Obstruction! Or is it?

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Let’s start this with a little disclaimer where I tell you that the Cubs are not a very good team and would probably have lost anyway.  It should also be noted that umpire fails can often affect both teams in such a way that it all equalizes in the end.  So when I saw this play I was a bit shocked that the umpires called it the way they did.  Now as a Cubs fan I may be a bit biased for our guys, but I just had to look at the replay a few extra times just to make sure I didn’t miss something.

Some folks have argued vehemently that this should not have been ruled an out.  I decided to look up the obstruction rule.  Unfortunately it’s very open to interpretation and nowhere in there does it say that a fielder can’t dive at a player in order to make a tag, but I figured it was fairly obvious that you can’t exactly sit on a guy and knock him off the base.  David DeJesus didn’t really help his case even though he was busting out of the box, and when he saw that Dayan Viciedo had cut off the ball in the gap he probably should have stopped, but aggressive baserunning has been the name of the game this Cubs season so I guess we should applaud the hustle if not the ill-advised gamble.  The throw was off-line and the tag attempt by Gordon Beckham basically turned him into a DeJesus-seeking missile which led to Dale Sveum getting ejected, and he might have had a point there.

This is to take nothing away from Viciedo, who made a great cutoff and got it to Beckham who also made an excellent effort to apply the tag.  At this point it doesn’t matter because the umpire’s call stood, and the Cubs probably were unlikely to score that run anyway because Tony Campana was coming up (sorry guys and gals, an RBI threat he is not and if he does it’s usually just a pleasant surprise), but I just had to look at it frame by frame to decide for myself.

I suppose Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone had a point because DeJesus’ late slide necessitated a stronger effort from Beckham, but they’re pulling for their guys.  And again, I might be a bit biased since I’m a Cubs fan.  So let’s check out the pictures.

Okay, the umpire has a good vantage point. DeJesus is safe here and the tag hasn't been applied.

A fraction of a second later…

His foot's still on the bag but Beckham is leaning into DeJesus right now.
The ump called him out a few moments later, but I don't see how the rules allow a fielder to bodyslam a baserunner.

How about a different angle?

Safe here.
Still safe...foot's on the bag, hand is getting in as a backup.
His hand's still in there, but apparently it's okay in bizarro world to flop on the baserunner and knock his hand off the bag.

I’m not an expert, and I could be totally wrong here, but while the official rules don’t explicitly talk about this situation, this seems like obstruction by the fielder.  It cannot be interference by DeJesus because he was never in the direct path of the thrown ball and did not hinder Beckham’s fielding of the ball.

It might not have ultimately mattered, but if he was called safe (as I believed he should be) then that’s an extra out the Cubs could have used.  They might have still done Cub things to strand DeJesus at second base.  To make it clear, I’m more upset with the terrible call than I am lamenting a missed opportunity.  Maybe some of you who know the rules better than I can elaborate on whether obstruction should have been called.  DeJesus obviously wasn’t going to go past second base so an extra base would not have been awarded, but I firmly believe that he should not have been called out.  I guess the ambiguity is in whether this truly falls under “obstruction” as DeJesus was not obstructed from taking second base and did get in safely; he was just knocked off the base.

What say ye, rules hounds?

About Rice Cube

Rice Cube is the executive vice president of snark at World Series Dreaming. He loves all things Cubs, with notable exceptions (specifically, the part of Cubs fandom that pisses him off). Follow on Twitter at cubicsnarkonia

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