The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Boston Red Sox to take a 2-1 World Series lead in bizarre fashion last night.
In the bottom of the ninth with the score tied 4-4, Cardinals base runner Allen Craig tripped and fell over Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks as he was going from third to home to score the winning run. Middlebrooks was prone on the ground after diving for an errant throw from the catcher, and Craig simply toppled over him.
As a result, the throw beat Craig at the plate. But the umpire ruled him safe, calling “obstruction” on Middlebrooks for impeding his progress — which automatically awarded Craig home plate.
The Cardinals won 5-4.
After the game a lot of people were baffled by the call. Middlebrooks clearly didn’t intend to trip Craig. He was just lying there.
But under the obstruction rule, intent doesn’t matter at all. When you take a look at the rule itself, you see that the umpires made the correct call last night.
The definition from the MLB rule book:
OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.
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: If 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.
So yeah, the rule book basically uses what Middlebrooks did as an example of obstruction.
Intent doesn’t matter, strictly speaking. Neither does whether or not Craig should have avoided Middlebrooks’ body.
Like all things in baseball, obstruction is a judgement call. The rule book says it should only be used in “very flagrant and violent cases” in which the runner has the right of way and his progress is impeded.
But if we’re going by the book, the umpires clearly made the correct call in Game 3.
Here’s the full sequence:
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.