Jim Joyce Made the Right Call

Game 3 of the World Series was decided with an obstruction call. Despite being thrown out, Allen Craig was called safe and awarded home because Will Middlebrooks impeded his path to home plate. The umpires saw that the play at the plate was close and rightfully believed Craig would have scored if he had not been obstructed. It’s an ending almost no one liked or wanted, but it was the correct and only call to make in that situation.


MLB Rule 7.06:

“(a) When obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal ‘Obstruction.’

“If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batter-runner is obstructed before he touches first base, the ball is dead and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire’s judgment, if there had been no obstruction. The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction. Any preceding runners, forced to advance by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction, shall advance without liability to be put out.

“Rule 7.06(a) Comment: When a play is being made on an obstructed runner, the umpire shall signal obstruction in the same manner that he calls ‘Time,’ with both hands overhead. The ball is immediately dead when this signal is given; however, should a thrown ball be in flight before the obstruction is called by the umpire, the runners are to be awarded such bases on wild throws as they would have been awarded had not obstruction occurred. On a play where a runner was trapped between second and third and obstructed by the third baseman going into third base while the throw is in flight from the shortstop, if such throw goes into the dugout the obstructed runner is to be awarded home base. Any other runners on base in this situation would also be awarded two bases from the base they last legally touched before obstruction was called.


“(b) If no play is being made on the obstructed runner, the play shall proceed until no further action is possible. The umpire shall then call ‘Time’ and impose such penalties, if any, as in his judgment will nullify the act of obstruction.

“Rule 7.06(b) Comment: Under 7.06(b) when the ball is not dead on obstruction and an obstructed runner advances beyond the base which, in the umpire’s judgment, he would have been awarded because of being obstructed, he does so at his own peril and may be tagged out. This is a judgment call.

When Craig went to run home, not play was being made on him at the time. The play is allowed to proceed. After the play is when the umpire can impose penalties. He decided there was obstruction. And that’s that.

It makes no difference whether there is intent or not. Once the ball gets by the defender, the defender is no longer considered to be in the act of fielding and would be eligible to obstruct a base runner. That is exactly what happened. Moreover, Craig did not run into Middlebrooks outside of the baseline. He got straight up and made a direct path to the plate.

So the ultimate decision is in the hands of the ump- did the time lost in the obstruction result in an out? To ump and any reasonable viewer, yes the obstruction clearly hampered Craig’s ability to race home in time.

Again, no one likes this ending. But it had to be done. Some people suggested the umps should have let it go. That is not right because the ump would not be doing his job and instead of angry Red Sox fans there would be angry Cardinals fans.

In a time when umps are often scrutinized for their mistakes, it’s time to lavish them with praise for a tough, but right call in a critical World Series game.

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