Obstruction of Justice


Red Sox robbed in one of most controversial calls in baseball history

The play will be planted in the memories of Red Sox fans forever. Save it a spot next to Buckner. Save it a spot next to Bucky Dent. Save it a spot next to Pedro being left in the game too long, or even a spot next to Aaron Boone.

We all know the situation. Men on 2nd and 3rd, one out, Jon Jay at the plate, and the near unhittable Koji Uehara on the mound. Infield in, 0-1 count.

What the entire world was about to witness on the next pitch could not have been predicted in a million years. Jay chops a hard ground ball to second base, and Dustin Pedroia makes an incredible diving stop. He gets up, fires home, and guns down Yadier Molina at the plate.

2 outs. Pete Kozma, the weakest hitter in the Cardinals lineup is on deck. Then, horror happens. The next 10 seconds of the play were unlike any other in baseball history. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia attempts to throw out Allen Craig at third base. The throw by Salty is errant, and Red Sox third basemen Will Middlebrooks dives for the ball, which bounces off his glove and rolls down the left field line. Craig rounds third, trips over Middlebrooks, and runs home. Left fielder Daniel Nava fields the ball and proceeds to throw out Craig at home plate on one hop to end the inning and the send the game into extras.

Every Sox fan on the planet thought they had just seen the greatest double play in World Series history. Every Cardinals fan was in complete shock they managed to get not one, but TWO men thrown out at home on the same play.

Instead of calling Craig out at home plate, third base umpire Jim Joyce calls obstruction on Middlebrooks at third. Meanwhile, home plate umpire Dana DeMuth ultimately calls Craig safe at home, giving the Cardinals an extremely controversial Game 3 win, 5-4.

Stunned and furious Red Sox fans were left asking questions. What? How?

Here we go. I get the rule. I get it. The rule defines obstruction as "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." By definition of the rule, it can be said that Middlebrooks obstructed Craig of running home. But, why, and how, can you make that call in that spot? To decide Game 3 of the World Series?

My main argument is this- what else is Middlebrooks supposed to do in that situation? There is no way he could not obstruct Craig. Let's say he attempted to get up (which he did, then was pushed back down by Craig) and run after the ball. In that instance, he probably bumps into Craig. Is that not "in the act of fielding the ball?" Another thing to consider as well, is that Middlebrooks was not even close to being in the baseline or in the way of the runner. He was a good 3-4 feet inside of it, if not more.

Will even said it himself; "He (Joyce) said I have to make an attempt to get out of there, or I have to get out of the way, so I went to get up, and he was on top of me. There's really nothing I can do there."

If Middlebrooks attempts to get out of the way of Craig so he doesn't get called for obstruction (which he after the game was told to do by the umpire) what does he do, roll over on the ground to get out of the way? Even in that instance, I guarantee that Craig, who seemed to trip himself before he even tripped over Middlebrooks, still trips over the third basemen and is thrown out at home. What happens then, Middlebrooks is called for obstruction by attempting to NOT get called for obstruction? See what I mean here? In that moment, no matter how many times you watch the replay, there is NOTHING Middlebrooks could have done to get out of the way in that situation. He had no time to move. And like I said, even if he did, I bet Craig still would have tripped over him.

Another key part is the intent aspect of it. The rule states that this is a judgment call by the umpire, and that intent has nothing to do with the call being made. People may say that Middlebrooks' legs flailed upwards in an attempt (intent) to trip Craig himself. That is completely untrue. He had just dove for a ball, so naturally his legs would flail up into the air. And again, why would Will attempt to trip Craig anyway? With the entire world watching, it's obvious that if he had actually attempted to trip Craig, he would have been called for obstruction in a heartbeat. But then again, the rule states that intent does not matter. So that argument is surely invalid.

My point is that there is absolutely nothing Middlebrooks could have done in that spot to not get called for obstruction. So if that is the case, why make that call? That could not be more of a one-sided call in that situation. While this has never decided a game before, it is plays like this and calls like this that start to make you question the MLB's credibility.

Also, the whole "judgment call" rule is awful. The judgment of that entire play cannot be made right on the spot, in a split second, on a national stage in Game 3 of the World Series with the entire world watching. That is basically saying that every argument I have made in this piece was "judged" in the 10 seconds of that play happening? Come on, MLB. Give me a break. This is the first time a World Series game has ended on an error. Seeing a game of this magnitude come down to a "judgment call" made by an umpire who once famously blew a perfect game for Armando Gallaraga is absolutely pitiful.

Don't get me wrong- much of the blame should be put on Saltalamacchia for ever throwing that ball in the first place. In that situation, with Kozma on deck, why in the world would you attempt that throw? In the heat of the moment, I get it. Salty wanted to be a hero and end the inning right then and there. But again, logically, why?

In the end, the winning run was scored without ever touching home plate. In baseball, especially the World Series, that should NEVER be the case. If there is no obstruction call made there, we are talking about one of the greatest plays ever made in World Series history, and the possibility of one of the greatest World Series games played as well. I am not trying to make excuses. It is a completely valid argument. I am simply trying to make sense of the whole situation. By rule, the right call was made. It makes sense. But with all things considered, it leaves you asking yourself one thing- why?

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