Monday, June 10, 2024

Did Hernández Interfere with Catcher Trevino in New York?

With two on and none out, Dodgers batter Enrique Hernández bunted a cutter from Yankees pitcher Luke Weaver in the air. New York catcher Jose Trevino took off in pursuit of the batted ball and tripped over Hernández, still in the box and looking up at the baseball. HP Umpire Nestor Ceja no-called this play, ruling it a foul ball, bringing Yankees manager Aaron Boone out of the dugout for a brief argument.

Was this interference by the batter or was a no-call due to incidental contact the correct ruling?

Official Baseball Rule 6.01(a)(10) declares any batter or runner out for interference if "they fail to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball." The umpire is obliged to protect one fielder for the purpose of this rule and, as Trevino was the only fielder chasing the ball, he was the protected fielder.

It is important to differentiate this play, which concerns a batted ball, from batter's interference plays concerning pitched balls, e.g., with the catcher's throwing or play to retire a stealing runner when the batter has already swung and missed—OBR 6.03(a)(3), which states "A batter is out for illegal action when they interfere with the catcher’s fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter’s box or making any other movement that hinders the catcher’s play at home base."

Because this is a batted ball, the more restrictive OBR 6.01(a)(10) is the relevant rule.

Accordingly, Hernández has a duty to avoid Trevino and violating this batted ball right of way rule can result in interference. There is one exception, however...

The so-called Armbrister-Fisk tangle/untangle exception to this is found in OBR 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."

The key to this exception is the phrase "batter-runner going to first base." If Hernández fails to move toward first base on a batted ball—even a foul ball, as the rule states "batted ball" and not "fair ball" or "foul ball"—the Armbrister exception cannot apply and, thus, Hernández should be declared out for interfering with Trevino by virtue of failing to avoid a fielder attempting to field batted ball.

Video as follows:
Alternate Link: Was this batter-catcher trip incidental or a case of uncalled interference?


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