April 25, 2022

The Runner’s Right of Way Rule….Did the Umpires Apply it Wrong?

Why wasn't Josh Naylor called out for interference?

The Runner’s Right of Way Rule….Did the Umpires Apply it Wrong?

The Guardians hosted the White Sox on April 21. In the bottom of the seventh, the Guardians had Josh Naylor on second with no outs when Ernie Clement hit a chopper to Sox shortstop Tim Anderson. Naylor ran into Anderson as he was attempting to field the ball and the ball came out of Anderson’s glove rolling several feet away.

Umpire Brian O’Nora had no call. Naylor ended-up on third and Clement got to first while Anderson was charged with an error.  White Sox manager Tony La Russa argued that Naylor should be called out for interference, but his plea fell on deaf ears. Andres Gimenez then hit a sac/fly scoring Naylor to make the score 6-3, which proved to be the final score.

Ruleball Comments

  1. I disagree with the no call. In my opinion interference should have been called on Naylor. Of course, my opinion doesn’t count-only Mr. O’Nora’s does.
  2. It’s important for players, coaches, and broadcasters to understand the fundamental RIGHT OF WAY rule.
  3. In almost all situations when a fielder is in the act of fielding a ground ball or a pop fly, he has the RIGHT OF WAY and is protected. It is the responsibility of the runner to avoid the fielder. See Pro rule 6.01 (a) (10)
  4. If the runner impedes or hinders the fielder, he should be called out and no runners can advance. In the above play, from this corner, Naylor should have been called out and Clement placed on first base.
  5. Because Anderson was in the act of fielding the ball, he had the RIGHT OF WAY.
  6. Contact is not necessary for interference to be called. In my opinion Anderson was arguably distracted by the proximity of Naylor who ran very close to Anderson while running to third. The distraction most likely impeded Anderson from making the play.
  7. Interference and obstruction calls are not reviewable, but a manager can ask for a RULES CHECK in NYC arguing that there was a misinterpretation of the interference rule. I have seen other non-reviewable situations reviewed.
  8. The umpires do not have to grant the request, but the manager has nothing to lose. Whether or not the request is granted and regardless of the outcome, the manager is not charged with a challenge.
  9. The fielder must also be allowed to attempt a throw. In the above play, from this corner, Naylor’s actions would have prohibited Anderson from making a throw.
  10. I did not hear the reasons why O’Nora failed to invoke the interference rule. It’s possible he judged Anderson lost his protection when he apparently lost control of the ball after he didn’t make the play and the ball was not in his immediate reach when it rolled away. If a fielder has an opportunity to make a play and fails to do so, he is no longer protected.
  11. In my opinion, however, that would not fit in this play because Anderson’s failure to make a play was the result of Naylor’s actions that impeded Anderson.
  12. One broadcaster in this video said, “He (Naylor) has the right going to the base and when they (Anderson) come in and try to put a tag on him, he (Naylor) has the right to slap him out of the way.” This is misinformation. Naylor did not have the THE RIGHT OF WAY going to third base. And if Naylor slapped (Anderson) out of the way, he would be called for interference. Just ask Alex Rodriguez who was called out for slapping the ball out of Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo’s glove in Game Six of the 2004 ALCS.

Rich Marazzi

Rules consultant/analyst:  D’backs, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Rays, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Twins, Yankees, Bally Sports RSNs, ESPN, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago. 

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