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More on Rule 7.06, Obstruction

Oct 27, 2013, 12:55 AM EDT

The Cardinals just won Game 3 of the World Series on an obstruction call by third base umpire Jim Joyce. You can read how the play went down in the recap right here or watch this video:

This post will deal with the intricacies of the rule for those of you who may find the jargon used in MLB’s official rules confusing. The official definition:

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.

Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered “in the act of fielding a ball.” It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. 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: If 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.

As you can see in the video above, Middlebrooks was clearly “in the act of fielding a ball” as he was attempting to retrieve an errant throw by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but that’s not the part in the timeline that matters. When Craig attempts to run home, the ball had already skipped past the dirt of the infield towards the left field stands. Middlebrooks was no longer “in the act of fielding”.

The next objection many have to the call is the intent of Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks. Intent does not matter. Middlebrooks prevented Craig from attempting to run home, and that’s all that matters. It is patently obvious Middlebrooks did not mean to get involved in a collision, but it does not make a difference.

Another objection deals with the baseline. Rule 7.08 states that “a runner’s baseline is established when the tag attempt occurs and is a straight line from the runner to the base he is attempting to reach safely.” As you can see in the following picture tweeted by MLB’s official Twitter account…

… they were to the right of the third base line but the baseline starts at the spot of the collision. From there, draw a straight line home, as Craig had already reached third base safely. That is the baseline. From there, Craig ran in a straight line home. He did not venture out of the baseline.

As for the rest of the play, Rule 7.06(b) states:*

(b) 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.

Rule 7.06(b) Comment: Under 7.06(b) when the ball is not dead on obstruction and an obstructed runner advances beyond the base which, in the umpire’s judgment, he would have been awarded because of being obstructed, he does so at his own peril and may be tagged out. This is a judgment call.

Craig was tagged at home, but because of the obstruction, the umpire used his judgment to determine if he would have been safe absent the obstruction. Here, because Craig was running hard home, the umpire ruled — correctly, all video evidence suggests — that Craig would have been safe absent the obstruction.

Ultimately, third base umpire Jim Joyce made the correct call. It will be hotly debated, but all the evidence seems to support Joyce here.

How often does obstruction happen? According to an unofficial look by Baseball Reference, obstruction has been called twice in the post-season: in Game 4 of the 1986 NLCS between the Mets and Astros and in Game 3 of the 2003 ALDS between the Athletics and Red Sox. They found one game that ended on an obstruction call: a 2-1 victory by the Devil Rays over the Mariners on August 6, 2004.

*An earlier draft of this post cited Rule 7.08(a), which automatically awards a player a base for situations in which a play is being made on an obstructed runner. Since Middlebrooks did not have the ball and was not making a play, Rule 7.08(b) applies. We apologize for the error and any confusion it may have caused.

  1. peterjohnjoseph - Oct 27, 2013 at 12:58 AM

    One question I have is, Craig made a step toward second. Doesn’t he have to re-touch the bag?

    • ezthinking - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:05 AM

      Get a clue.

      • peterjohnjoseph - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:07 AM

        Get a clue? I asked a question. I’m looking for more than a clue here. I’m looking for the full answer.

      • apkyletexas - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:19 AM

        It was a ground ball.

      • ezthinking - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:39 AM

        Read the fucking rule book. He is not retreating to a bag after an out. So, no, there is no need to retouch the base.

        This is every dipshit parent rant in little league. “Why is “X: so? You must hate my kid.

        Rules answers are available; Just read and know the rules. It ‘s not football. The rules don’t change every 2 years.

      • tuberippin - Oct 27, 2013 at 3:09 AM

        “Read the fucking rule book. He is not retreating to a bag after an out. So, no, there is no need to retouch the base.”

        Why are you being such a jerk? The guy asked a simple question; quit being a little bitch.

      • ezthinking - Oct 27, 2013 at 3:22 AM

        Only a jerk would comment without knowing the game.

        Far from being a bitch to ask that someone to know the rules.

    • peterjohnjoseph - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:05 AM

      Before I get a 1,000 thumb downs from Cards fans, I’m not asking this rhetorically, I’m asking this because I’m curious to how everyone else interprets it.

      • pbannard - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:15 AM

        That would only be the case if he were intending to run towards second base (in which case he could actually just be called out, depending on the circumstances). In this case, he is clearly just planting his foot, coincidentally in the direction of second, as he gets to his feet. Therefore, there is absolutely no need to retag the base.

    • bfunk1978 - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:08 AM

      I think that was more stumbling and bumbling, and when it comes to base running intentions do matter.

      • peterjohnjoseph - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:11 AM

        Well thats honestly how I saw it too. I guess my question is more about what constitutes the interpretation of him moving towards second. I know he looked both ways, and in stumbling his body went that way first, before coming back towards home.

    • howscomp - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:24 AM

      Since he took a straight line step towards second while not occupying third, yes he is supposed to retouch the bag prior to advancing. And it doesn’t matter that the contact caused him to move towards second much the way it didn’t matter that middlebrook was no longer an “intended fielder”.

      • ezthinking - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:55 AM

        He touched third moron. Take the blinders off.

      • wirestrecher - Oct 27, 2013 at 3:06 AM

        ??? there is no definition for “intended fielder” in the rulebook… running “intentions”??? ya’ll are making this stuff up, none of this is in the rule book..The “baseline” is established when a play is attempted on the runner. he could have run towards second and ran circles around the bag, not touching it then ran over the pitchers mound and touched home…. as long as the bases were touched in order there is no definition of base line the the rulebook. the last base he touched was third the next one is home plate … second has nothing to do with anything at this point. the only time Intentions come into play is overunning first. none of you ever read the rulebook.

    • paperlions - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:52 AM

      I don’t think he made a step toward 2nd. When Middlebrooks dove for the ball he hit Craig, knocking him down, which is why he was inside the 3rd base bag to big with….but that doesn’t really matter in this instance, there is simple no need to re-touch 3rd base because Craig clearly never made a move toward 2nd base….he just got up.

    • matt14gg - Oct 27, 2013 at 7:37 AM

      Actually that’s a great question and I understand where you’re coming from, but the rule requires judgement from the ump. Much like taking the turn at first base it requires an intentional gesture back toward second base. In this case Craig just fell back toward second base after touching third. So no intentional gesture back toward second and thus no need to retouch third.

      The guy who told you to get a clue needs to get a clue.

    • lazy boy - Oct 27, 2013 at 8:02 AM

      ezthinking clearly has trouble with conversational styles of English. Perhaps he would secretly like to be THE umpire? or better yet, perhaps the ANNOUNCER. Alas, ezthink is a lonesome blogger.
      Burrp.

    • lazy boy - Oct 27, 2013 at 8:09 AM

      One thing is clear, EZTHINK is an angry Cardinal, knowing full ell, there was no obstruction, and the clumbsiness of the runner is in no way the fault of the Red Sox third base man, who obviously tried his best to avoid obstruction.
      Such officiating, like EZTHINKs conversational style is unwarranted.

      • paperlions - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:04 AM

        He is most certainly not a Cardinal fan, angry or otherwise.

  2. bfunk1978 - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:02 AM

    Yeah, they threw a wrench in there. An Allen wrench.

    #sigh

  3. overdrawnagain - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:04 AM

    Just saw the Middlebrooks interview. He needs to see the reply before he talks more

    • peterjohnjoseph - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:08 AM

      I thought the PR department would of been right on top of hiding him and instructing him on what to say ASAP.

  4. stabonerichard - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:05 AM

    Baseballs!!

  5. nothanksimdriving123 - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:07 AM

    As Middlebrooks said after the game, what was he supposed to do to avoid obstruction with a guy on his back? Seriously, how was he supposed to get out of the runner’s way with the runner holding him down? Mr Torre? Mr Joyce?
    And somewhere, Armando Galarraga reaches for a shot of tequila and shakes his head slowly, side to side.

    • bfunk1978 - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:10 AM

      Well what I *don’t* do if I’m Will Middlebrooks is kick my feet up. His feet were down and he wasn’t moving and then he lifted them up as Craig tried to take off. His post game interview smirk was enough for me to realize it was intentional.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Oct 27, 2013 at 3:37 AM

        Bfunk, except I recall hearing Joyce say the feet going up had no impact on his ruling. Just his being in the way, which was the direct result of his going for the ball, which he’s expected to do. The runner slid into him as he was going for the ball and the runner was going for the base, both legit movements. The runner gets up on the 2nd base side of the bag and climbs over WM instead of going down the baseline toward home and WM is called for obstruction. BTW, I’m not a Sox fan.

      • bfunk1978 - Oct 28, 2013 at 9:18 AM

        @nothanksimdriving123 That’s true, but I don’t think Craig trips in the first place and there’s a legit play at the plate. Hobbled as he is, they might have gotten him. Maybe not.

    • cohnjusack - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:11 AM

      It. Doesn’t. Matter. The rule is very clear.

      Just reverse this. Why should the Cardinals be punished because an opposing player is in their way? The rulebook says intent doesn’t matter (and it shouldn’t).

    • paperlions - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:54 AM

      What he is supposed to do is irrelevant. He’s in the way and obstructed the runner. When trying to field the ball he knocked Craig down and then fell down between Craig and Home…at that point, he was screwed.

      I know it is not a satisfying answer….but the answer is to not put yourself in that position to begin with.

    • forsch31 - Oct 27, 2013 at 2:03 AM

      In case you didn’t read the excerpt from the rule book:

      “For example: If 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.”

      That’s exactly what happened. It’s Bizzaro-world that a World Series game ends on a obstruction that’s actually laid out as an example in the rule book, but that’s what it is.

      Most obstruction calls are not intentional (and no, I don’t think Middlebrook intentionally lifted his legs to trip Craig), so it’s not a matter of “what’s Middlebrook supposed to do?” He laid on the ground and watched the ball, while Craig was trying to get over him to head home. Craig also wasn’t “holding him down”. He slid into the bag, glanced at the ball bounce away, and then turned to run home and ran into Middlebrook’s legs that had just popped up, and that’s when he fell on top of him. That’s obstruction.

    • matt14gg - Oct 27, 2013 at 7:41 AM

      The point is there’s nothing he could do, but it doesn’t matter. The rule does not require intent. He was in the runner’s way and thus created an obstruction. End of story. It’s not Midddlebrooks’ fault, but it is still obstruction.

  6. mtr75 - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:08 AM

    I’m sorry, but Middlebrooks clearly did that on purpose. He kicked his feet up twice. However, was Craig even in the baseline. I don’t think he was, so how can you obstruct a runner who is not in the baseline?

    • bfunk1978 - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:10 AM

      Re: baseline — RTFA.

    • cohnjusack - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:13 AM

      Did you bother to read the post? He explains that.

  7. mtr75 - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:10 AM

    First of all, Middlebrooks clearly did that on purpose. He kicked his feet up twice to try and trip the runner. However, Craig was not in the baseline (and nor was Middlebrooks), so how can you obstruct a runner who isn’t in the baseline?

    • drewnichols81 - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:17 AM

      Hey dingle, the baseline is where the runner is., not the pretty white lines on the field. Slowly re-read the article

      • mtr75 - Nov 17, 2013 at 12:53 PM

        The baseline is where the runner is and not where the line is drawn on the field? You’re kidding, right? So how can a runner be called out for running out of the baseline? By your logic he could run out into center field and still be in the baseline.

  8. ezthinking - Oct 27, 2013 at 2:00 AM

    Just because there is that little button that says “reblog,” doesn’t mean you should do it.

  9. mustangmach - Oct 27, 2013 at 2:11 AM

    How is it obstruction when the Cardinals players pushes Middlebrooks down in the back? See Picture Above.

    • brazcubas - Oct 27, 2013 at 8:59 AM

      How can Craig push him down unless he was already in the way? Or are you arguing that Craig threw Middlebrooks down to obstruct his path?

  10. Carl Hancock - Oct 27, 2013 at 2:17 AM

    It’s amazing how many people are commenting on this post that very clearly didn’t read it. If they had read it, it clearly explains what happened, how it happened, and why the Umpires made the right call. Intentional or unintentional it was interference. But look at the video, Middlebrooks clearly raises his feet to trip up Craig as he tried to jump over Middlebrooks. It doesn’t matter why Middlebrooks was in the way and it doesn’t matter if Craig didn’t appear to be in the baseline to you, he was and if you read the entire post above it would all explained in detail. Just like the umpires got the call right in Game 1 by overturning the lay that Kozma botched, the umpires got this call right the first time. Don’t bitch as the umpires. Don’t bitch at anyone but the Red Sox players involved in that play or the Red Sox manager that should have removed Saltalmacchia earlier in the game to begin with. In short, the call was correct so quit you bitching,

    • nbjays - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:47 AM

      Not to nitpick, Carl, but it was obstruction, not interference. From the rule book definitions:

      INTERFERENCE

      (a) Offensive interference is an act by the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play. If the umpire declares the batter, batter runner, or a runner out for interference, all other runners shall return to the last base that was in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference, unless otherwise provided by these rules. In the event the batter runner has not reached first base, all runners shall return to the base last occupied at the time of the pitch.

      (b) Defensive interference is an act by a fielder which hinders or prevents a batter from hitting a pitch.

      (c) Umpire’s interference occurs (1) When an umpire hinders, impedes or prevents a catcher’s throw attempting to prevent a stolen base, or (2) When a fair ball touches an umpire on fair territory before passing a fielder.

      (d) Spectator interference occurs when a spectator reaches out of the stands, or goes on the playing field, and touches a live ball.

      On any interference the ball is dead.

      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. If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered “in the act of fielding a ball.” It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. 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.

  11. albundy2013 - Oct 27, 2013 at 2:18 AM

    Look closely at the play in slow-mo. Middlebrooks raised legs (second time) had nothing to do with him tripping. Even if raising the legs was intentional, and I’m not saying it was, had nothing to do with the play.
    Please watch it closely.

  12. sincitybonobo - Oct 27, 2013 at 2:39 AM

    The obstruction rule also comes into play on rundowns. A smart runner will intentionally try to run into a fielder who has just released the ball.

    Smart runners know to do this. Smart fielders are aware of this tactic.

    AJ Pierzynski has taken advantage of some green fielders who didn’t know the nuance of this rule.

  13. sincitybonobo - Oct 27, 2013 at 2:43 AM

    I’ve chatted with some MLB umpires and they continually say that a good percentage of players have a limited knowledge of the game’s rules. And broadcasters. In real time, even Schulman used the word “interference”. And he is about as good as it gets for play-by-play.

  14. jhop86 - Oct 27, 2013 at 2:54 AM

    1 as he slid to 3rd with will catching the ball he slides into. His legs so he climbs over him then runs home HOW DO YOU AVOID THAT it’s not like he grabbed his legs as he’s running

  15. sincitybonobo - Oct 27, 2013 at 3:42 AM

    Christ almghty… Even the MLB ticker uses the word “interference”. Unbelievable.

  16. munsonsgravity - Oct 27, 2013 at 4:05 AM

    Yeah that was a bad call, obviously. Another example of an ump wanting to be bigger than the game but Salty has to eat that ball.

  17. nadenl - Oct 27, 2013 at 4:05 AM

    I understand the rule but when the runner puts his hands of the fielder to assist his progress the obstruction should be waved.

  18. bayafan - Oct 27, 2013 at 4:43 AM

    I think some people are missing the point. Contact doesn’t have to be made for there to be an obstruction call.

  19. amoses74 - Oct 27, 2013 at 5:14 AM

    the only point that should be made is YOU DONT MAKE A CALL LIKE THAT TO DECIDE A WORLD SERIES GAME! its a ridiculous judgement call that you dont make….. not unlike the refs who dont call a foul on a last second shot with a game tied in a NBA championship series game. its bogus…… Cardinals fans would be crying the same thing if the call gave the win to the sox

    • nbjays - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:51 AM

      What a ridiculous comment. You make the call because it is the correct call.

      That’s like saying you don’t call ball four on a pitch that is obviously out of the strike zone to the 27th batter of a potential perfect game. You make the call based on the pitch or play that happens, not based on the circumstances or context.

  20. sfm073 - Oct 27, 2013 at 7:40 AM

    It’s a judgment call that everyone would make besides Red Sox fans. It’s a terrible way to lose, but if Craig doesn’t trip he’s safe by 10 feet and they lose anyway

  21. titansbro - Oct 27, 2013 at 7:40 AM

    Watch the video closely, he doesn’t even trip over his legs. He tripped over his butt. He sold that one. That, my friends, is what we call flopping. But hey, it worked. Cardinal way FTW!!

  22. titansbro - Oct 27, 2013 at 8:09 AM

    Looked to me like the middlebrooks is kicking his legs up to get them OUT if the base path. Then Craig chooses to run OUT of the base path into middlebrooks’ butt causing him to fall. If he’s laying in the base path then I would absolutely agree its obstruction. But when the runner goes out of the base path to create the collision then I just can’t see it. I mean the runner is on third base, then steps back in toward second & then runs toward home. Total flopping job. If you really watch the video the only contact that’s even made is his hands. His feet never get tripped up. They’ve been doing this in the NBA for 2 decades. It’s a flop plain & simple & the ump bought it.

    • nbjays - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:54 AM

      Another poster who obviously doesn’t know the difference between the “base path” and the “foul line”. The foul line is the white chalk line between third and home. The base path is the direct line between a runner who has just had a play attempted on them and the next base to which they are advancing.

  23. titansbro - Oct 27, 2013 at 8:24 AM

    This may be a boston biased site but I think the pics alone in this post are very telling. The post before this one is of Jim Joyce saying that Craig was “directly on the
    chalk.”

    http://boston.barstoolsports.com/m/around-barstool/this-play-will-not-define-this-series-but-i-hope-jim-joyce-can-live-with-himself/

    • forsch31 - Oct 27, 2013 at 12:41 PM

      The picture tells nothing. It creates an arrow for a direction Craig wasn’t headed in.

  24. righthereisay - Oct 27, 2013 at 8:30 AM

    I really have no clue why Red Sox fans would think that is a bad call. I hate the Cards (they beat my Buccos). But it was obvious when it happened. It wasn’t even debatable. Wasn’t even close. Obstruction all of the way.

    I understand it hurts to lose a game like that, but it is too obvious. I understand why they did it, and make no mistake the legs going up in the air was on purpose. I would have done the same thing, hoping it wouldn’t be called. They went up too high. Too obvious.

    Shouldn’t even be any controversy.

  25. mugsymagpie - Oct 27, 2013 at 8:33 AM

    I am a Red Sox fan. I accept the loss but I still think Umpire Joyce is too controversial and loves the spot light.

    • nbjays - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:57 AM

      You are confusing Joyce – one of the best, most consistent and most professional umps in the game – with Joe West, Bob Davison and Angel Hernandez – three of the most confrontational, egotistical and unprofessional umps in the game.

    • forsch31 - Oct 27, 2013 at 12:43 PM

      When Joyce screwed up the “imperfect game”, one of the things that came out of that was how Joyce is mostly known as one of the better umps in the game, and his reaction to blowing that call should have made that clear.

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