Monday, September 1, 2014

Solution for Case Play 2014-4: Batter-Runner Obstruction

Our Athletics-Angels obstruction up the line Case Play 2014-4 is now in the books with the solution below. Play:
With none out and none on, B1 hit a ground ball up the first base line, where B1, F1 and F3 converged, F1 and F3 colliding before F1 fielded the baseball and collided with B1. PU ruled obstruction on F3 and awarded B1 first base. Q: Is this the proper call and application of rules?
Relevant Video: Umpires rule obstruction on odd play in the 9th inning of A's-Angels (LAA)

Answer: To help us along in our quest, Wendelstedt Umpire School Chief Of Instruction and Administrative Director Brent Rice has provided the School’s position on this play (my notes are in italics):

Rule 7.09(j) provides that when two fielders attempt to field the same batted ball, the umpire must determine which player is actually in the "act of fielding". In this case, umpire Gibson determined that Otero was that player. This means that Moss could not have been fielding the ball.

Gil’s Note: Even though 7.09(j) pertains to interference, MLB Umpire Manual #43 (7) clarifies that only one fielder may be in the actual act of fielding for the purposes of both interference and obstruction.

Rule 2.00 [Obstruction] provides that a fielder not in possession of the ball, nor in the act of fielding the ball, has violated the rule when he impedes the progress of the runner. Acts of impediment include where the runner must run around, jump over, slow down, or stop to avoid the fielder.

Since Aybar had to run around both players while the ball was not in possession of a fielder, both fielders impeded his progress. Otero was protected from this action, but Moss was not.

Rule 7.06(a) provides that in this situation the ball is dead immediately and the batter-runner is awarded at least first base.

As a side, had the obstruction by Moss occurred while both players were fielding a fly ball, Aybar would not have been awarded first base if Otero were to have made the catch. This is because the interpretation of 7.06(a) only applies to balls that ultimately become ground balls to the infield (the fly ball play would result in a Type B obstruction call).

Gil’s Note: Some have brought up the baseline and runner’s lane arguments. These rules, however, do not apply to this play. Here’s why.

Rule 7.08(a)(1): The baseline (proper term: “base path” - a runner runs along a base path; the shortest distance between two bases is a baseline) only applies during an active tag attempt. If the ball is loose in the air, there is no tag attempt and Aybar cannot be out for deviating more than 3 feet from his established base path.
Likewise, as in 6.05(k), the runner’s lane (3-foot lane at 45’) only applies when the ball is being fielded to (e.g., thrown to) first base and the batter interferes with the fielder taking the throw at first base. There was no throw, so no 6.05(k) call to make.

In conclusion, Gibson’s call was correct. F3 Moss obstructed batter Aybar (Type A), who is awarded first base.

Thanks to all [Legitimate] Contributors: afaber12arpee, Bill, BkSl14812, Bob Abouy, Bobby Dobbins, Confucious cyclone14, Dodiad, Doupetrob, jfkoo, Kyle Goluba, MarkCanada, RadioPearl, RichW, rgoldar2, Scott, SJR, Softballumpire, tmac, toss 'em, Tyler Durden, yawetag, Zac Montgomery.

1 point has been awarded to all aforementioned who are UEFL league participants. An additional point has been awarded to all names in bold, representing rules-correct responses to this group Case Play.


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