Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Obstruction Calls Are 2024's Point of Emphasis

Obstruction calls are set to increase in 2024 thanks to a new MLB point of emphasis of Official Baseball Rule 6.01(h), according to an ESPN source. Succinctly, the league office will instruct umpires to rule a runner safe in the event a fielder blocks a runner's path to the base while preparing to receive a throw.

This point of emphasis brings OBR 6.01(h) into greater alignment with 6.01(i)(2), the Collisions at Home Plate rule for fielders that functionally employs a similar penalty to the existing obstruction rule, but only applies at home plate and is also much more strict in its standard for violation.

Home plate collision rule OBR 6.01(i)(2) states, in part, "Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as they are attempting to shall not be considered a violation of this Rule 6.01(i)(2) if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in a legitimate attempt to field the throw."

Meanwhile, the existing definition for Obstruction (at any base), as found in the rulebook's Definition of Terms, states: "Obstruction is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner."

The definition of obstruction predates the home plate collision rule by a number of decades and is plainly not as detailed. Although OBR and the MLB Umpire Manual both make reference to "the act of fielding" relative to obstruction, the phrase "legitimate attempt" is nowhere to be seen in this particular rule relative to a fielder preparing to receive a throw who might use their leg to block a runner's base path.

Over the past few years, runner's lane interferencea rule since changed prior to the 2024 season by expanding the width of the runner's lane—has received emphasis, which in turn resulted in a handful of additional arguments and ejections.

Will obstruction suffer this same fate? | Video as follows:

Alternate Link: MLB instructs umps to call more obstruction on the bases in 2024 POE


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