This World Series is fixing to be a good one as I had hoped when I previewed the championship round (kinda poorly, but I figured others could do better and I just wanted to see good games). It seems, however, that the games are good not so much because of sound fundamental baseball (though there’s been a good amount of that, too) but because of the weird plays that have happened over the first three games.
Take tonight’s Game Three, for example. I’ll let you peruse the recaps of the rule “controversy” in question here and here. I also had a fun conversation with Craig Goldstein when trying to dissect the rule after the fact, but our general consensus was that obstruction should have been called and that the rule was applied correctly. Thanks to Craig for helping me with some of the confusing details as well.
Even before I started Googling Rule 7 in the MLB rulebook, watching the play live, I thought it would end when Dustin Pedroia got Yadier Molina at home on a fielder’s choice out. But Jarrod Saltalamacchia decided to try to throw out Allen Craig. Even on a gimpy leg, Craig seemed like he would’ve been safe at third no matter what. The problem was that Salty’s throw, which was already ill-advised since Yadier Molina made the second out, could not be controlled by Will Middlebrooks. As it sailed into foul territory, I realized that Allen Craig could score easily (whether that’s true or not, we’ll never know, but it seemed that way to me). However, Craig tripped over Middlebrooks, and even without seeing the 3B ump signal it, I automatically thought “obstruction” because in my mind Craig would have scored easily even though he only had one leg.
After a couple hours of Twitter wars and reading rules (including Rule 2, which defines obstruction pretty clearly), I decided that my original instinct of calling “obstruction” was correct. Will Middlebrooks’ “intent” does not factor in at that point, and Allen Craig was within what should be the “baseline” as established when he tried to advance to home (see Rule 7.08(a)). Wendy Thurm on Twitter was watching the postgame with Joe Torre and also stated that the home plate umpire (whose strike zone sucked, btw) had to signal safe when he determined, in his judgment, that Craig should have been safe even without the obstruction.
Re: the baseline, that was my biggest confusion. People were using that as the main stick against the obstruction call. However, Craig is well within three feet of the base according to the video and various pictures I’ve seen. The rule is crystal clear per Rule 2 which I linked to above.
Ultimately, Salty shouldn’t have made the throw, Middlebrooks should’ve caught the damned ball, and the umpires called the play correctly. The Red Sox had been trying to give the Cardinals free runs all night and it finally bit them in the ass.