Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Obstruction or Interference?

Created an article on obstruction and interference on The Full Windup.   Great resource, by the way, for baseball players of any age looking for tips on improving their hitting and pitching mechanics, strength and conditioning program and their mental game.  Please take some time to check it out.

Anyhow, as I re-read what was posted a few miscellaneous thoughts came to mind:
 I start the article by discussing the basic difference between obstruction and interference and observe that a lot of times when coaches yell out "INTERFERENCE", they should really be yelling out "OBSTRUCTION".  Well, I don't know how to put this, but what I posted there is just flat out wrong!
What coaches really should be yelling out, is, well... nothing!  Can you imagine what would happen if in the middle of a play umpires yelled at coaches or players "Hey, you should tell your batter to bunt!", or "round 3rd base, the outfielder has weak arm!!", or "don't worry about the lead runner, hit your cutoff man to make sure the batter doesn't get into scoring position!".   At the very least we'd get some strange looks.  More likely we'd never be asked to officiate for that team/school/league again.  Yet, it's an accepted and even expected part of the game for Coaches to tell Umpires what they should be calling (sometimes I wonder why I stopped Coaching to become an Umpire)  But I digress.  There is already enough confusion regarding interference and obstruction calls and live balls vs dead balls, so the last thing you want to do is yell something out which may confuse your own player.  He may hear you yell "OBSTRUCTION!" (or more likely "INTERFERENCE!") and stop running and end up being called out, even if the umpire also calls it.

Also, in the article I ask that Coaches at the very least remember the difference between obstruction and interference.  Well, in retrospect that may be too much to ask.  As can be seen in this video, even MLB announcers gets this wrong.  He keeps referring to the interference on the shortstop.  To his credit, eventually he corrects himself and says "actually, obstructed".  But the title of this video clip (which is a great example on a type "B" obstruction call where a runner is out on a close play, and the umpire calls time and awards him the base), is titled.... that's right "Desmond's interference call" (!)  (thanks to Stephen for sending me this link).

Here is another video which shows a great example of offensive interference (thanks again, Stephen), and the 1st announcer keeps repeating over and over that the runner is out because of obstruction.  At least, MLB.com gets it right this time, and refers to it as interference.   The announcer keeps messing up the explanation, speculating that the argument on the field is about whether or not the lead runner crossed the plate prior to the interference.  This is irrelevant.  If the interference occurs before the batter reaches 1st base, all runners need to return to the base they were on at the time of pitch.  (I neglected to include this point, which is covered in the definition of the term, in the article).  And it appears that San Diego played the game under protest.  Not sure what they could protest since this is a judgement call anyways, unless they did not know the rule existed at all and were protesting the application of the rule.  The 2nd half of the video shows the play from the prespective of San Diego's broadcast "Aw, c'mon that's not interference".  I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, and file that under home team bias, because it was pretty much a textbook example of interference.  The runner did try to avoid the fielder, and nothing he did was intentional, but he still impeded the fielder's ability to make a play.  What about the argument that the batter would have been safe at first base, even if no interference had occurred?  IRRELEVANT.  The rule just says that a runner is out if he "hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball".  It doesn't go on to say, "unless, of course, the fielder had absolutely no chance at all on making any play on any runner".   You can argue that the rule should say that, but it doesn't, and an Umpire's job is to uphold the rules, not judge on the fairness of their applicability.

I'm done my rant for today.  How much longer until pitchers and catchers report?  Can't wait!


  1. And now that games have started, right away we see more examples of MLB announcers not understanding the obstruction rule. See my rant on this blog post: http://rulebookguru.blogspot.com/2011/02/broadcasters-need-spring-training-too.html

  2. OK, kind of an odd case, but curious at to what your opinion of the incident would be. 13U runners, 2b and 3b, 2 outs. Ground ball to SS, FIELDS the ball cleanly just behind the baseline, attempts to reach out to approaching runner for tag, runner jumps back momentarily to avoid the tag, which he does, but as his momentum continue forward he runs into the side of the fielder, neither of them being knocked down. The fielder then makes a failed attempt to get the out at first. Umpire calls everyone safe. Opposing coach, calls his players off the field first stating there was a tag, after that was discredited, than he said then at the very least the out should still stands due to interference. All runners remained on bases, umpires conferred and called the runner who made contact with the SS out. Is that accurate??? Personally I feel there should have been no call on the runner as the attempt was being made on him, the fact that contact came during a play on him doesn't negate interference, attempting the play at first was secondary… anyones thoughts????

  3. REALLY hard to comment without seeing it, and I hope you don't use my reply as the definite answer in this case. But I see no interference on this play. Interference is when a fielder is attempting to field the ball. Once he has it, even if the runner runs into him, it's no longer interference (unless it's intentional, for example to avoid a double play). I am not supposed to criticize other Umpire's but it sounds like they kicked this call.