Sunday, May 1, 2016

Reviewing Rundown Obstruction Type 1 at the Trop

Toronto-Tampa Bay: An obstruction no-call ended the Blue Jays' ninth inning when picked off Jays baserunner R1 Kevin Pillar ran into Rays pitcher Ryan Webb during the course of a rundown, and was subsequently tagged by second baseman Logan Forsythe and declared out by 2B Umpire Mark Ripperger.

With two out and one on, Webb threw to Rays first baseman Logan Morrison in an attempt to pick off R1 Pillar, starting a rundown that saw four Rays players involved, scored 1-3-6-1-4. Replays indicate that after F1 Webb, as the penultimate Rays ballcarrier, chased R1 Pillar toward second base and threw to F4 Forsythe, Pillar momentarily lost his balance and stumbled into the running-by Webb, subsequently moving back towards second base where Forsythe applied his tag to end the frame, the out called by 2B Umpire Mark Ripperger who mechanized that Webb had not obstructed Pillar.

Should obstruction have been called? After all, Pillar clearly collided with Webb. Time for a Rules Review.

The baseball rules' Definition of Terms states, "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."

Regarding obstruction, the MLB Umpire Manual states, "the fielder must then avoid the runner," as relates to contact between fielder and runner that occurs off a batted-then-deflected ball not within the fielder's immediate reach. The MLBUM also states that batted-deflected obstruction may be nullified under a certain circumstance if the fielder "has a legitimate play on the ball." Based on this language, it is clear that baseball intends for responsibility of avoiding contact to lie with the ball-less fielder, absent these (batted-then-deflected ball) or similar extenuating circumstances (e.g., obstruction on a batter-runner trapped in a rundown between home and first base is only to be called if "the obstruction is intentional"). Thus, in most cases, "accidental" obstruction is still "obstruction."

It is clear, as relates to the Pillar-Webb play, that Webb did not have a legitimate play on the ball (by virtue of having gotten rid of it); thus it was unequivocally Webb's responsibility to avoid contact with Pillar.

However, if U2 ruled that Pillar, due to his momentary loss of balance in trying to quickly change direction, was not actually "impeded" by Webb—if U2 ruled R1 would have fallen to the ground or otherwise been imminently tagged out by Forsythe regardless of Webb's presence or even if he was not making a bona fide attempt to run the bases- if he was not actually making any "progress"—then the proper call would be "no obstruction."

If, on the other hand, Pillar was impeded from progressing back to first base, the proper call would be "obstruction." Replays appear to indicate Pillar was impeded from progressing to his base, if for no other reason than Pillar appeared to have been in the process of regaining his footing and was preparing to forge a path toward first base (or, at least, away from ballcarrier Forsythe).

Video: John Gibbons briefly argues, gets explanation from Ripperger & Joe West ("Read More")
Alternate Link: Pillar is caught in a pickle after running into the Rays trailer (MLB Network)


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