ST. LOUIS — John Farrell has a really bad idea he'd like you all to hear about.
Farrell, the skipper of the Boston Red Sox, wants to add the component of intent to obstruction rule No. 7.06, forever made famous in the St. Louis Cardinals 5-4 victory in Game 3 of the World Series on Saturday night.
Farrell reiterated a day later that umpires Jim Joyce and Dana DeMuth made the right call on Boston infielder Will Middlebrooks that led to Allen Craig of the Cardinals scoring the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning. But rather than letting sleeping dogs lie completely — or letting Middlebrooks lie on the ground so that Craig might trip over him — Farrell tried opening a can of worms by playing the "rule change" card. If a runner does not mean to obstruct a fielder, Farrell contends, then he should not be penalized for doing so.
"Probably the issue personally that I have [a problem with] is with the type B obstruction," Farrell said, referring to Rule 7.06(b). "If (only) there was the ability to have some measure in there, in that portion of judgment, judgment on intent. Because right now there is none. It doesn't matter if there is intent or not. When Will Middlebrooks is lying on his stomach, it's hard to say that he was intending to impede that runner's progress."
If only Farrell would think this through. By adding an "intent" component, he'd be giving the umpires even more mind-reading responsibilities than they already have. "Did Middlebrooks mean to get in the way?" is a much harder question to answer than just "Did he get in the way?"
Many of baseball's rules have been flexible through the years, but it seems — hasty is a good word — to change a rule that, seemingly, so many players and coaches don't even know, just because it happened to hurt your team last night.
And Farrell wasn't done hypothesizing about what might happen out there on the field because of this rule that, all of a sudden, should be changed.
"So the way the obstruction rule is set up right now, the baserunner can be the aggressor and beneficiary on both sides," Farrell said. "They can seek out an infielder, run into him, and benefit by advancing."
When's the last time anybody saw this happen on a major league field — other than on a play at the plate? Some people probably thought Craig was responsible for making contact with Middlebrooks. But the rules say he's allowed to do that, if he's trying to get to the next base.
No matter, it's ridiculous for Farrell to say any of this, because the obstruction rule concerns itself only with the fielder getting in the way. Umpires already have discretion to call a runner out if he — How did Farrell put it? — "seek out an infielder" to force obstruction. They call the runner out for going out of the baseline. They do it all of the time.
"So yesterday when there's no intent, given the heightened importance of the game at the time and where we are, you'd like to see possibly the 'type B' portion of that rule addressed," Farrell said.
Please, let's not. Farrell assumes Middlebrooks wasn't trying to trip up Craig — and he probably wasn't — but it would be a heck of a lot more likely than the other way around. Baseball gets this right by omitting intent. Middlebrooks was in the way. Craig had the right of way. Craig scored. This is Rule No. 7.06(b):
"When the ball is not dead on obstruction and an obstructed runner advances beyond the base which, in the umpires 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."
Jon Lester has it right when he said the Red Sox need to put what happened at the end of Game 3 of the World Series behind them Sunday night. Being concerned with the obstruction rule — other than learning its details for next time — does them little good for Game 4, especially considering they're trying to even the best-of-seven set. The Cardinals will be tough enough to beat without having to replay the wacky events of Saturday night.
"Guys are able to turn the page," Lester said. "Walking in today, I haven't heard anything about it. Guys are focused on today.
"[Last night], it was kind of shock. I still don't fully understand the rule. I don't think a lot of people do. But it is what it is. You can't dwell on it. You can't think about it. You have to worry about tonight."
If the Red Sox do want to look back, they need only to read the rulebook and catch themselves up to speed.
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