Does MLB Need to Change Obstruction Rule?

In a word, maybe. After the crazy ending to Game 3 of the World Series, in which the winning run scored on a controversial obstruction call, it’s sure to be debated.

Here’s why the call by umpire Jim Joyce may have been correct. If a fielder impedes the progress of a baserunner while not in the process of attempting to field the ball, obstruction may be called. Will Middlebrooks dove to his left to try to save Jarrod Saltalamachia’s errant throw to third attempting to get Allan Craig. When the throw went into the outfield, Craig tripped over Middlebrooks while attempting to score. By all appearances, Craig would easily have beaten left fielder, Daniel Nava’s throw home. By the letter of the law, the call appears correct.

Here’s why the call may have been incorrect. Middlebrooks was inside the baseline when Craig tripped over him. Craig, therefore, was also inside the baseline. You could certainly make the argument that the fielder has the right to field his position. Also, Craig took a step inside when he rose to his feet and attempted to score, putting Middlebrooks in his path. You could also say, therefore, that Craig was at least partially to blame for the contract.

The Other Things to Consider

On the replay you could clearly see Middlebrooks raise his feet, causing Craig to trip. Nobody but Middlebrooks knows if that was intentional, or if he was simply attempting to get back to his feet. I will say this though, my wife is looking at me really funny because I just flopped down on my stomach and then tried to get back to my feet several times as quickly as I could to see if at any point in time, my feet would come up like Middlebrooks’ did. And they didn’t.

Joe Torre, MLB’s Executive VP of Baseball Operations, says the call was correct. But of course he would. Can you imagine the storm that would be brewing if he came out and said that Joyce blew the call?

The Cosmic Data

Is it karma? Was Boston sports due for retribution after the Patriots and Tom Brady benefitted from the tuck rule in 2002, allowing them to come from behind and beat the Raiders, when they certainly would have lost if not for the now defunct “rule?” Were the Cardinals due for a call of this magnitude in the World Series after the Don Denkinger, Jorge Orta, Todd Worrell call by Don Denkinger in the 1985 World Series?

Would we even be debating this if Mike Matheny hadn’t channeled his inner Don Mattingly and made two late game questionable managerial decisions by first bringing in Trevor Rosenthal in the middle of an inning, and then not pinch running for the lumbersome Yadier Molina in the ninth inning with a chance to win the game?

Hell, I don’t know. I don’t know if we’re supposed to know.

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