OT: World Series Game 3 ends with controversial call

Submitted by rob f on October 27th, 2013 at 2:53 AM

Seeming to have been lost in the shuffle of a long sports day dominated by College Football (with a sprinkling of Michigan Soccer and Michigan hockey mixed in), World Series Game 3 was played Saturday night.

I admittedly paid very little attention to it, somewhat due to being burned out on baseball due to yet another disappointing end to the season for the Tigers.  I only checked the score from time-to-time, finally tuning in during the 8th inning as the Red Sox tied it up with a 2-run rally 4-4, then paying close attention in the 9th.

What unfolded then is something I have never seen in any  MLB game, let alone a Post Season game: a walk-off obstruction call:


(hoping it embeds properly)

In a nutshell, for those who haven't seen it:  Cards, with one down in the bottom of the 9th, got a single by Molina.  Boston went to their closer, Koji Uehara, who immediately gave up a 1st pitch double to the next hitter.  Runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out, the Red Sox strangely chose to pitch to the next hitter rather than load up the bases via intentional walk to set up the force.

It looked, momentarily, like the move worked, as the next hitter, on a 1-strike pitch, grounded to 2nd to a pulled-in infield, Pedroia making a diving stop and springing to his feet, easily throwing out Molina at home.  Boston's catcher Saltalamaccia then fired off-line to the right side of 3rd, the ball bouncing off 3rd baseman Middlebrooks glove to the wall behind 3rd base (where it juts out), the ball then bouncing directly to the Red Sox left fielder, who fires home for what appears to be the double play.

Problem is, Sox 3B Middlebrooks got tangled with the runner, who in his clumsiness, tripped over Middlebrooks legs before trying to score.  Thrown out by a couple feet, but Jim Joyce (remember him?) immediately (and correctly, IMO) called "obstruction of the baserunner", which meant the runner advances, scoring the winning run.

What a weird finish...



October 27th, 2013 at 3:05 AM ^

Weird, but it does seem to me that Joyce made the right call this time. And if he hadn't made it, Cards would've been pissed that he didn't.

Strange, though, that he was the ump for two majorly controversial baseball calls in the past few years.


October 27th, 2013 at 9:08 AM ^

I really don't think this call is controversial at all.  It's only controversial for Red Sox fans.  By any objective measure, the call was spot on.  For anyone thinking the runner tripped on purpose, do note he turns around and moves forward, so he didn't run into the 3rd baseman intentionally, in my view.


October 27th, 2013 at 6:18 PM ^

At other levels of baseball, the umpire would give a delayed dead ball signal, which is an outstretched arm with a fist. Obstruction is a form of interference by the defense whether intentional or not, and the umpire making the call has the jurisdiction and authority to determine which base the runner is entitled to. In this case because the obstructiion occurred on the runners attempt to reach home, he is awarded that base. 

There was, in my opinion, no obstruction on the collision involving base runner and fielder on the throw back from the catcher. It only occurred when the third baseman lifted his legs, whether intentionally or not, in an effort to block or delay the base runner's advance, and that is why the interference was called. 

I suspect this play will be thoroughly reviewed and explained by the umire crew and perhaps Joyce himself, but the umpires got it right, both in the way they managed the bang-bang play and coordinated the call. Joyce did not use a conventional signal that is used at the high school and college level for such calls. Instead, he pointed to the base or fielder and apparently yelled that's obstruction. 

It would be the same methodology in calling a balk, which is also a delayed dead ball. You never punish the offense for a play not made by the defense based on interference, so no call is made until the playing action ends, which is why the home plate umpire while seemingly signaling safe then immediately pointed to Joyce who confirmed the obstruction call. Interference does not have to be intentional, it is simply an act judged to be in violation of the rules. 


October 27th, 2013 at 6:57 PM ^

this: the baserunner must still legally touch the base he is advancing to. Just because he is awarded the base doesn't mean his obligation to legally touch is ended. 

So, here's the thing. It doesn't appear that the base runner touched home. And the plate umpire is not even looking to see whether he touched, even though he gives a preliminary safe call because he is already seeing the obstruction indication from Joyce. 

If you look closely, it doesn't appear the base runner touches home. Now, maybe I'm wrong, and he does. But if the Red Sox wanted to challenge what happened, they could have appealed whether the runner touched one or all the bases. That appeal applies no matter whether a ball is dead or not, because the runner is obligated to legally touch all the bases, and you can't go back and touch a base after the ball is dead. And it's the umpire's job to make sure that happens. 

Did the runner touch home and did the Red Sox mess up by not seeking an appeal of the touch at home? You can be the judge of that. It doesn't look like the plate umpire waits to see if the touch is made before pointing to Joyce for confirmation on the obstruction call. 

Now the runner may have simply gotten up and stood on home and then that would suffice as touching, if the umpire chose to see it that way. But this is one thing that replay could be used for in baseball. Not the obstruction, but the legal touch or not, based on an appeal. Just a further thought on the matter. 

Mabel Pines

October 27th, 2013 at 7:17 PM ^

first, there was a ridiculous out called at second when the guy was no where near the bag.  I vaguely remember some others, but cannot recall exactly what they were.  Also, I may not have paid that close attention and there may be no others.  It could just be that one super annoyed me...   Either way, who cares about the WS!  Beat the Spartans!  amirite??

Stephen Y

October 27th, 2013 at 5:06 AM ^

Here's the thing... The umpire can be seen calling the obstruction call immediately. It's not like he waited to see what would happen a few seconds later at home plate. No controversy here. F you Boston.


October 27th, 2013 at 9:34 AM ^

Maybe there is nothing that Middlebrooks can do. But Saltalamacchia could have made a good throw. Middlebrooks' teammate put him in a bad spot, and caused him to obstruct the runner. The runner was caused to stumble by the defensive player. You cant penalize the offense for the catcher's poor throw.

Joyce made absolutely the correct call, and the rule as written is fair toward the offensive team and does not unjustly penalize the defensive team.


October 27th, 2013 at 9:34 AM ^

Maybe there is nothing that Middlebrooks can do. But Saltalamacchia could have made a good throw. Middlebrooks' teammate put him in a bad spot, and caused him to obstruct the runner. The runner was caused to stumble by the defensive player. You cant penalize the offense for the catcher's poor throw.

Joyce made absolutely the correct call, and the rule as written is fair toward the offensive team and does not unjustly penalize the defensive team.

Brown Bear

October 27th, 2013 at 7:46 AM ^

My only issue is that the runner didn't have to run over him. He ran towards Middlebrooks who was on the other side of the bag not directly in the base path. But by the rule it was correct call.


October 27th, 2013 at 9:04 AM ^

The base path is wherever the runner is bc he establishes his own path.

When a br rums to any base his route determines his "line" and if there is a play made on him, he must maintain that "route". He could run all the way to the warning track if he establishes it before a play is made on him. If he were at the track, he would have to then go directly to either base.


October 27th, 2013 at 11:46 AM ^

I'm curious since I've done this* several times and umpires understand the rule and have never called out our runners. It's completely within the stated rules.

*Had my players take their lead into shallow right field on 1st and 3rd situations and watch the fun begin. All that matters at that point is to go directly back to 1st or 2nd.


October 27th, 2013 at 11:36 AM ^

My bad, that was  typo - you're right the base path is the direct line from the runner to the bag he he trying to reach.  The 3-ft rule does exist on attempted tags, still, and it is three feet in either direction from the line created by the base runner.

Brown Bear

October 27th, 2013 at 9:52 AM ^

I'm not arguing he was out of the basepath. I'm saying that he didn't have to run that way and rarely does the runner ever run that path on the inside edge towards the infield. I understand the basepath rule but it seems as if he took an odd path as opposed it most runners.

eamus_caeruli (not verified)

October 27th, 2013 at 10:44 AM ^

Base runner creates the base path. The 3ft rule doesn't exist anymore.

Regardless, unfortunately for the Sauxs this was the correct call, though ill timed and probably doesn't get called during the regular season.


October 27th, 2013 at 11:54 AM ^

I do wish Joyce would have made mention of the BR going inside like that. He said he was on the chalk when he clearly wasn't (which I know isn't the issue). Middlebrooks looks like he knows where he is and lifts his legs to clear the path for Craig to go home. It appears Middlebrooks assumes Craig has slid and popped up on the other side or closer to foul side of bag and wants to avoid contact.

BR is entitled to a clear path but it was interesting to see Craig almost intentionally get contact. Be fun to ask Craig if he was just trying to get home or if he was going for contact. His reaction at home after being tagged out indicates he was just clumsy.


October 27th, 2013 at 11:58 AM ^

Obviously tongue in cheek but I seriously doubt Craig was trying to initate contact considering every baseball player scores unimpeded on that play. He's already playing hurt, and it looked like he reaggravated his foot injury on the slide into 3rd or home.


October 27th, 2013 at 8:07 AM ^

First, I think this is the correct call by letter of the rule being cited. Here is the actual rule, courtesy of ABC - LINK. There are a couple being invoked actually, but the key one:

"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: 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."


October 27th, 2013 at 1:46 PM ^

Whoever "initiates the contact" doesn't matter. The fielder was in between the runner and home plate, thus impeding the baserunner. The 'base path' is misleading because it's from where the runner was after sliding into third to home plate. When a player rounds first to stretch a single into a double, he's usually about 5 feet out of the 'base path' - this defines a new shortest-distance path to the next base. This play was wonky because he slid into third and was on the field side of third rather than the stands side, but the concept is the same.

Va Azul

October 27th, 2013 at 9:05 AM ^

Upvote for actually referencing the rule book. This call is not controversial. It is a fairly routine call that just happened to be at the end of an important game. Also the base path isnt the foul line. It is set by baserunner (Rule 7.08 e.g) And even though it has no bearing, it was most likely intentional. You dont try to get up by moving your feet away from the ground.


October 27th, 2013 at 9:15 AM ^

I have no horse in this race, correct call.  I laugh at some of the articles that say Joyce finds redemption in making this call.  Sorry, doesn't make up for the absolute flub he made.


October 27th, 2013 at 9:31 AM ^

This is a prime example as to why there is Sox hate.  Between the horrifying amount of bandwagon fans and the Boston fan arrogance, you guys don't really give people much to get behind.  Which is a shame because the Red Sox are a hard playing team that should be fun to watch, but.........it's not because the joy of Boston fans too often turns to the pain of the rest of the world, kind of like SEC football.