Rule 7.08(b) Comment: A runner who is adjudged to have hindered a fielder who is attempting to make a play on a batted ball is out whether it was intentional or not.
If, however, the runner has contact with a legally occupied base when he hinders the fielder, he shall not be called out unless, in the umpire’s judgment, such hindrance, whether it occurs on fair or foul territory, is intentional. If the umpire declares the hindrance intentional, the following penalty shall apply: With less than two out, the umpire shall declare both the runner and batter out. With two out, the umpire shall declare the batter out.
This was the difference-maker in last night’s game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets. Having lost the first two games of the four-game set in Philly, the Mets were looking to rebound and increase their lead in the NL East back to five games. But they found themselves down again, this time in the ninth inning of a 3-2 ball game with runners on first and third and one out. RFer Shawn Green was at the plate and Brett Myers was attempting to get out of the jam and close out the game. Green makes contact on a 2-2 pitch but it’s a weak grounder to short. Jimmy Rollins fields it, underhands the ball to second baseman Tadahito Iguchi. Marlon Anderson (who appears to have an amazing vertical according to the photo), the runner at first, came barrelling down the baseline but slid into second too late to prevent the initial out. But the cardinal sin came in the form of a push – as he followed through on his slide, Anderson clearly shoved Iguchi who was already to Marlon’s left, turning to throw the ball to first. The second base umpire calls runner’s intereference, and the double play becomes automatic. Endy Chavez, who crossed home plate on the play, did not count as the tying run. Game over.
Now I could easily go off on a tangent about how the umpires chose THIS moment to begin enforcing this rule. Countless times have I watched on television and in person the runner getting away with blatantly going for the legs of the middle infielder, without any attempt to even touch the bag. In this instance, Anderson did touch second with his right leg. But he added a push, which is apparently no-no (who knew?). And I could certainly debate whether or not the “flying cross-body block” that the Phillies’ Carlos Ruiz planted on Padres’ second baseman Marcus Giles a few nights earlier made the interference call more likely than it would have prior to that incident that ended up clearing both benches.
The fact remains, the rules are the rules. Having played second base for most of my life, I can assure you that it is a bit terrifying trying to turn the double play on a ground ball to short. You can hear the runner from first running full-steam down the line, but you can’t see him because you have your eyes on the throw coming your way from the shortstop side. The last thing you want is the runner adding in a shove or a “flying cross-body block”. In last night’s case, the umpire clearly and correctly surmised that there was an “intentional hindrance” on the part of Marlon Anderson. So the call really shouldn’t be argued, no matter how frustrating it is for me to admit.
(Note: I know this is splitting hairs, but bear with me for a moment. After the game, umpire creew chief Joe West spoke on behalf of C.B. Bucknor, who was actually the one who made the call. He said, “Marlon Anderson went after the second baseman to break up the double play and did not, and could not reach the base, which is what he argued… He went out of his way to interfere with the play that created the interference. CB made a great call, made a gutsy call and he didn’t back down from the call at all.” Technically, West is wrong. Anderson did touch the bag. But the official rules do state that the correct call was made. It was just for the wrong reasons. You may now proceed.)
What we will never know is if Green would have beaten the throw to first had Iguchi been able to get it to Ryan Howard cleanly. The groundball to Rollins was not hit very well, and the momentum of Iguchi’s body was going to third base, which with his arm may have made for a difficult throw. I’ve seen the replay quite a few times and I still don’t know.
So what say you, Umpbump readers? Was it interference? Would Green have been safe at first? Let me know so I can just put this whole episode to a rest and move on with my life.