Selig praises umpires for handling of obstruction call

Selig praises umpires for handling of obstruction call

Selig praises umpires for handling of obstruction call

ST. LOUIS -- Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig lauded the umpiring crew for their "fair and expeditious" handling of the bizarre end to Game 3 of the World Series on Saturday night, a finish so abrupt and unexpected it still dominated talk around the batting cage a day later.

"I talked to a lot of Boston people," Selig said before Game 4 on Sunday. "Nothing. No complaints whatsoever."

For the few who missed it, here's how the game ended:

In the bottom of the ninth inning, the teams were tied at 4 with runners at second and third base for the Cardinals after a hobbled Allen Craig delivered a one-out double. With the Red Sox's infield playing in, second baseman Dustin Pedroia dove for a Jon Jay grounder and threw home to retire the lead runner.

Craig was slowed by a left foot injury that sidelined him for most of September and the first two rounds of the postseason, so Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia fired a throw to third base that got by Will Middlebrooks. With Middlebrooks face down in the dirt, Craig tried to hurdle him, tripped, then staggered toward home.

Craig never quite made it, but home-plate umpire Dana DeMuth's call was safe. He pointed to third-base umpire Jim Joyce, who had ruled obstruction.

For a moment, everyone froze.

"I think our fans didn't even know what to do," Cards manager Mike Matheny said Sunday, with the benefit of hindsight. "We were wanting to celebrate, but we see a guy laying there and it's all confusing. And we see the umpires come together -- and that didn't work out real good for us last time.

"We're all kind of cautiously celebrating, and then we get inside the clubhouse, and it was still kind of that somber mood. And Chris Carpenter yelled out real loud, 'Hey, boys, we just won a World Series game!' So that changed it a little bit."

Finally, the Cardinals realized where they stood. They led the World Series, two games to one.

On the other side, the Red Sox were still wondering what had happened.

"It wasn't a normal night of sleep, I know that," Boston manager John Farrell said.

The most outspoken Red Sox player in the moments after the loss was not backing down a day later. Game 3 starting pitcher Jake Peavy continued to maintain that it was all wrong.

"Nothing from my perspective has changed," Peavy said. "I still think it's as unfortunate as anything I've ever seen. A game on April 23 in Miami shouldn't end like that, shouldn't be decided on a call like that. And we're talking about the World Series!

"No. It can't happen. I don't care what anybody says. Anybody who has common sense knows that is an awful, awful way for a ballgame to end. … For the players to truly not decide the outcome of the game is beyond me. I don't know how the rule reads. If they're saying they made the right call, then the rule has to change, that's all there is to it."

Rule 2.00
DEFINITION OF OBSTRUCTION
Obstruction is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.
Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered in the act of fielding a ball. It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the act of fielding the ball. For example: If an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.
Complete Rule 2.00 | Official rules PDF

The rule in question is 2.00:

OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.

Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered in the act of fielding a ball. It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the act of fielding the ball. For example: If an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.

"The rule was administered fairly and expeditiously," Selig said. "And, thankfully, we've had no controversy today."

Both managers agreed: the umpires made the correct call.

"They should be applauded," Matheny said.

Farrell essentially echoed that sentiment, saying, "You know what, the call was made correctly. The umpires Jim Joyce, Dana DeMuth -- that call was made as it should have been."

That did not mean Farrell was happy with it.

"Probably the more issue personally that I have is with the Type B obstruction," he said. "If there was the ability to have some measure in there in that portion of judgment, judgment on intent [it would be helpful], because right now there is none. It doesn't matter if there is intent or not.

"When Will Middlebrooks is lying on his stomach, it's hard to say that he was intending to impede that runner's progress. So the way the obstruction rule is set up right now, the baserunner can be the aggressor and beneficiary on both sides. They can seek out an infielder, run into him and benefit by advancing. So [Saturday] when there's no intent, given the heightened importance of the game at the time and where we are, you'd like to see possibly the type B portion of that rule addressed."

Asked whether the rule could be addressed, Selig said, "If I have an issue, it's something we'll discuss during the offseason. It's up to Joe Torre and his people. It was handled well, given everything that happened, controversy-free. Which was good. I understand that it was an unusual ending, but just when you think you've seen everything -- which I like to convince myself that I have, on and off the field -- something happens that I've never seen before. I've never seen anything close to it."

Selig said he was particularly pleased that Torre and the umpires met with the media after the game to discuss the final play at length.

"I know there was a time years ago when umpires were reluctant to do that," Selig said. "You have to explain yourself. Absolutely. We have that obligation. It was a rule. There was some controversy. But once I listened to them on the way home and then watched more when I got home, I thought their explanation was terrific."

It was worth noting that the same umpiring crew made a critical call against the Cardinals in the first inning of Game 1, when the umpires gathered and took the rare step of reversing DeMuth's judgment call at second base after Pete Kozma dropped a double-play feed.

That reversal helped the Red Sox score two runs in an eventual 8-1 win.

"The right call, but, man, is it hard to swallow," Matheny said. "I'm sure that's what [Farrell] is going through over there right now. That's twice it has happened.

"There's never been a tougher time to be an umpire. They are slowing down these cameras to where you can see every stitch on a ball being released and count the number of spins. You can see every little detail with technology. You have guys out there watching this in real time with a lot of outside info on some circumstances. It's amazing how accurate they've been."

All parties agreed with the distraught Peavy in one respect: It was not an ideal end to a hard-fought World Series game.

"Obviously I'm on the Cardinals, so I'm fortunate the rule is the way it is, and you hate to say it, but he impeded the process of running home," Cards pitcher Adam Wainwright said. "But I totally understand why Red Sox players would be upset about that. That is just a horrible way to lose a baseball game, no question about it, especially after such a great play by Dustin at second."

Boston Game 5 starter Jon Lester insisted the Sox would regroup.

"I think some guys were probably shocked, confused, a lot of different emotions going on, but there's nothing we can do to change it," he said. "So we have to move forward to today and focus on today. If we let that affect us in the clubhouse today and during that game, then we've already been beat."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.