Saturday, May 8, 2021

Rules Review of PIT's Retired Batter Interference Plea

Pirates Manager Derek Shelton had an impassioned but brief argument with HP Umpire Brennan Miller over an interference no-call in Chicago when Cubs batter Jason Heyward, having struck out, stepped into Pittsburgh catcher Michael Perez as Perez attempted to retrieve the uncaught third strike and retire Cubs baserunner R1 Willson Contreras.

Officially a wild pitch by Wil Crow, Contreras' advancement eventually turned into a run as Contreras scored to tie the game on a sacrifice fly to and error by Pirates center fielder Wilmer Difo. The Cubs ultimately won the contest, 3-2.

As for the rule itself, we have several potential options. To recap, Heyward faced an 0-2 count with Contreras on first base and none out.

Possible Rule: Official Baseball Rule 6.03(a)(3) states "a batter is out for illegal action when—They interfere 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." Alas, Heyward is no longer a batter because Heyward swung and missed at strike three. Thus, OBR 6.03(a)(3) does not apply.

Next up is 6.01(a)(1), "It is interference by a batter or a runner when—After a third strike that is not caught by the catcher, the batter-runner clearly hinders the catcher in their attempt to field the ball. Such batter-runner is out, the ball is dead, and all other runners return to the bases occupied at the time of the pitch." Remember, however, two things: First, no player may be called out twice for two different reasons, and, second, first base was occupied with less than two outs. This means Heyward was automatically out on strike three, whether or not the pitch was caught. Accordingly, Heyward is no longer a batter and certainly not a batter-runner: Heyward is a retired batter, already out on strike three. 6.01(a)(1) isn't it, either.

That means 6.01(a)(5) must be it: "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 their teammate." Bingo: If a retired batter (Heyward) interferes with a catcher (Perez) trying to retire a runner (Contreras), the runner shall be declared out for the interference of the retired teammate.

Finally, remember that the batter's box is not a safe haven for this brand of interference, especially with replays indicating Heyward appeared to have started haphazardly walking back to the Cubs dugout when he unintentionally walked into Perez, who was trying to make a "following play...on a runner." If Heyward's actions hindered Perez, that would qualify as 6.01(a)(5) interference, regardless of intent, rendering Contreras out as well for a double play. It does not matter if Perez had the ball or not at the time of the hindrance: if the retired batter or runner hinders or impedes a fielder making a play on another runner, "such runner shall be declared out for the interference of their teammate."

PS: The least shocking development? Pittsburgh broadcasters thought the play was interference while Chicago's TV coverage was more than content with a no-call, thinking interference only applies when the catcher already has the ball.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Pirates want, but don't get INT on retired batter/catcher interaction (PIT/CHC/CCS)


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