To refresh, with one out and none on in a scoreless Brewers-Braves game, B1 Carlos Gomez hit a home run. As he circled the bases, he and several opponents engaged in unsporting verbal barbs until Gomez was finally confronted by F2 Brian McCann nearly 15 feet from home plate, resulting in a bench clearing brawl during which Gomez was rushed to the Milwaukee clubhouse and two others were ejected. Gomez never physically touched home plate.
Answer, Group Case Play 2013-10: An Unsportsmanlike Home Run
Summary: The run is scored and play is resumed with the Brewers leading, 1-0. In this case play, it is not necessary for Gomez to physically touch home plate after the fact as he was obstructed prior to arriving at home and accordingly prevented from doing so in an unsporting act. No substitute runner is required. The Rules allow for an umpire to "award a touch" if obstruction precedes or causes a missed base or touch. Rules: 2.00, 3.01, 4.09(b), 7.06(b), 9.01(a). MLBU 43-11. Wendelstedt 188.
+1 point to all participants.
For Detailed Findings, including thorough rules citation, analysis and explanation, click below to "read on."
Detailed Findings: The first issue raised involves obstruction and its validity in a dead ball situation. Rule 2.00:
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.Obstruction ordinarily applies to a live ball situation, but no rule or interpretation prevents its enforcement in a dead ball scenario. Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) was properly identified and cited here.
Now that we know we have obstruction, we find it is Obstruction type B, or Rule 7.06(b), which states, "If no play is being made on the obstructed runner, the play shall proceed until no further action is possible. The umpire shall then call 'Time' and impose such penalties, if any, as in his judgment will nullify the act of obstruction."
Oddly enough, the 7.06(b) Note specifically addresses the issue of a catcher obstructing a runner, again without concern as to whether the ball is alive or dead: "The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score."
Sidebar: For this and several other reasons, the umpire is instructed not give the pitcher the ball on a dead ball home run until the hitter has crossed home plate after rounding the bases (Rule 3.01 Comment).
Rule 4.09(b) states that "if fans rush the field and physically prevent the runner from touching home plate"—a term coined "obstruction by the fans"—then umpires "shall award the runner the base."
Under the spirit of the Rules, the defensive violation (obstruction) precedes the offense's failure to touch, potentially contributing to an inability to touch. Under the spirit of the Rules [OBR] doctrine (MLB Umpire Manual [MLBU]), and mindful of Rule 9.01(a) instruction to "be responsible for the conduct of the game, maintaining discipline and order on the playing field during the game," for the greater good, it is most proper to keep Gomez in the clubhouse rather than risk reigniting a fight situation.
Now for the appeal, where pursuant to Rule 2.00 (Appeal), the defensive team claims a "violation of the rules" by the offense. The offense's violation is claimed as a failure to touch, but after further investigation, we see it is the defense's violation of the rules that precedes the offense's alleged misconduct.
OBR is consistent with a principle that appears in MLBU. Under MLBU rule interpretation 43, case 11, if F5 jockeys back and forth, intentionally trying to block the runner's view of the fielder catching the ball, he is guilty of obstruction. If R3 were to leave early and the defense appealed, U3 would be empowered to rule obstruction and award R3 home. The principle is "penalize the first team to offend." If the defense's violation of the rules precedes the offense's, then a penalty is commonly awarded to the offense.
MLBU also finds OBR's language of "entitled to the base such runner would have reached had no obstruction occurred" is synonymous with the principle, "determine what reasonably might have happened had the obstruction not occurred."
To wrap up the notion of awarding a touch, Wendelstedt's interpretation holds that if a runner fails to touch a base as a result of obstruction, "the umpire may consider the base as touched or reached if he believes it would have taken place had the obstruction not occurred."
Finally, the status of Gomez's ejection has little bearing on the play, for "disqualification shall not take effect until no further action is possible in that play." The baseball play ended as a result of the mutual combat fight.