Let's talk about that obstruction call

Baseball fever! - Dilip Vishwanat

Most unlikely ending to a World Series? Sure, but at least it looks like the umpires got it right

Jake Peavy, what did you think about the obstruction call that ended Game 3?

Three things:

  1. Nobody's talking about Peavy only lasting four innings thanks to an ugly two-run first inning, and a complicated fourth where Pete Kozma and the pitcher bailed him out.
  2. It was Jim Joyce's call.
  3. It looks correct.

What's amazing is that the rulebook basically accounts for this exact scenario:

OBSTRUCTION is 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.

Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered "in the act of fielding a ball." It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the "act of fielding" the ball. For example: an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.

It didn't matter that Will Middlebrooks ended up in that position because of a necessary effort (although it seems like he could've caught it; rough game for him). And it doesn't seem to matter that Middlebrooks wasn't in the traditional baseline. After Allen Craig rose from the tangle, his path directly home took him through Middlebrooks, and whether he tripped over his hip or his raised leg wasn't relevant.

In real time, it looked like Middlebrooks did more to trip him. The replays showed how helpless Middlebrooks was, which engenders a lot of sympathy, but the language of the rule doesn't spare him.

As somebody who was rooting for a seven-game series with chaos, this was better than I ever imagined. But it wouldn't have been enjoyable if Joyce or the other umpires blew the call, because it sucks when games are decided by things that didn't actually take place. Maybe the rule needs a tweak to allow helpless fielders some recourse, but in accordance with the existing rulebook, the contact happened, and Joyce couldn't look the other way.

If nothing else, Jarrod Saltalamacchia's throw shouldn't have happened. The Red Sox already came away with one out because Dustin Pedroia made an absolutely incredible play (how on Earth did he come up with that cleanly?), and Salty -- his teammates call him "Salty," you know -- got greedy.

That's the kind of game that makes Twitter worth it. Once the initial reaction ripples through, the jokes follow. My favorites:

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