April 14, 2022

All About Obstruction…it Happened in the Major Leagues Again!

When will big leaguers learn this rule?

All About Obstruction…it Happened in the Major Leagues Again!

Obstruction Definition

Obstruction is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball or a throw, impedes the progress of any runner. Contact does not have to be made for the umpire to rule obstruction. There are two types of obstruction Type 1 and Type 2.

 Type 1 Obstruction: Ball is Dead and Runner Gets Automatic Base Award: Rule 6.01 (h) 1.

This normally occurs when the runner is obstructed while a play is being directly made on him such as a rundown or a batter-runner who is impeded before reaching first base by a pitcher covering the base, who does not have the ball and is not in the act of receiving a toss.  In this type of obstruction, the umpire raises both arms to call “Time” and signal a dead ball. The runner is awarded the next base from the last base he legally touched. For instance, if the runner is in a rundown between third and home and the runner is headed back to third when he is obstructed, the ball is dead, and the runner is awarded home. When Type 1 occurs, other runners are awarded the base they would have made had the obstruction not occurred.

Type 2 Obstruction: Ball Remains Alive -No Automatic Base Award: Rule 6.01 (h) (2).

In Type 2 Obstruction, the ball is normally a significant distance from the act of the obstruction. Unlike Type 1, when the obstruction occurs, no play is being directly made on the runner.  An example would be a runner is circling the bases when the ball is in the outfield and is obstructed by an infielder, who by his position alters the base path of the runner. The umpire will point to the obstruction, but the ball will remain alive. If the obstructed runner is out on a close play, the umpire will most likely protect the runner and call him safe. If the runner is an easy out, chances are the runner will not be protected and will be called out since it’s assumed that the obstruction had no bearing on the outcome of the play. In my next report I’ll cover Type 2 obstruction in more detail.

Type 1 Obstruction Play

In this report, I’ll focus on a Type 1 obstruction play that occurred in the April 12, 2022, game between the Nationals and Braves at Truist Park. In the bottom of the fourth, the Braves had Guillermo Heredia on second and Orlando Arcia on first and one out when Ozzie Albies hit a grounder to Nationals’ first baseman Josh Bell who stepped on first to retire Albies. Bell then fired to shortstop Lucius Fox who ran Arcia back toward first. While this was going on Heredia rounded third and broke for the plate. Fox then threw home to catcher Keibert Ruiz. Ruiz ran Heredia back toward third. Heredia was now hung-up in a prolonged rundown that ended when Ruiz was called for obstruction on Heredia as he attempted to return to third base.

Expert Interpretation

  1. Because there was a DIRECT PLAY being made on Heredia (rundown), the obstruction was a Type 1. Umpire Angel Hernandez properly called “Time” and since third base was the last base Heredia touched before the rundown, he was awarded home.
  2. Arcia was allowed to stay at third base because the umpires judged that’s the base he would have made had there been no obstruction. When you watch the play in real time, I think you will agree that umpires properly placed Arcia.
  3. The prolonged rundown played into the hands of the Braves. It not only allowed Arcia to advance to third base, but it indirectly created the recipe for obstruction.
  4. A runner only has a restricted baseline when he is in a rundown or avoiding a tag attempt which begins the moment the fielder with the ball makes a motion toward the runner.
  5. When a rundown begins, the runner’s restricted baseline is an imaginary straight line to the base he is going to, and the runner cannot exceed 3-feet in excess of both sides of that line. In essence, the runner has a total of 6-feet to operate.  Every time the runner changes direction, he has a new baseline.
  6. When a avoiding a tag, the runner’s straight line, 6-foot restriction baseline begins the moment the fielder with the ball makes a motion toward the runner. The fielder no longer has to extend ball in glove or hand toward the runner.
  7. When executing a rundown, if a fielder does not have possession of the ball or is not in the act of receiving a throw, he must VACATE and allow the runner his 6-foot space (baseline).
  8. In the above play Ruiz obstructed Heredia because he did not have possession of the ball and was not in the act of receiving a throw. Therefore, his obligation was to VACATE the space that legally belonged to Heredia.
  9. If you look at the 2022 Ruleball video that was sent, I recommend that when a runner is in a rundown, he should head-hunt a fielder who is illegally blocking or impeding his baseline to the base. The runner can turn an almost sure out into a run in certain situations. Often, the runner is not aware of a fielder who is illegally blocking his path to the base because of poor visual habits.
  10. I would recommend that all teams and broadcasters should have a copy of the 2022 Official Rules of Major League Baseball, and the 2022 MLBUM. You can most likely get the PDF if you Google MLB and the book titles. Most likely at this time you will be able to get the 2021 books which will serve its purpose.

 

Rich Marazzi

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.  

Comments

Danielmckennitt

12. I recommend that all baseball announcers learn the difference between obstruction and interference and use the terms as they are defined in the Official Baseball Rules and that they be corrected if they use the terms incorrectly.

Roberto Saletti

Great comment. My question is why assists were not assigned by the Ofiicial Scorer on that play? Why rule 9.10(a)(1) was not applied? “The Official Scorer shall credit an assist to each fielder who throws or deflects a batted or thrown ball in such a way that a putout results, or would have resulted except for a subsequent error by any fielder”

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