April 18, 2024

Should Infielders Blocking a Base Obstruction Be Reviewable?

If a manager thinks that an infielder illegally blocks a base, the play cannot be reviewed

Should Infielders Blocking a Base Obstruction Be Reviewable?

Play No. 1

The Yankees and Guardians played a split doubleheader in Cleveland on April 13, 2024. In the top of the third of the first game, the Yankees had Juan Soto on first base and no outs when Aaron Judge flied to Tyler Freeman in short center field. Freeman, seeing Soto was a good distance from first base, threw to first baseman Josh Naylor in an attempt to double-up Soto.

First base umpire Tom Hanahan called Soto safe. The call was challenged by Guardians manager Stephen Vogt, and it was reversed to an out call by the Replay Official.

But did Naylor obstruct Soto who was trying to reach first base? Was the out safe-call the most important aspect of the play?

Ruleball Comments

  • In my opinion, Naylor obstructed Soto by blocking the base without possession of the ball. Also, the throw did not take Naylor in the direction of the runner’s path. Therefore, Soto should have been awarded second because of the obstruction.
  • Obstruction and Interference plays are not reviewable, but could the Yankees have asked for a RULES CHECK since MLB had made a concerted effort pre-season to crack down on infielders blocking bases without the ball?
  • Rule 8.02 (b) of the Official Rules of Major League Baseball reads, “If there is reasonable doubt that any umpire’s decision may be in conflict with the rules, the manager may appeal the decision and ask that a correct ruling be made. Such appeal shall be made only to the umpire who made the protested decision.” 
  • Rule 8.02 (c) reads, “ If a decision is appealed, the umpire making the decision may ask another umpire for information before making a final decision…if the umpires consult after a play and change a call that had been made, then they have the authority to take all steps that they may deem necessary, in their discretion, to eliminate the results and consequences of the earlier call that they are reversing, including placing where they think those runners would have been after the play, had the ultimate call been made as the initial call, disregarding interference or obstruction.
  • The rule book prohibits interference and obstruction calls to be reviewed. Yet, the Collisions at Home Plate rule 6.01 (i) is a Type 1 obstruction play that can be reviewed. Why can’t the illegal blocking of a base be reviewed as well? Where is the consistency? 
  • Since managers can challenge the illegal obstruction of the plate, why can’t they challenge the illegal obstruction of any other base?
  • I do not think that all obstruction calls should be reviewable, only when an infielder illegally blocks a base. If the trajectory of the throw, or the hop of the throw takes the infielder into the path of the runner that is understandably not a violation. That holds true also for plays at the plate. But in my opinion the above play by Naylor is a violation that MLB preached about pre-season as illegal.  Yet it cannot, by rule, be reviewed. 

Play No. 2

The Brewers and the Mets played at Citi Field on March 29, 2024. In the bottom of the 2nd inning, Brewers’ catcher William Contreras threw to first base in an attempt to pickoff Mets baserunner DJ Stewart, with Milwaukee first baseman Rhys Hoskins receiving the throw and appearing to place his left leg into Stewart’s path, effectively blocking his access to the base. First base umpire Lance Barrett called the runner out. He did not invoke the obstruction rule which seemed apparent.  Stewart complained to no avail that Hoskins was blocking the bag.

Ruleball Comments

  • Did Hoskins deny Stewart’s access to the base? I think so, but my opinion doesn’t count. Perhaps, if the Replay Official at the Command Center hade the ultimate authority in making the decision in such plays, it would give managers another arm to deal with the obstruction rule and limit infielders from engaging in any illegal blocking of a base.
  • It is my understanding that MLB does not want the fielder’s feet in front of the base unless the fielder has possession of the ball.
  • In my opinion, Hoskins illegally blocked the base and Stewart should have been awarded second base.   
  • Could the Mets have asked for a RULES CHECK? If the request is denied, so be it. If the umpires on the field cannot review such plays, perhaps the “no call” can be reversed through crew consultation.
  • What does a manager have to lose by asking for a RULES CHECK? At this time managers are powerless when arguing plays involving the illegal blocking of a base.
  • I think MLB needs to address the possibility of allowing Type 1 “blocking the base” obstruction plays that involve all the bases, not just home plate to be reviewed.

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. 


Bob Portman

These replays are not conclusive, but in the first case, it appears the throw does force the fielder into the runner’s path. In the second case, by the time the camera gets to the play the first baseman has the ball and can block the base. I do agree that plays at the plate and the bases should be reviewable. Umpires are looking for SAFE/OUT first and it is sometimes hard to see if obstruction is there. Could another umpire step in voluntarily who had a different angle?

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