May 25, 2024

Rare Interference on Infield Fly Rule

Chicago White Sox vs Baltimore Orioles game ends on controversial play

Rare Interference on Infield Fly Rule

The May 23, 2024 Orioles-White Sox game ended on a controversial note when a rare interference, Infield Fly rule ended in a double play. Here is what happened:

The White Sox trailing 8-6 had Andrew Vaughn on second base and Gavin Sheets on first base with one out when Andrew Benintendi, facing Craig Kimbrel, hit a pop fly in the infield that was declared an Infield Fly which retired Benintendi for the second out of the inning. As Orioles shortstop Gunnar Henderson came in to make the catch, Vaughn backed-up toward Henderson on his return to second forcing the O’s shortstop to slightly go around him as he attempted to field the ball.

At that moment, third base umpire Junior Valentine called interference on Vaughn resulting in a game-ending double play.

White Sox manager Pedro Grifol argued the interference call to no avail.

Ruleball Comments

  1. Interference is always a judgment call. It’s my opinion that interference should not have been called on Vaughn, but my opinion doesn’t count.
  2. Offensive interference is “an act by the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play.” I think if you asked Gunner Henderson if the actions of the runner interfered with him or confused him, he would say no.
  3. There is no doubt the runner slightly impeded Henderson which gives the umpire the ammunition to make the interference call. The umpire may also make the argument for consistency. But I think in this situation common sense should prevail and override the strict definition of interference.
  4. Intent of the runner does not factor into the rule. It’s obvious that there was no intent on the part of the runner in this play so I’m sure Vaughn was not judged to have intentionally interfered with Henderson.
  5. In my opinion, the umpires interpreted the totality of the rule correctly, but the judgment to call interference was not necessary.
  6. The Infield Fly Comment in the Definition of Terms says, “If interference is called during an Infield Fly, the ball remains alive until it is determined whether the ball is fair or foul. If fair, both the runner who interfered with the fielder and the batter are out. If foul, even if caught, the runner is out and the batter returns to bat.” Because the ball was hit in the middle of the field, there was no doubt that it was determined it was a fair ball and the interference call could be invoked at the time of the occurrence.
  7. Once Valentine judged interference, he had to make the call immediately and the play was dead because of the obvious fair ball. The batter was called out because of the IFR, and the runner was called out for interference. And once the play was killed there was nothing the umpires could do to reverse the call and interference is not reviewable.
  8. The timing of the IFR or interference call is irrelevant because it’s all part of the same play. When the interference call is made, the ball becomes dead whether it occurs before or after the IFR is called. The IFR does not cause a dead ball, but the interference does. The IFR can only be invoked when there is a fair ball.
  9. White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said, “I understand it. I don’t like the rule.” He added, “I think if the fielder is impeded by the runner to catch the baseball I can understand the interference call. But in this situation the fielder was camped under the ball in the middle of the infield and was waiting for the baseball to come down.”
  10. Grifol’s point is to allow the interference call to be made, but if it doesn’t impact the outcome of the play, only one out should be called, which would be the batter because of the IFR. “I think MLB needs to take a look at this rule,” said the White Sox skipper. He might have a good point.
  11. I was asked what is the rule if a fielder initiates the interference to get a double play when the IFR is called? If the umpire rules intent on the part of the fielder to interfere with the runner, that raises another issue. In my opinion, the IFR should still be called if the ball is fair, and the batter should be called out. But because there was no play being directly made on the runner, (the play is being made on the batter), this would be a Type 2 obstruction and the umpires could only award the base the runner would have advanced to had there been no obstruction. In this situation, the runner would be kept at second, but the double play would be avoided. So, there would be no incentive for the fielder to attempt to initiate the obstruction call in IFR situations.
  12. Because any runner is out when he fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball per rule 6.01 (a) (10), runners must be sure to always locate the fielder whether the fielder is in the act of fielding a ground ball or a fly ball. In my opinion, Vaughn should have been facing the fielder as he was returning to second base. This would have given him a better opportunity to COMPLETELY AVOID Henderson and eliminate the possibility of the interference call which is always subjective.
  13. “I saw the umpire point right to the runner with the interference call,” said O’s manager Brandon Hyde when he met with the media postgame. “But with the infield fly, I think there’s a lot of confusion about it. Felt like we escaped there.”

So, what do you think of the call? If you are getting this report, I would appreciate your comments and will publish them, withholding your name, of course.

Rich Marazzi

Rules consultant/analyst:  Angels, D’backs, Dodgers, Mets, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Yankees, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago. 



This was a well-officiated baseball moment. The last slo-mo view of the shortstop’s detour around the runner clearly shows the interference. If this had happened on the shortstop’s route to a ground ball, there would be no question about interference. It makes no difference that the fielder was ultimately able to make the play with ease (which the umpire had no way of knowing at the moment of the interference, which is when the call/no-call is required to be made). This play is only interesting, and perhaps a little quirky, because it happened on an infield fly. If that component is removed, this is a pretty straightforward interference play.

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