Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was ejected during the top of the eighth inning by umpire Vic Carapazza after Carapazza ruled a Type A obstruction on second baseman Devon Travis during a rundown with Franciso Lindor in the eighth inning of the Indians-Blue Jays game on May 8 in Toronto. Cleveland had runners on second and third when Lindor singled to right field. One run scored but Lindor was trapped between first and second. Toronto started a rundown, but Travis hindered Lindor’s progress after he released the ball, and the umpires granted him second base on the obstruction call. Carlos Santana scampered home during the rundown to make it a two-run inning.
“I’ve never seen an umpire call that without some kind of contact being made,” Gibbons said, to MLB.com. “He (the umpire) even told me, ‘He didn’t bump him, he just hindered his progress.’ OK, that may be the rule, but I’ve been around awhile and I’ve never seen it without a little bit of contact. That was my argument.”
You can view this play by going to the link below.
In the Travis obstruction, after Travis tossed the ball he took a step in the line of Lindor’s base path causing Lindor to pause for a split second before attempting to return to the previous base. It is my opinion, that Carapazza interpreted Travis’ position as hindering or impeding the progress of Lindor, even if it was for one split second. It is common for a defensive player, who is running with the ball toward the runner in a rundown, to have his body out of control just before releasing the ball. This is a technique that perhaps should be reviewed with the players since it is difficult to vacate the runner’s lane because of the body’s forward momentum following the release of the ball.
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 or hinders the progress of any runner. Contact does not have to be made for the umpire to rule obstruction. Also, intent is not a factor. It is the responsibility of the runner to avoid the fielder when the fielder is making a play on the ball. However, after a fielder has had a chance to field the ball or if the fielder is not in possession of the ball and is not about to receive a throw, it’s the responsibility of the fielder to relinquish space to the runner because the runner has the right of way to a clear base path. This is critical for players to understand.
Type A obstruction is called when a defensive player impedes the progress of a runner when there is “a play being directly made on him.” The two most common Type A obstruction plays are: (1) when a batter-runner is obstructed before reaching first base by the pitcher who is not in possession of the ball and is not about to receive a throw while covering the base on the 3-1
play; and (2) when a runner is impeded during a rundown. When Type A occurs the ball is dead and the runner is awarded one base beyond the last base he legally occupied. Other runners are allowed to advance to the base they would have made had the obstruction not occurred.
The Rundown and Obstruction
To begin with, there are two times when a runner has a baseline: (1) when he is avoiding a tag; and (2) when he is in a rundown. During a rundown, each throw establishes a new baseline for the runner. The runner’s baseline is from the base he is going to and the base he came from. It usually is an angled line and he is allowed three-feet in either direction of that imaginary line between the bases. Therefore, a runner is allowed 6-feet.
- During rundowns, the defensive players need to know that the runner’s baseline changes on every throw. Fielders must be aware of the 3-foot rule which actually allows the runner 6-feet of real estate if you include both directions.
- Fielders need to be aware that some runners are coached to head-hunt the fielder without the ball in a rundown for the purpose of initiating the obstruction call. It’s necessary for fielders to understand the importance of vacating the runner’s 3-foot lane ASAP if they do not have possession of the ball or are not in the act of receiving
the throw. Often times a fielder after making a throw in a rundown will lose control of his body and subsequently impede the runner.
- Fielders must combine mental awareness as well as visual awareness to avoid obstruction violations. You can’t avoid what you can’t see.