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Kallas: Obstruction Call Was Correct, But Should The Run Have Counted?

There's Lots Of Blame To Go Around...
Manager John Farrell #53 of the Boston Red Sox argues an obstruction call with home-plate umpire Dana DeMuth #32 in the ninth inning as Koji Uehara #19 and Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox look on against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game 3 of the 2013 World Series. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Manager John Farrell #53 of the Boston Red Sox argues an obstruction call with home-plate umpire Dana DeMuth #32 in the ninth inning as Koji Uehara #19 and Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox look on against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game 3 of the 2013 World Series. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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By Steve Kallas
» More Columns

After a complete review of MLB Rule 7 and the obstruction definition under Rule 2, some interesting things have come to light. Also, further review of the play also adds an interesting dimension.

THE CALL

You know the play. It was the bottom of the ninth in Game 3. The game was tied and there was one out. Runners were on second and third and the infield was in. A hard grounder was hit to Dustin Pedroia, who threw Yadier Molina out at home. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia tried to get Allen Craig at third, but Will Middlebrooks couldn’t handle the throw, which deflected to the wall behind third towards left field.

Craig got up, tripped over Middlebrooks and started home. Third-base umpire Jim Joyce pointed at Middlebrooks — apparently calling obstruction — and Daniel Nava, with an unbelievable backup, threw Craig out at home. Home-plate umpire Dana DeMuth signaled safe and pointed toward Joyce, who had called the obstruction.

Game over. Unbeknownst to this writer until further review of the play on Sunday, the catcher — with his hands outstretched — had the ball in hand and STEPPED ON HOME PLATE.

Craig, who never touched home, was lying injured near home and was helped off the field by the trainer while the Cardinals celebrated and manager John Farrell and other Red Sox complained vehemently.

To no avail. Cardinals 5, Red Sox 4.

LOOK AT SOME RULES AND WHAT HAPPENED

The main MLB rule regarding obstruction (after the definition at Rule 2.00) is MLB Rule 7.06 (a), which states, in part:

“If a play is being made on the obstructed runner … 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.”

There was a press conference after the game with Joe Torre, who now works for MLB, and a number of umpires. They made it very clear that they got the call right — they were sure about it — and that intent didn’t matter.

Based on the rule, it appears that the call was correct. Middlebrooks did obstruct Craig. But the comment to Rule 7.06 (a) says, in part:

“When a play is being made on an obstructed runner, the
umpire shall signal obstruction in the same manner that
he calls “time,” with both hands overhead. The ball is
immediately dead when this signal is given…”

Unfortunately, Joyce never gave the “time” signal — in fact, no umpire ever gave the “time” signal during the entirety of this play). So, if “time” wasn’t ever called and the ball is “immediately dead when this (‘time’) signal is given,” does that mean the ball is still live? If yes, that brings us to the Note to Rule 7.04 (d), discussed in Sunday’s column, which states, in part:

“When a runner is entitled to a base without liability to be put out,
while the ball is in play, and the runner fails to touch the base to
to which he is entitled (in this case, home), the runner shall forfeit
his exemption from liability to be put out, and he may be put out by
tagging the base or by tagging the runner before he returns to
the base.”

So maybe you buy the fact that Joyce never gave the correct sign, that the ball was live and Craig was clearly tagged out by the catcher. But one could argue that Craig had not “missed” the base yet, but slid awkwardly after the tag and missed the base then.

Well, if you believe that, then according to this Note, Craig could still be out because the catcher, albeit seemingly by accident, did step on the base after Craig missed it.

Fascinating stuff.

BUT SUPPOSE, AS SOME INTELLIGENT BASEBALL PEOPLE HAVE SAID, JOYCE MADE A SIGN AND, EVEN IF IT WASN’T TECHNICALLY THE RIGHT SIGN, THE BALL WAS DEAD

OK, let’s assume that. Craig clearly has a responsibility to touch home. Here’s the comment to MLB Rule 7.05 (i):

“The fact (that) a runner is awarded a base or bases without liability to
be put out does not relieve him of the responsibility to touch the
base he is awarded.”

Clearly, Craig was awarded home and didn’t touch it.

SO THE REAL QUESTION BECOMES, GIVEN THE FOLLOWING RULES, DID THE RED SOX APPEAL WHETHER CRAIG TOUCHED HOME OR NOT?

Rule 7.08 (k) states that any runner is out when:

“In running or sliding for home base, he fails to touch home
base and makes no attempt to return to the base, when a
fielder holds the ball in his hand, while touching home base
and APPEALS TO THE UMPIRE FOR THE DECISION.” (emphasis added)

Now, if you watch the replay, the catcher had his arms out — certainly more of a “How could you make that call?” as opposed to “I appeal.” He had the ball in his hand and, it seems that he accidentally stepped on home. Could this be an appeal?

The answer is clearly “no.”

Why? The comment to MLB Rule 7.10 (d) states, in part:

“A player inadvertently stepping on a base with a ball in his
hand would not constitute an appeal.”

SO WHERE DOES THAT FINALLY LEAVE US?

If you buy that, because Joyce and DeMuth never gave the correct “time” signal, the ball was live. Craig could have been thrown out at home. But that seems to be more of a technicality.

However, the notion that if somebody on the Red Sox had appealed the play by stepping on home before the defense left the field, in that instance, it is submitted that Craig could have been called out and the game would have resumed as a tie game.

Of course, apparently, no appeal was made. However, looking at the replay, it did not seem that the home-plate umpire ever even looked to see if Craig touched home. And that’s a COLOSSAL mistake.

Since DeMuth had no interest in calling the play at the plate, his SOLE responsibility at that point in time is to see if Craig touched home. It’s much like when a player hits a game-winning home run. The home-plate umpire always waits for the player to touch home and then leaves the field.

DeMuth simply never looked.

SO WAS IT REALLY THE CORRECT CALL?

The call of obstruction was correct. The way it was called by both umpires was incorrect. The Red Sox failed to appeal and the home-plate umpire never looked to see if the game-winning run in the third game of the 2013 World Series actually touched home. Had the Red Sox appealed, the home-plate umpire would have either called Craig safe or asked for help.

And, unlike the call last week when DeMuth was looking down at that force at second when Pete Kozma did not catch the force throw and five umpires overruled him, on this play no umpire — other than DeMuth — could have seen that Craig missed home.

Lots of blame to go around, and fascinating stuff.

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