Saturday, May 28, 2022

Ask the UEFL - Obstruction Caused by Downed Fielder

This Ask the UEFL takes us to St Louis, where 1B Umpire Dan Bellino's obstruction call when Brewers baserunner Victor Caratini and Cardinals first baseman Brendan Donovan run into each other during an overthrow, resulting in Caratini being awarded second base.

This is an example of Obstruction Type 2 (Type B) since fielder Donovan had already attempted to catch a a thrown baseball from third baseman Nolan Arenado and missed. Pursuant to baseball's base path right-of-way rules, recall that the fielder has the right to field a batted ball and the runner has the right to run the bases at any other time. The exception is when a fielder is imminently fielding a ball and when a fielder already is possessing the baseball (e.g., a catcher can legally block the runner's path to the plate if the catcher has the ball well before the runner's arrival).

In this play, because the fielder was not in the act of fielding, and had already missed the ball, the fielder was guilty of obstruction by impeding the runner's progress: it does not matter whether it was intentional or not, it is obstruction all the same.

Relevant Rule: Official Baseball Rule 6.01(h)(2) describes this brand 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) Comment further illustrates this concept: "After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the “act of fielding” the ball. For example: An infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner."

Related: During Game 3 of the 2013 World Series, 3B Umpire Jim Joyce called obstruction B on Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks after a similarly overthrown ball, with Middlebrooks impeding Cardinals baserunner Allen Craig from running the bases.


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