Thursday, January 21, 2021

Teachable - Cueto's Interference is Not a Tangle

Every so often, a Tmac's Teachable Moment crosses path with an Ask the UEFL Rules Review and such is the case of HP Umpire Quinn Wolcott's call of interference on Johnny Cueto's bunt attempt, compared to Ed Armbrister's classic tangle-untangle from Game 3 of the 1975 World Series.

In this analysis of Cueto's actions following his bunt in Cincinnati, we compare and contrast with Armbrister's play, noting that both batters, having bunted the ball in front of home plate, became entangled with their respective catchers, only that Cueto was ruled out for interference while Armbrister earned himself a "that's nothing" call from HP Umpire Larry Barnett, much to the chagrin of catcher Carlton Fisk.

The primary difference, we find with an assist from the 2020 ALCS where history repeated itself and Rays batter-runner Manuel Margot legally tangled with Astros catcher Martin Maldonado, is embedded within Official Baseball Rule 6.01(a)(10) Comment itself.

According to OBR 6.01(a)(10) Comment, "When a catcher and batter-runner going to first base have contact when the catcher is fielding the ball, there is generally no violation and nothing should be called."

And therein lies the key distinction: While Armbrister and Margot clearly became entangled with their catchers while running to first base, Cueto did no such thing: he remained stationary in the batter's box and, by virtue of his immediate inaction, did not satisfy the criterion of 6.01(a)(10) in that he was not "going to first base" at the time of the contact. For this reason, the rule's quasi-exception does not apply and Cueto thus was guilty of interference whereas the other players who were going to first base enjoyed the protection of the rule.

This is an example of how knowing the game, knowing players' responsibilities, and anticipating plays as an umpire will help in officiating tricky situations, such as a potential tangle/untangle.


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