Play Ruled Dead Following Backswing Interference
The Phils and Nationals played at Nationals Park on September 30, 2022.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Nationals had Luis Garcia on second and two outs. Victor Robles was batting with a 2-1 count facing Zach Eflin. Robles swung through the pitch and made contact with Phils catcher J.T. Realmuto on his follow-through backswing. Despite the contact, Realmuto threw behind Garcia at second, who was caught off the bag. A rundown ensued and he was called out for running out of the baseline when he avoided being tagged.
Plate umpire Marvin Hudson ruled that Robles’ backswing hit Realmuto, and because the initial throw didn’t retire the runner, the ball was dead the moment the throw didn’t put out Garcia. Any following play was irrelevant. Therefore, Garcia was allowed to return to second.
- Plate umpire Marvin Hudson made the proper ruling. However, I could not see if he quickly advanced into the infield as soon as the runner was not out on the initial pickoff throw signaling “Time” and killing the play because the initial throw did not retire the runner.
- By making a late call of “Time” it could be misleading to the teams on the field, broadcasters, and fans. There could be an overthrow and the runner on second could score an apparent run only to be told he had to return to second base. There could be an obstruction or interference in the rundown which would be irrelevant because the play was dead the moment the runner wasn’t retired by Realmuto’s direct throw.
- It’s always easier to sort things out if the plate umpire calls “Time” at the proper point. One former umpire said, “Too often, MLB umpires let the play go too long. They then huddle, and hopefully get it right. It’s always easier if the umps get it right the first time.”
- One can argue the fairness of the rule. Here is a situation where the offensive team interferes with the defensive team and because of the interference the runner remains alive on the bases since the catcher’s initial throw did not retire the runner. One individual said, “So the offensive team gets out of the base-running mistake due to their own interference! It sounds like this was probably the proper call but highlights a flaw in the rule that needs to be changed!”
- That’s a good point but the counter to that is the batter is entitled to a full swing without interruption. Some would argue that the catcher has the responsibility not to impede the batter’s swing and not set so close to the plate. Of course, certain batters have a long swing and sometimes are the cause of the interference.
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