September 05, 2010
Third base umpire Alfonso Marquez, however, had a different view and the result was one of the more unique finishes to a baseball game in recent memory. Instead of standing safe on third and representing the tying run with Nelson Cruz(notes) coming to the plate, Young was called for the game's final out on Rule 7.09(h), which states:
"It is interference when, in the judgment of the umpire, the base coach at third base or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists him in returning to or leaving third base or first base."
Young called it a "bad call by a good umpire" and if he had a close encounter with Anderson, he did so by only the slimmest of margins. Imagine E.T.'s finger going point-to-point with Elliott's and you probably have a good idea at how incidental the contact was. Anderson didn't lasso Young from heading home after second baseman Orlando Hudson(notes) unexpectedly fielded a Vladimir Guerrero(notes) single deep up the middle, nor did he shove the third baseman back to the base to beat Hudson's throw to the bag (which was late).
But the fact that Marquez thought there was any contact was apparently enough for him to make the ruling that enabled the Twins to get away with their second sweep of the Rangers at the new Target Field this season.
Here's what Anderson had to say about the play (via Evan Grant):
"I don't think I touched him. I didn't feel him touch me. And I think I would have felt something. The shame of it is Mike was safe — or would have been safe — going back into third.
If you think this is a rare play that you've never seen, you're not alone. Crew chief Tim Tschida told reporters it was only the second time in his 30-year career that he has seen the ruling made. Ron Gardenhire told the AP that the Twins once lost a game to Seattle in similar fashion:
"Unfortunately, it probably didn't help (Young) stop, or didn't help him get back," Gardenhire said. "But contact is contact, and that's what Alfonso called."
Marquez's ruling also predictably set off a firestorm of criticism from Rangers fans, who are eager to see their team beat Minnesota for the American League's second playoff seed, and Chicago White Sox fans, who desperately want to see their team gain ground on the Twins in the AL Central.
At issue is whether the rule should have been so strictly interpreted (or would have been enforced at all were the game taking place in Texas) and what exactly constitutes assistance from the third base coach. Was the contact — if it indeed occurred — enough to end the game? Or did Marquez see contact that actually wasn't there? (I still haven't seen a television angle that's good enough to make an independent judgment.)
On one hand, I think umpires should have to make a pretty good case that the umpire should have to demonstrate that the coach's touching actually made an impact on the play.
But because the rule vaguely defines "touching," I also think Anderson shouldn't have even been in a position to make it an issue with Marquez. Most third base coaches get closer to their runners than they should, but the outstretched arms of both Young and Anderson tested fate just a little bit too much. When in doubt, I say, space it out.
Give that runner some room.
Do you think the correct call was made?