Interference

Major League Baseball Rule Book 7.09 (g):

If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner

And from section 7.08(b):

Any runner is out when_He intentionally interferes with a thrown ball; or hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball; A runner who is adjudged to have hindered a fielder who is attempting to make a play on a batted ball is out whether it was intentional or not. If, however, the runner has contact with a legally occupied base when he hinders the fielder, he shall not be called out unless, in the umpire’s judgment, such hindrance, whether it occurs on fair or foul territory, is intentional. If the umpire declares the hindrance intentional, the following penalty shall apply: With less than two out, the umpire shall declare both the runner and batter out.

In last night’s game against the Royals, the umpires followed the letter of the rulebook and called the play accordingly. The rules make no provision for whether or not there would be a play at first base. It’s pretty cut and dry, no wiggle room at all. It appeared that Guillen intentionally tried to break up the double play. However, players intentionally try to break up double plays all the time by barreling into second base. If you are going to hold to the letter of the rule book, shouldn’t all these cases be automatic double plays? Then again, shouldn’t a letter high fastball down the middle be a strike?

So why isn’t this play called on at least half the the ground ball double plays? Because often times it ends up being inconsequential. Either the runner at first ends up being out easily, or there isn’t really a play on the runner at first in the first place. Essentially, the umpire uses judgement to determine if the interference will have an impact on the end result, and this is what happened last night

So now let’s apply this to last nights game:
1. Did Guillen attempt to interfere with the double play? Yes
2. Did Guillen actually interfere, or hinder Relaford’s ability to throw to first? It didn’t look like it
3. Would Pudge have been out if Guillen hadn’t attempted to interfere with the throw? No. Relaford was even quoted as saying so.

Now being a Tiger fan, I’m certainly biased. I wanted the win, and the loss left a sour taste. I’ll just be curious the next time a player makes a hard slide into second, with the intent of breaking up the double play, so see if the batter is called out.

3 Comments

  1. Jason R.

    May 26, 2004 at 11:01 am

    Its a judgement call. Guillen was in the baseline but he did not slide – there is a clear rule regarding the former, but I cannot find a rule regarding the latter.

    The umpire judged him to be intentionally interfering, and that’s the way it goes, I guess. But I think the ump would have cut him some slack had he slid.

  2. dan

    May 26, 2004 at 2:35 pm

    Probably a good call,but should it have been called with the game on the line?

  3. Jeff M

    May 26, 2004 at 7:52 pm

    I have no problem with umps making that call, but you can’t make that call once a year and expect anyone to like you. Either call it every time or just forget it’s even in the book unless it’s flagrant.

    Consistency people… Is that so much to ask??