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Boston Red Sox Players, Fans Ignoring Reality

Game 3 Lost on Throwing and Catching Error, Not Obstruction Call

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COMMENTARY | Game 3 of the World Series ended with an errant throw by the Boston Red Sox catcher and poor execution by Will Middlebrooks at third attempting to catch the ball.

The unfortunate play led to a run as Allen Craig advanced to home in the bottom of the ninth.

No, really. That's what happened.

Of course, you're probably confused because Middlebrooks fell when he attempted to catch the ball and the third-base umpire called obstruction when Craig tripped over Middlebrooks' sprawling body. As Craig advanced to home, the recovered ball was tossed to the plate and the catcher tagged Craig when his foot was approximately 6 inches from the plate.

Six inches. That's how close the play was on the field even though Craig was delayed between 3-4 seconds at third base by Middlebrooks. To put that in perspective, it took Allen Craig just 5 to 6 seconds to run the entire expanse from third to home after the delay.

And yet he was still only out by 6 inches. There is no question Craig would have scored if not for the trip-up at third base.

But don't worry, the unfortunate play was corrected by the obstruction call.

Craig was called safe at home, as he would have been, and the St. Louis Cardinals won the game. The Red Sox, however, don't see it that way. To the players and fans of Boston, the "unfortunate event" was not that the natural development of the play was interrupted by a freak accident. Instead, Bostonians believe it was the call that ruled Middlebrooks prevented Craig from scoring that deserves the "unfortunate" tag.

That's just backwards thinking.

A truly unfortunate ending would have been if Middlebrooks would have been allowed to prevent the winning run from scoring because he physically impeded the runner. The obstruction call addressed and corrected that unfortunate development.

Let me say that again: The obstruction call did not create an unfortunate event, it corrected one.

The plain reality of the game is that the Red Sox committed an error, either by an errant throw or by an errant missed catch or both, and Allen Craig scored easily -- or would have scored easily if not for the physical impediment in his path.

That's the reality. Pretending that Craig should not have scored and only achieved home plate because an umpire made a call -- actually correctly and appropriately applied the obstruction rule -- is just a sad attempt to ignore that reality.

In fact, I would say the obstruction rule exists to correct situations exactly like the one that developed in Game 3. The last thing you want is a non-baseball event, like tripping a player, to decide a game. The rule exists to prevent that from happening.

But don't tell Red Sox fans or players that.

A few quick notes about the call before signing off:

Allen Craig was not "out of the baseline." This is an argument that is circulating simply because people do not understand the definition of "baseline." We tend to think of it as the foul line, a direct line between third and home plate, or perhaps the width of the infield dirt between the bases. None of that is the actual baseline.

A baseline is defined when a play is attempted on a runner -- such as an attempted tag. At that moment, the baseline is the direct path or line from the base runner to the base, regardless (for the most part) of where the runner is at the time. That runner cannot deviate more than 3 feet in either direction from that established line to avoid the play or tag. And, yes, that means the baseline can move as the runner moves, for example, if the runner makes an extra-wide turn around third while running home.

There is no way Allen Craig ran out of the baseline due to Middlebrooks because Craig's position actually determines the baseline when the play is attempted on him.

Umpires must call the rules as they exist. Some fans and players believe an umpire should somehow ignore the actual rules of the game because it's a World Series game. This thinking is so far wrong it's bordering on ridiculous.

The rules of baseball cannot change simply because it's the ninth inning of Game 3 in the World Series. The strike zone is the strike zone, an out is an out, and obstruction is obstruction -- period. Besides, if you aren't going to call obstruction in a run-scoring, game-winning situation, when, exactly, are you going to call it? The rule was designed to prevent tragedies as would have unfolded if Craig had not been allowed to score.

Umpires cannot, should not, and are not intended to determine intent. The last thing any fan or player wants is an MLB umpire standing on the field attempting to determine what a player is thinking. Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue? Umpires are there for one reason and one reason only -- to correctly interpret and apply the rule book. That's what the umpires did, and that was the correct call.

Kevin Reynolds is the author of
Stl Cards 'N Stuff and host of The State of the Nation Address podcast at Stl Cards 'N Stuff. He's been writing and podcasting about the St. Louis Cardinals since 2007 and can be found chatting about baseball on Twitter (@deckacards).

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