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Red Sox fall and can't get up in St. Louis

Posted by Obnoxious Boston Fan  October 27, 2013 12:13 AM

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Rule: 7.06 When obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal "Obstruction." If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batterrunner 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.

Baseball Rules 2.00: Definitions:

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. 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: 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.

"Our Father's Red Sox" made a cameo appearance in Game 3 of the World Series Saturday night along with all those late-October demons we thought were exorcised back at Yankee Stadium in 2004.

Whether or not they stick around will be determined by these Bearded Boys of Spring, Summer and Fall and their Improbable Dream as they now face their biggest challenge of the season, down 2-1 to St. Louis. Game 4 is Sunday night.

It cannot come soon enough for Red Sox Nation.

In Game 3 of the 1975 World Series, Ed Armbrister of the Reds interfered with Carlton Fisk during a bunt attempt with Cesar Geronimo on first. Umpire Larry Barnett blew the call and never called interference. It was a judgment call and your fathers and grandfathers cursed Barnett until they day he or they died, which ever came first. For those of us old enough to remember that night, this was deja-vu all over again.

You can watch it here:

The Red Sox lost that game 6-5 later in the 10th when Geronimo scored on Joe Morgan's single. The Red Sox would lose that Series 4-3.

Saturday night in St. Louis, the Red Sox lost Game 3 of the 2013 World Series 5-4 after Will Middlebrooks was called for "obstructing" runner Allen Craig at third base with the score tied 4-4.

For Middlebrooks, the Red Sox and manager John Farrell, it was a case of "we've fallen and we can't get up."

Middlebrooks tumbled over Craig while trying to grab a brain-dead, obscenely-foolishly timed throw from Jarrod Saltalamacchia at third base.

Too much sodium can be harmful to your health. Too much Salty was a killer on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Middlebrooks had no chance against both gravity and Jim Joyce.

As Craig scrambled to get up, Middlebrooks' legs were raised, causing him to stumble as he headed toward the plate.

Middlebrooks' intent was irrelevant. Once he got in the way, the umpires were free to make the call.

And they did make the correct call according to the rules displayed above. It was much like getting a ticket for going 71 MPH in a 70 MPH zone while taking your wife, who is in labor, to the hospital. The ticket is legally correct. The judgment and timing is suspect.

The whole play began when Jon Jay hit a grounder to Dustin Pedroia with one out and two on in the ninth. Pedroia fired the ball to Saltalamacchia. Yadier Molina was tagged out at home for the second out. Saltalamacchia fired to third, setting off the chaos.

Third-base umpire Joyce and home-plate umpire Dana Demuth ruled that Allen would have scored had he not been slowed by Middlebrooks, even if Middlebrooks didn't do anything on purpose.

The rule plainly states that this is a judgment call. That leaves things vague enough to leave millions of baseball fans wondering what the hell had happened when it was over. This rule will likely be cleared up in the offseason, but that won't help the Red Sox any in this series.

Forgive us if weren't not entirely comfortable with Joyce's ability to make clutch calls. He cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game in 2010.

"Larry F. Barnett" was the pre-cursor to "Bucky F. Dent," "Bill F--kner" [Game 6 was 27 years ago Saturday] and "Aaron F. Boone."

After Armbrister's un-called interference play, there was no post-game press conference with the umpires and Joe Torre. There were no multiple replays in high-def or on-line.

The most paranoid among us also found it reassuring that a guy who managed the Cardinals, Yankees and Mets was there to reinforce and help explain a judgment call that sank the Red Sox.

The replays Saturday allowed us to see that Allen planted his arm in Middlebrooks' back while he was down and that Allen was miles out of the baseline, wherever that happens to be. The baseline is a three-foot-wide area based on whereever the runner establishes it.

In a week that started in New England with the craziness of "Push Rule Gate." the Red Sox, Cardinals and Jim Joyce managed to cap it with the most frustrating and controversial umpiring call the Red Sox have seen since Gerald Ford was in the White House.

Like the Patriots last Sunday, the Red Sox had themselves mainly to blame for being in this mess. But whenever games are determined on judgment calls, or newly-created rules, it's always a kick in the asterisk for the losing side.

"With the defensive player on the ground, without intent or intent, it's still obstruction," said Joyce. "The runner has the right to go to home plate without obstruction."

The umpires determined the obstruction impeded Craig.

"And that's the last, most important part of this rule, is that the umpire has to determine ‑‑ if what you saw tonight happened and he's out by 20 feet, then the umpire determines that if the obstruction had not occurred," crew chief John Hirschbeck said. "It was right there, bang, bang play, obviously that's obstruction, definitely had something to do with the play."

Had the umpires determined that Craig would have been out without the obstruction, they said they would not called "obstruction.

Despite what you may have seen on the interwebs, Joyce was looking at the play when the "obstruction" occurred.

Red Sox fans still aren't sure what Joyce was looking at in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS, when he initially ruled Mark Bellhorn's three-run homer to left-field a double off Jon Lieber. The ball bounced off a fan in the front row and back onto the field.

There is no right or wrong here, unlike Joyce's perfect-game call in Detroit or his gaffe on Bellhorn's home run.

Long before the Red Sox were caught "obstructing justice," this game had more storylines and subplots than "The Real Housewives of Everywhere."

The obstruction call may have given Farrell a reprieve following several horrible and costly judgment calls of his own.

First and foremost, was his Grady Little-esque decision to send Brandon Workman, he of exactly zero major-league at bats, to hit in the ninth with one out. Workman had no chance against Trevor Rosenthal, who got the win.

Farrell kind-of-sort-of admitted he screwed up royally, especially since Mike Napoli and David Ross never made it to the plate in this game.

The simple double switch of having Ross bat for Workman and then putting him behind the plate for Saltalamacchia most likely would have prevented the errant throw to third in addition to giving the Red Sox a slight chance against Rosenthal.

One thing is for sure, the Red Sox should stop making desperate throws to third base when the Cardinals are in a position to tie the game or take the lead late in the game. It's failed them two games in a row. Two bad throw have keyed two straight World Series losses.

The debate over why Farrell let Workman bat, why Napoli never batted in this game or why Saltalamacchia threw to third in the ninth, with Pete Kozma on deck and two out, after he got the lead runner at the plate, will still be discussed over lunch by Red Sox fans at the Sunshine Rest Home in 2053.

The Red Sox trailed 4-2 before scoring two runs in the seventh. Xander Bogaerts continued his inevitable march to Cooperstown enshrinement in 2039 with a game-tying, two-out single.

Craig Breslow Schiraldi returned Saturday just in time to put a pair of runners on base thanks to a basehit and a hit batsman. Both would score, giving the Cardinals that 4-2 advantage.

The Red Sox have re-branded themselves in 2013 by mirroring Boston's rise from the ashes, both literal and metaphorical, from the Boston Marathon bombings. The never-say-die Boston Strong Globe Sox have been the team of comebacks, clutch-ninth-inning home runs and a light's out bullpen for six months.

But those guys have been missing for the past two games of this World Series.

And they'd better get back soon if Red Sox Nation wants the storybook ending it's been hoping for all season.

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