Thursday, April 21, 2022

Ask UEFL - Interference No-Call As CWS-CLE Collide

This Ask the UEFL comes to us from Thursday afternoon's White Sox-Guardians game in Cleveland as umpires no-called a sequence in which Cleveland runner Josh Naylor and Chicago fielder Tim Anderson collided on a batted ball. Interference or incidental?

We've discussed right-of-way issues on the base paths before (see "Comparison - Infield Interference or Only Obstruction?", 7/30/18). and to give a brief and simplistic recap, in general, the following tenets describe who has the right of way when:

On a batted ball, the fielder has the right to field it.*
At any other time, the runner has the right to run.

*Only one fielder is entitled to right-of-way protection.

What this means is that during a batted ball, the fielder has the right to attempt to field the baseball. If the runner impedes or hinders the fielder's ability to field the ball, the runner has interfered with the fielder.

Conversely, at any other time, the runner has the right to run the bases. If the fielder impedes or hinders the runner's ability to run the bases, the fielder has obstructed the runner.

Official Baseball Rule 6.01(a)(10) puts the runner out (dead ball, no advance, batter awarded first base if applicable) for interfering with a fielder in this way: "Any runner is out when—they fail to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interfere with a thrown ball."

The MLB Umpire Manual states, "A fielder is protected while in the act of fielding a batted ball. If, after a player has fielded a batted ball but before he is able to throw the ball, a runner hinders or impedes such fielder, the runner shall be called out for interference."

Finally, MLBUM drives the point home with Approved Ruling 4 in its Obstruction and Interference Plays interpretation: "After the ball deflects off the shortstop, if the ball is within the fielder’s immediate reach, the runner must avoid the fielder, and if contact occurs under those circumstances, interference shall be called and the runner declared out. (In this situation the fielder is still considered “in the act of fielding” the ball and has not “missed” as described in the Comment to Official Baseball Rule 6.01(h).)"

As is always the case, interference need not be (and usually is not) an intentional act.

In this situation, it appears Guardians runner R2 Naylor failed to avoid White Sox shortstop Anderson while Anderson attempted to field a batted ball, which—if you want to get very technical—was still in his immediate reach, having touched his glove just prior to the contact with Naylor. Chicago manager Tony La Russa briefly argued the no-call with 3B Umpire Brian O'Nora and 2B Umpire/Crew Chief Laz Diaz, but to no avail.

Conclusion: This is interference and should have been called.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Ask UEFL - Fielder v Runner Right of Way & Interference No-Call (CWS/CCS)


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