World Series: Can't argue 'Keep your whistle in your pocket.' Umps made right call: Griffin
First of all, let's get one thing straight, the umpires in World Series Game 3, more specifically Jim Joyce at third base and Dana DeMuth at home plate got the obstruction call right. The people that object and deny are either citizens of Red Sox Nation or else hckey fans who believe that in the third period or overtime of a Stanley Cup playoff round that the referees should keep their whistles in their pockets.
The game, any game, needs to be called according to the rules and unlike a player in uniform who needs to think one step ahead with what he is going to do if the ball is hit to him, umpires are trained to react immediately armed with a knowledge of the rulebook as their infallible Bible held aloft.
For those that may have unfortunately fallen asleep before the ninth inning obstruction ruling that ended the game in a 5-4 victory for the Cardinals, here are the basic details.
The game was tied in the bottom of the ninth, with the Sox having overcome two-run deficits twice in the game already. With runners on second and third, closer Koji Uehara was in to face Jon Jay. First base was open with Pete Kozma and rookie Kolten Wong on deck. Already, with iffy bats on deck, when they chose to pitch to Jay it became second-guesser's Paradise. Walking Jay would have set up a force at home with the infield in.
On a difficult ball hit to second base, Dustin Pedroia made a great grab and throw to the plate for a tag on the lumbering Yadier Molina. With Jarrod Saltalamacchia going down to make the play, Allen Craig moved towards third as the trail runner. The Red Sox catcher regrouped and fired a dart to third that faded into fair territory, into the runner as third baseman Will Middlebrooks dove towards it as Craig slid into the base.
The ball rolled away, diagonally, into foul territory down the left field line where an alert shortstop Xander Bogaerts chased it down. Now here's where the umpires got it exactly right. The natural instinct for a third baseman (denied by Middlebrooks) would be to rush to his feet and look around to retrieve a ball that he knew must have been nearby. Instead, Middlebrooks stayed on the ground and made himself large. It didn't matter where the baseline was because the new baseline for Craig became from just inside fair territory on a direct line to home plate. The problem is that's where Middlebrooks lay.
The pertinent rule is as follows:
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. 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.” 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: 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.
Clearly, this describes the actions of Middlebrooks and the impact it had on Craig, who even though the result of the play, visually, was that he was thrown out at the plate by the hustling Bogaerts, an out that would have ended the inning without the obstruction call, Craig needed to try and score for the obstruction to result in a run. If he had been obstructed and decided to remain at third base, there would be no run.
Good call, great game, exciting series, horrible defence throughout.