Saturday, September 11, 2021

Retaliatory Obstruction? Collision Follows TOR-BAL Spat

When Orioles pitcher Fernando Abad's right forearm connected with Blue Jays baserunner Lourdes Gurriel's left shoulder, HP Umpire Jim Wolf and 3B Umpire Shane Livensparger immediately identified obstruction, but was there more to this potentially malicious contact?

With one out and Gurriel on second base for Toronto, Blue Jays batter Randal Grichuk hit a ground ball to Orioles third baseman Jahmai Jones, who threw wildly past third base in an attempt to retire Gurriel, leading to a collision between Abad and Gurriel as the Jays' runner ran toward home plate.

Umpires pointed to the defense's hindrance of the runner in ruling obstruction (type 2, as no play was being made on the runner at the precise moment of obstruction ["If no play is being made on the obstructed runner, the play shall proceed until no further action is possible. The umpire shall then call “Time” and impose such penalties, if any, as in his judgment will nullify the act of obstruction." OBR 6.01(h)(2)) and allowed play to conclude with Gurriel scoring and batter-runner Grichuk making it to third base.

At lower levels of play, Abad's potentially intentional initiation of a collision with Gurriel may have necessitated further penalties. For instance, high school's NFHS Rule 3-3-1 pertains to malicious contact, and states, "If the defense commits the malicious contact, the player is ejected." College is a bit murkier, as its flagrant collision rule (NCAA 2-31) identifies a collision "in which the runner maliciously attempts to dislodge the ball," but common sense could easily help.

MLB/professional baseball has no such rules, however. In other words, this is obstruction (type 2 or B) at all levels, but not malicious in pro ball because OBR does not have such a rule.

Nonetheless, could this apparently unsportsmanlike action have developed from a dispute earlier in the contest? Several innings earlier, Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde yelled at Toronto pitcher Robbie Ray.

Once again, OBR is more permissive than lower levels, such as NCAA's Coaching Ethics, which states, in part, "'Bench jockeying' will not be allowed." So while it may be appropriate—and in some cases absolutely necessary—for an umpire to address this unsporting behavior early on in order to prevent further complications at the NFHS or NCAA level, MLB appears to have largely taken a "let them fight, it's better for ratings" point of view.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Umpires rule obstruction on violent collision between opponents along baseline (TOR)


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