CASE PLAY: With none out and one on, B1 hit a ground ball to F6, who threw to F4 as R1 slid into and past second base. As F4's throw to F3 beat B1 to first base, U2 ruled that R1 had committed interference. Q: Is this the proper call and application of rules? Should both offensive players have been ruled out, safe, etc.? If so, what runners should be placed (if any) and where (if applicable)? What rule(s) apply?Relevant Video: Brew Crew-Nats game slows to a crawl in 1st inning on interference play (WAS)
Answer: OBR Rule 2.00 (Interference) states, "Offensive interference is an act by the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play." This play qualifies as interference because, in the umpire's judgment, R1 impeded F5's throw attempt.
Rule 6.06(c) Exception, regarding a batter out for illegal action when he interferes with the catcher's fielding or throwing action, states, "Batter is not out if any runner attempting to advance is put out, or if runner trying to score is called out for batter’s interference." This is the "wait and see" exception to "on any interference the ball is dead" axiom that was removed from the rules book to account for plays like that described in 6.06(c). Note that this does not apply to our Case Play and serves as illustration as to when interference is delayed or withheld, dependent upon the result of the play's tail end.
Rule 6.05(m) does, however, state that the batter is out for the actions of his teammate when, "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 7.09(e) states that interference by "any batter or runner who has just been put out" shall result in the trail runner being "declared out for the interference of his teammate."
Rule 7.09(j) states the runner is out when, "he fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball."
Rule 7.09 Penalty for Interference: "The runner is out and the ball is dead."
MLB Umpire Manual #47 states, in part, "In interference plays of this nature, the umpire shall be governed by the intent of the base runner. If the umpire judges that the runner willfully and deliberately interfered with the obvious intent to deprive the defense of the opportunity to make a double play, the umpire shall declare both the runner and batter-runner out. If this is not the case, the umpire shall declare only the runner out. Note, however, that if the runner has already been put out, then the runner on whom the defense was attempting to make a play shall be declared out."
In other words, if this is intentional interference, R1 and B1 are out. If this is "unintentional interference," as was ruled by the umpires in Washington, R1 is out, the ball is dead, and B1 awarded first base. Had R1 been out at second base, both intentional and unintentional interference would have resulted in a double play.
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