|A tale of two cities|
Left: In Cleveland, U1 May rules B1 out for interference.
Right: In Toronto, U2 Hirschbeck rules R2 safe, no violation.
Up in Canada, the Blue Jays were attempting to complete a come back against the Houston Astros in the bottom of the 9th inning. With Jose Reyes serving as baserunner R2 on second base, Jays batter Jose Bautista hit a fly ball as Reyes retreated to second. With Reyes standing on second base, Astros shortstop Jonathan Villar and Reyes made contact, Villar unable to field the pop-up which fell to the ground untouched. 2B Umpire John Hirshbeck subsequently called Reyes safe, ruling no interference had taken place. (Video: 9th inning pop fly wreaks havoc for Astros as Villar runs into Reyes, allowing the ball to hit the turf for a single)
Case Play Question 2015-05: Compare and contrast these two plays of infielders contacting runners. What happened here?
A) May (CLE) and Hirschbeck (TOR) were both correct;
B) May (CLE) was correct, but Hirschbeck (TOR) was incorrect.
C) May (CLE) was incorrect, but Hirschbeck (TOR) was correct;
D) May (CLE) and Hirschbeck (TOR) were both incorrect.
What rule(s) or interpretation(s) support your determination?
Case Play Answer 2015-05: A) May (CLE) and Hirschbeck (TOR) were both correct. The reason both umpires are correct—May's play was interference and Hirschbeck's was not—has to do with the offensive players' actions in touching first and second base, respectively.
In Cleveland, U1 May ruled B1 out for interference because, in May's judgment, B1 (BR) had not yet achieved first base when the hindrance occurred; B1 was not in legal occupation of the base and may have even intentionally interfered.
In Toronto, U2 Hirschbeck ruled R2 Reyes safe because, in Hirschbeck's judgment, R2 was standing on second base and making no movement to indicate any intent to interfere with F6.
Rule 7.09(j) (2015 OBR Rule 6.01(a)(10)) specifies that the batter or runner is out for interference if "he fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball." Rule 7.08(b) Comment (2015 OBR 6.01(a) Penalty for Interference Comment) further specifies that "If, however, the runner has contact with a legally occupied base when he hinders the fielder, he shall not be called out unless, in the umpire’s judgment, such hindrance, whether it occurs on fair or foul territory, is intentional."
This is why BAL-CLE B1 was declared out (violation of 7.09(j)/6.01(a)(10), did not meet criteria of 7.08(b)/6.01(a)) while HOU-TOR R2 was declared safe (met the key criterion under 7.08(b)/6.01(a) Comment).