is awarded a minimum of one base beyond his last achieved base no matter which way he was running at the time.

In this play, the runner was obstructed, must be given a base, started out at first base, so his award is second. While it looks odd, this was an easy call.

Since that was easy, let’s move on to the announcers. First of all they know nothing about the rule. Dunn is clearly in the way of the runner without the ball. The runner has to change his path. One of them says that “usually this is not called without contact”. Contact is not part of the definition.

Lastly there is an ejection at the end of this play. Ejections usually occur when a player or coach violates one of the “Ps” in that they are Personal, Profane (more at high school level and below) or Prolonged in their argument. Sure, a player or coach will get tossed for showing up an umpire as well but in general the ejection comes after they have broken one of the rules above.

I thought the umpire did a good job of explaining his call and letting the manager argue it. After a certain point it was clear they were discussing the same points over and over again. Argument became prolonged and it was time to end it. The ejection did not even happen with much fanfare. Sometimes the situations play themselves out.

All in all this is a pretty interesting play and a great example to show for obstruction. This rule is covered on page 63 of RuleGraphics.