Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Interference in Boston? Laz Diaz's Astros-Red Sox No-Call

After HP Umpire Laz Diaz called strike three on Astros pitcher Cristian Javier's 3-2 fastball to Red Sox batter JD Martinez while catcher Martin Maldonado nearly tried to throw stealing runner Alex Verdugo out at second base, interference questions began popping up, as did both managers with Houston's Dusty Baker campaigning for an interference call on Martinez and Boston's Alex Cora more upset about the strike three call on a pitch off the outside corner.

As we always do, we begin with the rulebook for this play from the bottom of the 3rd inning of Game 4 of the 2021 American League Championship Series. Although Official Baseball Rule 6.03(a)(3) [batter out for illegal action] calls for an out when the batter "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," the relevant rule here is actually OBR 6.01(a)(5) because the batter was out due to the strike three call: "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."

The high school equivalent is NFHS 7-3-5 ("interfere with the catcher's fielding or throwing by leaning over home plate, stepping out of the batter's box, or making any other movement...which hinders actions at home plate or the catcher's attempt to play on a runner") while college is NCAA 6-3-b (similar to OBR), the penalty for which states, "If the batter strikes out, the runner is also out."

While a throw to second is not required to call interference, it sure helps. The throw leaves no doubt as to the catcher's intention and quite clearly demonstrates a hindering act has occurred. By not throwing, Maldonado made Diaz's job more difficult. By not throwing, now the umpire must decide WHY the throw didn't happen. Was it because the catcher thought the pitch was ball four (the computer sure did)? Was it because the runner Verdugo would have slid in safely at second base? Or was it because retired batter Martinez interfered?

In only one of those scenarios would the proper call be interference. In the end, the judgment call rests with that question: what was Maldonado's intent here and why was no throw made? If the answer is because of retired batter Martinez's hindrance, the call is interference. If the answer is because of another reason other than Martinez's movement, the likely call is to make none at all.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Analysis of why Diaz may not have called interference in HOU-BOS ALCS (FOX)


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