Thursday, March 9, 2023

Panama Turns Double Play After WBC Armbrister Tangle

When a batter-runner and catcher became entangled on a bunt attempt in front of home plate during the World Baseball Classic's Panama vs Chinese Taipei game, HP Umpire Roberto Ortiz no-called the play, ruling the contact incidental and legal, before Panama catcher Christian Bethancourt threw to shortstop Ruben Tejada to force out baserunner Kun-Yu Chiang, before a second throw to first baseman Jahdiel Santamaria resulted in a second out.

In no-calling the sequence in front of home plate, HP Umpire Ortiz cited Official Baseball Rule 6.01(a)(10) Comment: "When a catcher and batter-runner going to first base have contact when the catcher is fielding the ball, there is generally no violation and nothing should be called." Although OBR 6.01(a)(10) itself puts the batter or runner out for interference if they fail to avoid a fielder attempting to field a batted ball, the exception posed by the rule's comment thus absolves batter Yu-Chieh Kao of any wrongdoing. Obstruction to the catcher is only to be called in "very flagrant and violent" cases here.

Longtime baseball followers might recall the original play that inspired the rule's comment that occurred during Game 3 of the 1975 World Series. That play was strikingly similar: with a runner on first base, Reds batter Ed Armbrister bunted the ball in front of home plate. As Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk tried to field it, the two players collided, with HP Umpire Larry Barnett no-calling the play. This no-call rule interpretation, in today's books under OBR 6.01(a)(10) Comment, is called an Armbrister tangle (untangle).

A similar play occurred during Game 3 of the 2020 ALCS, when HP Umpire Jeff Nelson properly no-called a similar collision between Astros catcher Martin Maldonado and Rays batter-runner Manuel Margot. Two years earlier, however, HP Umpire Dan Iassogna declared Dodgers batter-runner Matt Kemp out for interference when Kemp failed to advance toward first base and thus didn't satisfy the Comment's "going to first base" criterion. 


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