Friday, March 10, 2017

Tmac's Teachable Moments - Observing Obstruction

A WBC obstruction no-call means it's time for another Tmac's Teachable Moment... I swear it feels like we just did one of these yesterday!

Potential obstruction occurred in the WBC.
Whenever you are on a baseball field it is important to know your responsibilities. I tell young umpires, 98% of the time we're watching the ball... It's the 2% that we need to come off the ball and watch something else that is some of the hardest umpiring to learn. If we're caught missing our responsibilities it can put the whole crew in jeopardy to miss a crucial play.

The Play: With two out and none on, Team Israel batter Scott Burcham hit a ground ball into shallow center field for a single. As Burcham rounded first base, Netherlands second baseman Jonathan Schoop retrieved the ball and threw to first base in an attempt to retire the runner. Schoop's throw bounced past first baseman Yurendell Decaster, and Burcham became entangled with Decaster as he attempted to advance to second base, ultimately resulting in an out at second on a close play.

Analysis: On this play, we have an overthrow of 1st base. What is our first base umpire's responsibility? He has a tangle right in front of him between the batter-runner and the first baseman,  but he doesn't see it because he's following the ball. In the accompanying graphic, you can see the umpire looking toward the ball (red shade), instead of at the players/base (orange shade).

1B Umpire Chikara Tsugawa follows the ball.
For this play, the home plate umpire has the overthrow and the potential fan interference, as there was nobody on to begin the play, and, thus, no potential play at the plate. The plate man is running up to first and can swing off into foul territory; the boundary is his responsibility.

As our first base umpire did not make a signal either by pointing to the play to say, "that's obstruction" or giving a safe mechanic and verbally saying, "that's nothing," it makes it clear to anyone watching that our first base umpire did not see the play. Our first base umpire gets together with HP Umpire Brian Knight, who looks confused as to why he'd be coming to him.

While I'm not a fan of getting the crew together for plays like this, it probably would have been best to see if 2B Umpire Ted Barrett or 3B Umpire Frantisek Pribyl had additional information. Whenever we have an overthrow and two guys are going where they're supposed to, potential obstruction gets muddied.

However, on this play it is CLEAR that the first baseman went above and beyond by reaching his left hand around and holding/restraining the batter-runner (recall, 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." Also, "After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the 'act of fielding' the ball" [Rule 6.01(h)]). It then so happened that the batter-runner was out at second on a close play. In retrospect, the batter-runner probably should have been awarded second, as the obstruction may have slowed him up by at least that fraction of a second by which he was retired.

It's early in the season for many—and this play didn't matter much anyway, as Israel won WBC Pool A with Netherlands taking second place—but for a lot of our northern readers, the season hasn't begun.

Get into the rule book... Read your manuals to solidify responsibilities so plays like this don't happen to you. There is always room to get better! Have fun! Video via "Read More"

Video: Overthrow and potential obstruction at first base appear late in Korean pool play (2:32:57)


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