Type 2 Obstruction (Ball Remains in Play)
Under Type 2 obstruction, there is no play being directly made on the obstructed runner at the time of the obstruction. The ball is normally a long distance from the act of obstruction. The umpire signals the obstruction by pointing to the obstruction and yelling “That’s obstruction.” This should be an important signal for the base coaches and announcers. However, unlike Type 1, the umpire keeps the ball in play. If the obstructed runner is easily thrown out at a base, most likely the out call will stand since it’s assumed the obstruction had no bearing on the outcome of the play. If the runner is called out on a close play, most likely the umpires will “protect” the runner and allow him to remain at the base or score if he was tagged at the plate.
It’s also possible the umpires might protect the runner to a certain base. If the runner goes beyond that base, he does so at his own risk.
Following are examples of the most common Type 2 obstruction calls.
- A runner is circling the bases and his progress is impeded by a fielder who does not have possession of the ball and is not in the act of fielding a throw and for the purpose of making a play on a runner.
- A runner collides with the fielder on a pick-off attempt and the two become entangled. The fielder impedes the runner as he attempts to advance to the next base while the ball is rolling in the outfield. It is at that point when the obstruction occurs, not the initial collision or entanglement of the runner and the fielder. The obstruction occurs when the runner attempts to escape the entanglement and no play is being directly made on him. Some fielders are coached to slow the runner from escaping the entanglement.
Let’s look at some plays……
The Rays and Red Sox played Game Three of the 2021 ALDS at Fenway Park. In the top of the eighth, the Rays were batting with Manuel Margot on third base and two outs when Randy Arozarena hit a shot that got by Kike Hernandez in center field. As Arozarena rounded first base, he collided with first baseman Kyle Schwarber. The umpires ruled Type 2 obstruction on Schwarber but, by rule, kept the ball alive.
When the play ended, Arozarena, who never attempted to go to third base, was held at second base despite the obstruction because the umpires judged if he attempted to go to third, he would have been an easy out and could not protect him at third base. Here’s a play where the umpires would protect a runner at one base (second base) but not any further.
“It was obstruction, but they also didn’t feel that he was going to get to third base,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “Had Randy kept running and he gets thrown out by 20 feet, you’re making a judgment call. They certainly marked the obstruction, but I think he probably belonged at second.”
- In the above play, Schwarber was oblivious to Arozarena and impeded him by stepping into his base path.
- Some first basemen are coached to stand still and make the runner alter his base path to slow him down. This can be interpreted as obstruction. Contact is not necessary for the call to be made.
- Infielders are often fixated on the ball in the outfield and ignore the action occurring in the under-belly of the play.
- When an infielder does not have possession of the ball or is not in the act of receiving a throw to make a play, he must be aware of runners circling the bases since they will have “The Right of Way.”
In the following 2016 play, you will see how the Astros’ Alex Bregman makes an error on the play and then obstructs the Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. near third base while the ball was in the outfield. When the ball was hit to Bregman, it was Souza’s responsibility to avoid Bregman. However, after the ball got by Bregman, the onus was now on him not to impede Souza’s running path.
The umpire pointed to the obstruction but kept the ball alive because at the moment of the obstruction there was no play being directly made on Souza Jr. and the ball was in the outfield.
Credit Rays’ third base coach Charlie Montoyo for directing Souza Jr. to run hard to the plate despite the obstruction. If Souza Jr. jogged to the plate thinking he had an automatic base award and was an easy out, the out would stand.
Runner and Fielder Become Entangled: Type 2 Obstruction
The Giants and Angels played in Anaheim on April 21, 2018. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Mike Trout stole third base and got tangled up in the process with Giants’ third baseman Evan Longoria. Third base umpire Mark Repperger pointed to the obstruction but properly kept the play alive because at the moment of the obstruction there was no longer a play being directly made on Trout. By pointing to the obstruction, Repperger was alerting plate umpire Joe West.
If Trout attempted to advance home, West would have had to decide whether or not to protect him. In this play, if Trout attempted to go home, he would have been an easy out because Giants’ shortstop Brandon Crawford was backing-up on the play and I’m sure West would have called Trout out and he would not have been protected. Trout wisely remained at third base.
BTW- you will notice how Justin Upton, the batter, bent over a bit when catcher Nick Hundley made his throw. By doing so, he gave Hundley a good throwing lane. The batter cannot be expected to disappear. When the catcher is throwing to the corner bases on a pick or steal attempt, the batter can remain in his normal stance. The onus is on the catcher to create his own throwing lane.
Let’s summarize the Type 1 and Type 2 obstruction rules by going to Game 3 of the 2003 ALDS played between the A’s and Red Sox. The A’s came into Fenway Park with a two games to zero lead in a best of five series. One more A’s win would have put them in the ALCS. But failure to distinguish between Type 1 and Type 2 obstruction most likely cost them the game, the series, and some good money.
In the bottom of the second inning Boston had Jason Varitek on third and Gabe Kapler on first and one out when Damian Jackson hit a ground ball to Eric Chavez at third. Chavez threw to catcher Ramon Hernandez placing Varitek in a rundown. Hernandez ran Varitek back to the bag
where he collided with Chavez who was standing in front of the base without the ball and was not about to receive the throw.
Because there was a play being directly made on Varitek, umpire Bill Welke ruled Type 1 obstruction on Chavez and killed the play by raising his arms and yelling, “Time.” Since Varitek was entitled to the next base following the last legal base he had touched (he had third base made before the rundown), he was allowed to score even though he was headed back to third when Chavez committed the violation. This gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead into the sixth inning.
With one out in the top of the sixth, the A’s had Erubiel Durazo on third, Miguel Tejada on second, and Eric Chavez on first when Ramon Hernandez’s slow bouncer skipped under the glove of Boston shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, who was charged with an error. Durazo scored to make it 1-1. Tejada, in rounding third, collided with Red Sox third baseman Bill Mueller, who had retreated to the bag and bumped Tejada off stride. It was a classic Type 2 obstruction. Welke “pointed” at Mueller indicating “obstruction.” Since there was no play being directly made on Tejada, at the moment of obstruction (the ball was in the outfield), the umps did their job by keeping the ball alive.
Tejada Jogs Home
Tejada jogged home muttering and gesturing toward Mueller and Welke apparently thinking he had a “free ticket” to the plate because he was obstructed. Most likely, Tejada, and the A’s third base coach, apparently were both thinking that since Varitek was awarded home when he was obstructed earlier in the game, Tejada should expect the same. While Tejada was wasting time, the ball came in from outfielder Manny Ramirez and Varitek tagged out Tejada 15-20 feet from the plate. The out call stood. A’s manager Ken Macha argued the play to no avail.
“If Tejada had kept running hard and was out by one or two steps, we would have protected him (because of the obstruction) and allowed him to score,” said Welke. The A’s paid a heavy price for Tejada’s (and the third base coach) apparent lack of understanding of the obstruction rule. And there is no doubt that many players would have reacted the same as Tejada. Unfortunately, Miguel was center stage because it happened in the post-season.
The Red Sox won the game 3-1 in 11 innings and won the next two games to capture the series.
One member who was in uniform that night for the A’s told me that the loss of the series cost him $100,000. He said “It would have paid my daughter’s college tuition at UCLA.”
The following year Macha asked me my opinion of the play. I said the call was the right call. He emphatically, but incorrectly answered, “You’re wrong!”
Rules consultant/analyst: D’backs, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Rays, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Twins, Yankees, Bally Sports, ESPN, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago.