Wednesday, May 15, 2024

TOR-BAL Obstruction & 'Late' Check Swing Appeal

When Toronto's Daulton Varsho collided with Orioles 2B Jorge Mateo during a stolen base attempt as he attempted to advance to third base on an overthrow, 2B Umpire Brian O'Nora called Obstruction Type 2(B), but didn't award Varsho third base. Later, Blue Jays batter Vlad Guerrero attempted to check his swing on a 3-1 pitch with George Springer stealing second, ruled a ball by HP Umpire Chad Fairchild, but reversed to a strike after a 'late' check swing appeal to 1B Umpire Brennan Miller by Baltimore.

Obstruction: The first decision making business regarding the Varsho play is to determine whether this is Type 1 (A) or Type 2 (B) obstruction. Type 1 applies to a play being made on the runner at the time of the obstruction OR the batter-runner being obstructed prior to reaching first base while Type 2 applies in every other situation in which obstruction occurs. With the ball rolling free in the outfield at the time of obstruction, this is an example of Type 2.

Type 1 (A) kills play immediately, with umpires automatically awarding the obstructed runner at least one base beyond the last legally touched base at the time of obstruction. All other runners are placed where they would have ended up had obstruction not occurred.

Type 2 (B), however, keeps play alive until no further action is possible. After this, pursuant to Official Baseball Rule 6.01(h)(2), "The umpire shall then call “Time” and impose such penalties, if any, as in their judgment will nullify the act of obstruction."

Because Varsho, after being obstructed, retreated to second base, 2B Umpire Brian O'Nora determined he could only protect the runner back to second. Because no further attempt was made to run to third—and perhaps of greater importance, the center fielder backed up the play and retrieved the ball quickly—O'Nora could not deem that runner Varsho would have made it to third had obstruction not occurred.

'Late' Check Swing Appeal: With a runner on first running on a 3-1 pitch to Vlad Guerrero, HP Umpire Chad Fairchild called ball four as Orioles catcher James McCann threw to try and retire the runner. After baserunner George Springer slid safely into second base, Baltimore, after a few seconds of delay, appealed the check swing (no swing) call to 1B Umpire Miller, who ruled Guerrero had swung for strike two.

Other than pitch clock timer-related restrictions, a check swing appeal is treated the same as any other appeal such as a base touch appeal—it may be made at any time until the next pitch, play, or attempted play (that is not part of the continuous action [e.g., the stolen base try] of the original play).

OBR allows both catchers or managers to request such an appeal: "The manager or the catcher may request the plate umpire to ask his partner for help on a half swing when the plate umpire calls the pitch a ball, but not when the pitch is called a strike.... Appeals on a half swing must be made before the next pitch, or any play or attempted play."

As such, even though the umpires conferred afterward, no pitch, play or attempted play had occurred, meaning this was a valid appeal, even if it was a tad 'late'—but not too late.

No, "fielder interference" and "he's in the baseline" don't apply (or make any sense here).

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Obstruction and unusual check swing appeal confuse Baltimore & Toronto

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