Thursday, September 12, 2019

Braves' Donaldson Called for Retired Batter's INT

After Braves batter Josh Donaldson swung and missed at a 3-2 pitch in Philadelphia, HP Umpire Ted Barrett ruled baserunner Freddie Freeman out for Donaldson’s interference on Phillies catcher JT Realmuto. Was this the correct call? Why or why not?

The Play: With one out and one on (R1), Donaldson struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch as baserunner R1 Freddie Freeman attempted to steal second base. As Phillies catcher JT Realmuto threw to second base, he interacted with Donaldson in the batter's box, drawing an interference call from HP Umpire Barrett.

The Rule: There are two potential rule at play here: Official Baseball Rule 6.03(a)(3) and 6.01(a)(5). OBR 6.03 pertains to illegal action by the batter: "A batter is out for illegal action when—He interferes with the catcher’s fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter’s box or making any other movement that hinders the catcher’s play at home base."

We analyze this from both rules' perspectives.
Because Donaldson was already out on the strikeout, OBR 6.03(a)(3) does not apply. Instead, it is Rule 6.01(a)(5) pertaining to a retired batter which rules the day: "It is interference when—Any batter or runner who has just been put out, or any runner who has just scored, hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate."

Call & Analysis: The batter’s box is not a safe haven, especially under the retired batter’s rule which makes no reference to a batter’s box. Instead, the standard is whether a batter or recently-retired batter’s movements have hindered the catcher.

Nonetheless, Donaldson is a RETIRED BATTER and his movement, albeit unintentional, nonetheless constitutes interference. He isn't protected just because he remained in the batter's box.

What Atlanta Thinks Happened: The Braves broadcast featured the phrase: "Donaldson did not move."

Umpire Ted Barrett observes the interference.
What that refers to is a batter who swings and, after swinging, stays still in the box and is run into by the throwing catcher or something of the sort. In that case, it is NOT interference, for the batter has not made a movement ("did not move") to hinder the catcher.

What Actually Happened: Instead, after Donaldson's swing-and-a-miss, he stumbles and falls to his right (toward home plate), where he makes contact with the catcher (albeit unintentionally), and thanks in part to the catcher's own movement to and beyond the front of home plate; however, we know that the catcher got to his spot first, by virtue of Donaldson stepping on top of the catcher's foot.

The rule favors the defense here (especially with a retired batter) and allows the catcher an opportunity to make an unimpeded play.

Gil's Call: This was a popular Ask the UEFL request. I understand Atlanta's argument. Nothing about this was remotely intentional (but it doesn't have to be). Donaldson is falling and happens to fall into the catcher, who in turn may be gamesmanship-ing his way into a call. But Donaldson's foot being on top of Realmuto's seals the deal for me. The catcher got there first, so the batter's movements have hindered him by virtue of stepping on top of JT's plant foot. The batter's box is not a safe space.

Had Donaldson not moved (as depicted by the ATL broadcasters), interference would be an incorrect ruling. But because Donaldson did move, however slightly, unintentionally, solely because he was off-balance, or otherwise, this is an interfering (hindering/impeding) act and the proper call is made.

And at the end of the day, I suppose that's the difference between the team (ATL) and the umpire: Atlanta held that Donaldson "did not move" whereas replays clearly indicate that he did move.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Analysis of why Ted Barrett called Josh Donaldson for interference (CCS)


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