Thursday, July 5, 2012

Rules 2.00 & 6.01(f): Umpire Interference

Interference: Though MLB rules specify that an umpire is routinely considered part of the playing field insofar as the ball generally remains alive and in play after a player or fair ball contacts an umpire, umpire interference provides an exception to this general practice.

Jack be limber, Jack be quick. Jack jump over the candle stick; yet, when Ump Jack isn't quick enough, the following rules are in place to address what happens next.

Umpire Interference (1): At the plate
Rule 2.00 INTERFERENCE (c) [NOTE: Under OBR renumbering, as of 2015, the relevant rule is 6.01(f)]  specifies when umpire interference may be called:
(1) when a plate umpire hinders, impedes or prevents a catcher’s throw attempting to prevent a stolen base or retire a runner on a pick-off play, or (2) when a fair ball touches an umpire on fair territory before passing a fielder. Umpire interference may also occur when an umpire interferes with a catcher returning the ball to the pitcher.
Rule 5.09(b) [NOTE: Under OBR renumbering, as of 2015, the relevant rule is 6.01(f)] further specifies the case of umpire interference at home plate between umpire and catcher:
The plate umpire interferes with the catcher’s throw attempting to prevent a stolen base or retire a runner on a pick-off play; runners may not advance. NOTE: The interference shall be disregarded if the catcher’s throw retires the runner.
Meanwhile, Rule 5.09(f) [presently 5.05(b)(4)] specifies when umpire interference occurs, as it relates to a batted ball:
A fair ball touches an umpire...on fair territory before touching a fielder. If a fair ball touches an umpire after having passed a fielder other than the pitcher, or having touched a fielder, including the pitcher, the ball is in play.
In this scenario, the ball is dead upon the interference and the batter is awarded first base (credited with a single).

Read on for some examples of umpire interference, including video footage:
Example 1 (Video): During the 7/4/12 Yankees-Rays game, R2 Alex Rodriguez was sent back to second base after attempting to steal third due to umpire interference. HP Umpire Mike Estabrook made made contact with Rays catcher Jose Lobaton as he attempted to prevent A-Rod's stolen base. This contact impeded Lobaton's throw, resulting in the interference call. Unlike the broadcast analyst's summation, how a catcher fields or throws a ball (e.g., whether he "backs up" or not) has no bearing on this call. Rule 5.09(b)

Example 2 (Video): During the 6/5/11 Phillies-Pirates game, with one out and runners on the corners, B1 Dominic Brown hit a comebacker up the middle, the grounder striking 2B Umpire Chad Fairchild before passing an infielder other than the pitcher. As B1 was awarded first base, R1 was forced to advance to second to accomodate B1's placement; however, R3 was sent back to third base as he was not forced to advance by B1's placement. Rule 5.09(f)
Related: CIN-SD (9/25/10) [CB Bucknor; R2 returned to second]
Related: PIT-MIL (7/9/10) [Chris Guccione; R2 returned to second]

Example 3 (Video): During the 9/17/10 Nationals-Phillies game, 2B Umpire Tim Tschida was working in the infield with the bases loaded and one out. Wilson Valdez hit a ground ball that bounded past the pitcher before deflecting off Tschida and caroming into center field. Accordingly, Tschida declared the immediate dead ball and awarded B1 Valdez first base. Because the bases were loaded, all runners were awarded one base, due to the force created by B1's one-base award. Rule 5.09(f)
Related: BAL-TOR (6/14/11) [Bob Davidson; runners forced to advance]
Related: WSH-CIN (7/19/10) [Gary Cederstrom; runners forced to advance]
Related: KC-BOS (5/27/10) [Paul Schrieber; R1 forced to advance]

Example 4 (Video): During the 3/24/10 Orioles-Cardinals Spring Training game, 2B Umpire Bruce Dreckman, working inside with one out and two on, was hit by a batted ball, resulting in B1 being awarded first base and the two runners forced to advance to second and third as a result. Rule 5.09(f)

The following is not umpire interference:

Umpire Collides with Fielder
Example 5 (Video): During the 9/24/11 Giants-Diamondbacks game, second baseman Mike Fontenot ran into 2B Umpire Bruce Dreckman while attempting to field a batted ball. Though such a collision impeded Fontenot's ability to field the grounder, umpire interference does not apply to an umpire working inside colliding with a fielder. Had Dreckman instead collided with the baseball before it reached Fontenot, it would be umpire interference; had an offensive player collided with Fontenot while he was attempting to field the batted ball, it would be offensive interference.
Related: KC-CLE (6/10/09) [Mike Reilly; near-miss]
Related: COL-ATL (4/18/10) [Damien Beal; contact with non-involved player, out recorded]

Example 6 (Video): During the 8/4/11 Orioles-Royals game, third baseman Mark Reynolds attempted to field a batted ball, colliding with 3B Umpire Tim Timmons in the process. Because umpire interference as it relates to contact with a fielder only applies to the home plate umpire and catcher, this contact is incidental and not subject to Rule 2.00 INTERFERENCE (c).
Related: HOU-PHI (5/15/12) [Hunter Wendelstedt; no interference]

Umpire Hit by Foul Ball
Example 7 (Video): During the 5/22/12 Blue Jays-Rays game, 1B Umpire Andy Fletcher was hit in the elbow by a batted ball. Because he was struck by the airborne ball while standing in foul territory, the ball was ruled foul; had a fielder caught the rebound off of Fletcher, it would not have been an out as the ball was already dead. This is not interference as the ball was foul.

Umpire Hit by Fair Ball After it Passes an Infielder other than the Pitcher
Example 8 (Video): During the 5/8/11 White Sox-Mariners game, Brendan Ryan hit a line drive down the third base line, bouncing in fair territory before striking a leaping 3B Umpire Mark Wegner, attempting to avoid the ball. Because the batted ball passed the third baseman prior to striking Wegner, this is not umpire interference under the auspices of Rule 5.09(f).

Umpire Hit by Fair Ball After it Touches the Pitcher
Example 9 (Video): During the 6/8/11 Rockies-Padres game, batter Seth Smith hit a line drive that was touched by pitcher Dustin Moseley before deflecting into 2B Umpire Tim Tschida. Because the baseball had touched the pitcher before touching the umpire, this is not umpire interference and the ball remains live.

Home Plate Umpire Hit by Pitch
Example 10 (Video): During the 6/25/10 Astros-Rangers game, a wayward Alexi Ogando 96 mph fastball struck HP Umpire Eric Cooper square in the mask before caroming toward the third base dugout. Pitched balls that hit umpires are considered alive and in play; this is not umpire interference.


Anonymous said...

In 39-plus years of umpiring, I have been hit by balls while in the infield twice and, strangely enough, they happened in the same week.

tmac said...

great stuff!!

Anonymous said...

i remember being 18 and working a high school game in partner was quite old and frail least 70....bases were loaded and a wicked line drive drills this old man maybe an inch from his heart....i figure he's about to keel over so i start running towards him. He stops, brushes his chest and says "dead ball, all runners get one base". Unreal some times LOL.

Duh said...

What if the umpire is behind the fielder? I was at an MLB game several years ago when a line drive struck the second base umpire in very shallow center field. The umpires returned the batter to the box as if the pitch never happened. Is that correct?

tmac said...

if that was the case dave the ball should be in play and all runners would be allowed to advance at their own peril..... how many years ago was that.. i can't imagine it not being covered by ESPN

Anonymous said...

Part of this rule me think of a question. It says that if a ball deflects off a fielder, and then hits a runner, and then is caught, that it is not a catch.

But what if the infield is playing in, and a line drive hits a runner in flight, then goes straight up in the air, and then is caught. Since the runner was behind the infield, the ball would be live, but would it still be a catch? (Same for umpire on a ball that is NOT deflected?)

Angus S-F said...

WRT Example 9 (Umpire Hit by Fair Ball After it Touches the Pitcher), why was that ruled a dead ball by the umpire who was hit? Shouldn't that have been a live ball?

Anonymous said...

In example 9, Tschida's mechanics have always been a little exagerated, it looks like he's signaling "safe," as in wiping off the possibility of ump interference, pointing to the pitcher and signaling as if to say, it hit F1 first, therefore there is no interference call. Only after the play is over and runners are standing on 1st and 2nd does Tschida call time to take the ball out of play.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 7/6..11:31AM...yes the ball is still live, but a catch must occur with the ball "in flight" and the rulebook says that

"IN FLIGHT describes a batted, thrown, or pitched ball which has not yet touched
the ground or some object other than a fielder."

So therefore it can't be caught after hitting the runner

JohnShulockFan said...

This article is awesome. Hours of fun.

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