Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Right Result for the Wrong Reason

Matt Holliday should have been ruled safe at home plate last night. He was obstructed by Padres catcher Michael Barrett. Directly from the rule book...

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.

Now watch this video. The relevant clip starts almost half way through, with about 1:07 to go.

Michael Barrett was obstructing on two different counts.
  1. He clearly kicks his leg out to impede Holliday at the last moment, not to establish fielding position. This was not a situation in which Barrett "must occupy his position to receive the ball." (Bold letters are mine)
  2. "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." Barrett dropped the ball before Holliday slid into his shin guard. If he is no longer fielding the ball, he has no right to "impede the progress of the runner".

Of course, nobody ever enforces these rules. They are so completely ignored that nobody even mentioned obstruction, amidst all of the hysteria about the need for instant replay in baseball. In an ironic twist, this may actually be a case in which replay would have led to a greater injustice. The Rockies rightfully won the game; Holliday didn't need to touch home.

(I don't ask for much. But I'd appreciate a few "Nicely done, Tremont"s in the comment section for the work I've done in this post. I am completely right and apparently the only person on the planet whose considered it.)

Sweet, we've been Big Lead-ed and Dead Spun. If you're not a queer, you'll read rest of our blog here.

45 comments:

POD said...

Nicely done, Tremont. Always wondered about those rules.

Jack Cobra said...

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.”

Is that not exactly what Barrett was doing? This is not obstruction. Obstruction is when a runner runs into the third baseman who is just standing there while trying to round third. You have to use some common sense here.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jack here. You are misapplying the rule in the situation. The catcher and any fielder has the right to block the bag when receiving a thrown ball as the runner also has the right to slide in and plow that person over.

But I do give you credit for actually looking the rule up.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to ignore all your points and evidence and believe what I want like the two guys above me. Why let little things like facts and actual events get in the way?

Also, Kendynamo mentioned this in comments at thebiglead.com.

http://thebiglead.com/?p=3296#more-3296

Search for blocked. If you are him then I apologize, either way you both are likely correct.

Anonymous said...

There is absolutely no way this could be considered obstruction. In fact, outside of not catching the ball, this was textbook on Barrett's part. It's a wonder why infielders haven't taken a page from catchers and done the same around the bases.

Bobby Snyder said...

Nicely done, Tremont. I agree completely with your first count of Barrett's obstruction but not so much with the second count.

larry b said...

boo hoo! i'm a padres fan, so i think you're wrong. because... because... he WAS fielding the ball! and this one time in little league i blocked the plate and got away with it. so you're wrong!

Nationalcoholic said...

Tremont is right... blocking the plate is against the rules, but it's considered part of the game, just like phantom tags on double plays and sliding to take out the fielder to break them up.

Scotty said...

Nicely done, Tremont. My friends and I had that theory, but we didn't think anyone would believe us.

Holliday for MVP!

Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity, what would you make of the '04 ALCS when A-Rod slapped the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's hand? Arroyo had already fielded the ball and, therefore, had no business impeding the basepath. Should A-rod have been safe on obstruction?

BigRicks said...

I heard this on the Sportsbash with John Seibel (sp?) yesterday afternoon on ESPN radio.

Stephen said...

To answer the above comment, you can block a base if you have the ball. Arroyo had the ball, so he was not obstructing A-Rod

Jack Cobra said...

It's not 'blocking a base', it's 'fielding your position' when you tag a runner in the baseline.

Flax said...

I agree with you that obstruction is basically never called but here I really don't think it was appropriate. Barrett did not impede Holliday's line until after the ball reached him, which based on my (and clearly many others') interpretation of the rule is perfectly legal. (And no, I'm not a Padres fan. In fact I'm glad the Rockies won. But I don't think the rule applies here.)

Lloyd Christmas said...

Some of you guys are missing the point, yes he was fielding the ball, but the path of the ball did not mean he had to be where he was, i.e. he could have caught the ball without obstructing the plate.

Jack Cobra said...

I just rewatched the video, because I have it posted on his site and I believe now, more than ever that this was not obstruction. Watch the play in real-time and you'll see that Barrett was in front of the plate and as the ball was reachin him he moved his left foot to block the plate as he began swiping to tag the runner. It's all one motion at that speed and the fact that the ball wasn't in his glove doesn't matter at that point. The ball and runner reached the plate at almost the same time and Barrett was doing exactly what baseball players do.

It would be 'obstruction' if Barrett had been blocking the plate without the ball in site or if Holliday would have slid in way before the ball got there....but again, that is not the case.

This is not that hard to figure out, or to see. I guess it just goes to show you that people can have different opinions on everything.

Anonymous said...

please. this is a play that happens every day in the majors, and i have never seen it be called obstruction, even though technically it should. the only people that would think to argue this are rockies fans or umpire fans. rockies fans should be celebrating, not trying to defend an umpire's call. doesn't matter how you get in.

(go rockies)

The President of Twelvepackistan said...

Rules or not, baseball is a game of tradition, so (as mentioned) runners are called out at second when the shortstop comes anywhere near the bag when turning a double play. Likewise, rules or not, catchers may obstruct the runner during a play at the plate.

It's interesting to note that MLB has cracked down on this a bit. In the 80's catchers started drifting down the 3rd base line, interfering with runners as they approached the plate. MLB instructed the umpires to start calling that, which they did, thus ending that practice. You can look at that directive as asserting that the common practice of blocking the plate is acceptably within the bounds of the rule as written.

Anyway, that having been said, I think it is possible that Holliday barely grazed the black part of the plate, and you have to admit, the ump had the best possible view of anyone watching, so I'm comfortable with his call being final. (And I was pulling for the Rox to win, so it certainly didn't cost me any sleep.)

Anonymous said...

I don't think you can cite both your reasons for obstruction. He either obstructing as Holliday got to the plate (i.e. the ball wasn't there yet) or he was obstructing because he dropped the ball before Holliday got there, thus no longer fielding the ball.

As it were, I think the second version is correct. Sure it may never be called, but how often could/would it be? Usually if the catcher can't get the ball it's either because it skidded so far away to not matter or he was run over. Either way the guy is safe. Usually when there is a question of did the runner touch the base it is when he slides around a catcher.

In my opinion, if the catcher blocks the plate but fails to field the ball, the runner should be safe on obstruction.

WilsonDeGreat said...

Got to agree. Stop patting yourself on the back, Tremont. If you intrepret the baseball rules this way, you are the only one on the planet who does so. That doesn't mean you're right. Catches do what Michael Barrett did every day, and Matt Holliday didn't touch the plate. But Vinny Testeverde never scored that touchdown, and the Tennessee Titans "Music City Miracle" was a forward pass. . .but no one remembers these little details. Just enjoy it.

gjdodger said...

I'm sorry. You are far from the first.
http://wc4.worldcrossing.com/webx/.1de4fe9b/128

Bob said...

I think what people may also be missing is this:

Barrett didn't _need_ to be so far back because Giles' throw to the plate is right to home plate... it wasn't off. Giles made a good throw in attemtping to get the out.

And if Barrett had been a couple steps forward, he likely would have had a better chance to get the ball into his glove. Putting your glove low and trying to scoop the ball in is not the way to field the ball unless the throw is low.

What we probably really need to see is video of Barrett's movement after Carroll hit the ball and how Barrett positioned himself as he waited for the ball. If it's out there, then let's see it.

creasy bear said...

well done. i think your interpretation is correct, yet, as many have pointed out, not commonly interpreted in that way in the game today. nevertheless, as mentioned within that rule, the umpire's judgment comes into play, so if he called him safe, then he's safe. unless...
why didn't any padres argue the call? not that i care particularly but maybe the umpires would've conferenced, and maybe the 3rd base umpire would've said he was 100% certain he missed the plate? we'll never know

Tremont said...

It was absolutely obstruction on both counts.

1) Barrett was not in the baseline in order to feel the ball. He put himself in an awkward fielding position, simply to block Holliday. You simply can not make the case that he "must (have) occup(ied) the position to receive the ball".

2) I think it was pretty clear that Barrett dropped the ball before Holliday slid into him. As such, the rules CLEARLY state that he may not impede the runner.

Jack Cobra, because it was not as egregious as the example you cited, doesn't mean that it's not obstruction. Umpires are paid extremely well to make the TOUGH calls.

Anonymous, Bronson Arroyo had the ball in that situation and as such could have masturbated in baseline if he so desired.

Other Anonymous, you got me. I am an unabashed ump-loving, Rockies fan. It feels like mommy and daddy are fighting every time Clint Hurdle argues a call.

I'm sure others made the some point, somewhere. I didn't LITERALLY think that I was the ONLY person to consider this theory. GJ Dodger, you're right. I really should have checked the Detroit Tigers Forum on wc4.worldcrossing.com, before shooting my mouth off. I don't know how my staff of 370 thousand internet researchers and I missed that one. Bigricks, I have never heard of this John Seibels character, but I'll take your word that he exists and said something similar to what I wrote.

To those that think I shouldn't be so proud of myself, if I don't love me, I can't expect anyone else to do so.

Anonymous said...

If I can give my two cents:

I don't think you can interpret "so he must occupy his position" to the letter. Theoretically, Barrett could have stepped 10 feet out towards right field and been able to catch the ball just as easily as at the plate. By this thinking, there was no single position that he "must" have occupied in order to receive the throw. He could have caught it almost anywhere along the line of the throw, so I don't think there was anything wrong with his positioning.

As for the other argument, the ball had been out of Barrett's glove for a fraction of a second before the contact was made with Holliday. As can be seen quite clearly in the video, the ball hadn't even touched the ground yet when Holliday's hand hits Barrett's foot. In my opinion, Barrett is still in the act of fielding the ball at this moment. His sticking his foot out and turning towards the runner is part of the process of catching a throw and attempting to tag the runner, whether the ball squirts out of his glove or not.

Whether Holliday got the plate or not is another story...

Feel free to disagree, but as an unbiased observer, that's how I saw it.

Tremont said...

Second Anonymous, the Big Lead linked me.

Most recent Anonymous, I too am unbiased. I am a Yankees fan. My only interest is that the right team won the game.

Anonymous said...

First, I'm a Padre fan, living in San Diego. Barrett blocked the plate, legally, as is his right when in the act of catching the ball. And Holliday never touched the plate, during one of the worst slides I can remember. But, honestly, the game should've been over many innings ago. The Rockies were robbed of that home run, which appeared to clear the yellow-topped pad and hit something on the fan's side of the fence, before bouncing back into the field of play. The Rockies should have won this game in regulation. (and MAN, do we miss Mike Cameron!)
Mark in San Diego

Anonymous said...

He was clearly in the act of fielding the ball, which means it wasn't obstruction. There's nothing in the rule that says he must avoid obstructing the runner if possible.

Most importantly, when there's doubt remaining on how to apply a rule we look at precedent to see how it was interpreted in the past. The precedent is loud and clear, Barrett's play was legal.

Djmmm46 said...

Bill James actually harped on this years ago in one of the abstracts. Basically everyone is right on this. The block on this play was "textbook" in so far as that is how catcher's have been taught to play the position for generations now.

However, the rules, as they are written, do not allow catchers to block the plate. I think James expounds on this a lot more eloquently and detailed than I could, but basically when the men who wrote that rule (eons ago)would have thought it ridiculous to allow the catcher to block the plate like we see in today's game on a regular basis.

Jeff said...

The last comment is correct. This has been one of many windmills tilted at by Rob Neyer over the years. The rule was specifically intended to prevent players blocking a runner's access to a bag. The rule is not followed, at all, by MLB. I've watched the replay many times, and Barrett (just like every other catcher would in the universe) specifically intended to impede access to the plate to give him time to get the ball.

The obstruction call would never, ever occur in this situation because the rule has been amended by practice, essentially. I just find it interesting that so many people on here, after reading the rule, would come to the conclusion that Barrett somehow didn't break the letter of the law. The best is the poster who can't even see how you could make a claim that the rule was broken.

Dave Hogg said...

I am completely right and apparently the only person on the planet whose considered it.

Well, I posted the same thing on SportsJournalists.com, including the relevant quotation from the rule book about catchers, about 30 seconds after the game ended.

So maybe you aren't the only one.

Once Barrett misplayed the throw, it was obstruction. You can argue that he had to be there to field the ball, but as soon as he didn't field it, he lost his right to block Holliday.

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Anonymous said...

Yes Matt Holliday probably never touched the plate, but there was never a tag either. Barrett dropped the ball and Matt Holliday slid through home plate. This technically becomes an appeal play even though Holliday never touched the plate. And I am pretty sure that neither Barrett nor the coach appealed this play. They simply gave up. If Barret had picked up the ball and either tagged Holliday or stepped on home plate to appeal, Holliday would have been called out.

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