Controversial Obstruction Call has Manager and Coaches Scratching their Heads
The Brewers hosted the Marlins on Wednesday afternoon. In the top of the second inning, the Marlins had Corey Dickerson on third and Jon Berti on first and one out when Isan Diaz hit a slow roller to the mound that was fielded Zack Godley. The Brewers’ pitcher then flipped the ball to first baseman Daniel Vogelbach. It appeared to be an easy out. But Diaz was inexplicably called safe by first base umpire Marty Foster, who ruled Godley was guilty of obstructing Diaz’s path to first base. Dickerson was allowed to score and Berti went to second.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell argued the play and bench coach Pat Murphy was ejected for voicing his opinion. “That’s a call you won’t even see Little League umpires make in that situation,” said Murphy. “It made no sense.”
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- In my opinion umpire Marty Foster misinterpreted the obstruction rule.
- Obstruction is defined as, “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.” There are two types of obstruction (1 & 2).
- Type 1 (6.01-h-1) is when a play is being directly made on a runner such as a rundown or the batter-runner is obstructed before reaching first base. Type 2 is when there is no play being made on the obstructed runner. Foster invoked Type 1.
- When Type 1 is called, the ball is dead as soon as the obstruction occurs. The obstructed runner is awarded the next base after the last legal base he touched before the obstruction. Any other run is awarded the base they would have made.
- Godley satisfied the conditions of the obstruction rule and was protected because he had possession of the ball and made his play to first base without incident.
- When a fielder is fielding a batted ball, it is the responsibility of the runner to avoid the fielder who is making the play. This is a fundamental “Right of Way” rule in the game of baseball. Diaz was responsible to avoid Godley and allow him to make a play which he did.
- The Official Baseball Rules protected Godley per rule 6.01 (a) (10) that reads, “A runner is out when he fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball…,” and he was also protected by rule 5.09 (b) (3) that says in part, “Any runner is out who hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball.”
- It should be noted that FIELDING a batted ball and making a PLAY are distinct entities in the baseball rule book. The fielding of the ball is when Godley gloved the roller. By rule, that is not a PLAY. The throw to first base, by rule, was the play. A fielder makes a play in three ways: (a) A throw to a base; (b) An attempted tag of a base; and (c) An attempted tag of a runner.
- After Godley made his throw to Vogelbach at first base, the play essentially ended.
- This was a clean play by all parties involved. There was no reason for any call.
- In my opinion it was a misinterpretation of the Type 1 obstruction rule. One former umpire said, “Maybe not the absolute worst (call) but certainly among them.”.
- Foster made the mistake of over-thinking meaning that Godley obstructed Diaz because he did not have possession of the ball. He did not have possession because he was making a PLAY which was his throw to the base. Foster said to a pool reporter, “A player without a ball, without making a play on a ball, is standing in the base path of the runner, impeding and hindering him.” Foster ignored the rules that protected Godley as outlined in No. 7. And any actions involving Diaz and Godley occurred when the play basically ended.
- If this was a violation, runners could easily stage an obstruction call by running around a fielder who is without possession of the ball the moment after the fielder makes his throw to a base.
- The Godley/Diaz play raises the question: Interference and obstruction plays are not reviewable. But what if Counsell asked for a RULES CHECK in relation to the interpretation of the Type 1 obstruction rule? Would NYC have reviewed it?
In the following plays you will see how the Type 1 obstruction rule was properly invoked. Unlike the Godley/Diaz play, the pitcher in both video clips, did not have possession of the ball and was not in the act of fielding a throw. In the second video, the umpires on the field did not have the obstruction call but the Replay Official in NYC ruled obstruction after Marlins’ manager Don Mattingly challenged the play. This is unusual because obstruction calls are not reviewable. It’s possible that Mattingly asked for a RULES CHECK but I do not know that for sure.
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