- In the first inning of the Boston Red Sox – Houston Astros ALCS Game 4 matchup, Boston center fielder and AL MVP favourite Mookie Betts attempted to rob Houston’s Jose Altuve of a home run to the right-field wall.
- Although Betts didn’t come away with the catch, umpire Joe West called Altuve out due to fan interference.
- After a review that took over three minutes, the umpires ruled that the call on the field stood because they had no conclusive evidence to overturn it.
- A Minute Maid Park security guard’s interest in the play may have led to the call being upheld.
With the Houston Astros trailing 2-0 in the first inning of their Game 4 ALCS matchup with the Boston Red Sox, Astros designated hitter and last season’s AL MVP launched a shot into the right-field stands to tie the game.
Or so he thought.
Red Sox center fielder Mookie Betts leaped above the wall and reached with his glove in an attempt to rob Altuve of the home run. Upon review, it appeared as though Betts had a shot to come away with the catch if not for a fan’s outstretched hand. Much to the dismay of fans in Houston, umpire Joe West called Altuve out due to fan interference.
Even after a review that took more than three minutes, the umpires upheld the controversial call because there was no conclusive evidence to overturn the play. That likely means that, had West made his initial call in the other direction, it also would have been upheld due to lack of conclusive evidence.
Like nearly everyone else in Minute Maid Park, Astros manager A.J. Hinch was unhappy with the decision and lamented the lack of a camera in line with the wall:
“We started the day with do we have too many cameras in the park,” Hinch told Boston.com’s Mark Dunphy. “I wish we had an angle that was perfectly along the fence line that would show. That’s the one camera we don’t have.”
It turns out he was wrong. Minute Maid Park does have a camera that captures the portion of the right-field wall where Betts leaped up for the play, but a security guard who wanted to see the play obstructed the shot:
Screen shot from TBS of why they likely didn’t have a “definitive” look at Betts glove in the crowd pic.twitter.com/HZKuqMRhSW
— Mike Ferrin (@Mike_Ferrin) October 18, 2018
Had the security guard leaned back, umpires may have been able to determine whether or not the fan – since identified as Troy Caldwell – officially interfered with the play. There’s little doubt that Caldwell’s hand forced Betts’ glove to close before he could snag the ball, but whether the contact occurred in front of the wall or behind it is still up for debate.
According to MLB Rule 3.16, “No interference shall be allowed when a fielder reaches over a fence, railing, rope or into a stand to catch a ball. He does so at his own risk. However, should a spectator reach out on the playing field side of such fence, railing or rope, and plainly prevent the fielder from catching the ball, then the batsman should be called out for the spectator’s interference.”
Essentially, where the ball was at the point of contact makes all of the difference, and Caldwell is adamant that he was on the right side of the play.
“I didn’t reach over the wall,” Caldwell told Matt Young at The Houston Chronicle. “I was on this side of the line. I don’t understand what happened. I know the rules, and I didn’t reach over the line… I think you know what I think of Joe West right about now.”