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Cardinals Win When Reds' Throw Hits Runner - Legal?


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When Reds shifted-in outfielder Nick Senzel's throw hit Cardinals runner R3 Andrew Kniznzer in the back, allowing St Louis to score the game winning run to walk off Cincinnati in the 11th inning, with HP Umpire Chad Fairchild signaling baserunner Knizner safe at home, Cincinnati briefly contested the ruling...was this a legal play or should Knizner have been called out for interference, or for some other violation of the rules?

Play: With none out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th inning of a 0-0 game, Cardinals batter Paul Goldschmidt hit a sharp ground ball to the third base position, being played by drawn-in outfielder Senzel, who threw home to try and retire Knizner to keep the game scoreless. The baseball hit Knizner in the back and bounced away, allowing St Louis to score the one and only run of the ballgame.

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Analysis of Possible Outs: It is important to note that Knizner began his jaunt to home plate in foul territory before veering to his left and running in fair territory, which is where he was struck by the thrown ball. The reason this is important to note is so one can refer to the base path rules:

The only way a runner may be called for being out of the base path is if they run more than three feet to avoid a tag attempt. No tag? No base path violation. With a thrown ball, there was no tag attempt and thus no base path violation. Reference: Official Baseball Rule 5.09(b)(1).

Instead, the most realistic possibility for an out call here would be to deem that baserunner Knizner intentionally interfered with a throw, the penalty for which is to declare a dead ball, runners return (and, of course, the violating runner is out). However, replays suggest no such infraction occurred as Knizner was already running in fair territory prior to the throw being released and never looked back toward the throw or baseball, suggesting that Knizner did not intentionally attempt to react to the throw by making an unnatural movement to interfere. Reference: OBR 5.09(b)(3).

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Cards walk off when Reds throw hits winning-runner in the back (CCS)

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In debating this with a few other umpires, I guess the argument boils down to when and how intent manifests itself. 

I'm on the side of the call that was made ... the runner did not react or knowingly interfere with the throw itself.

The argument in favor of this being interference falls on the question "Why else would he have veered into fair territory?"  (I've not heard anybody other than me bring up the point that the catcher was standing with home plate entirely blocked.  It is possible the runner was adjusting based on that.)

Is "trying to make it harder" the same as intentional interference?  I don't think so.  Look at a slide at second base on a double play ... that is an attempt to make it harder for the fielder to complete the play.  Look at the batter who wags the bat in a fake bunt on a steal.  Look at the pitcher who has a funky-chicken windup.

All that said ... as a Cardinals fan and an umpire, I'm not sure I'm a fan of all their "within the rulebook" base-running antics this year.  It's a slippery slope.

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3 hours ago, The Man in Blue said:

In debating this with a few other umpires, I guess the argument boils down to when and how intent manifests itself. 

I'm on the side of the call that was made ... the runner did not react or knowingly interfere with the throw itself.

The argument in favor of this being interference falls on the question "Why else would he have veered into fair territory?"  (I've not heard anybody other than me bring up the point that the catcher was standing with home plate entirely blocked.  It is possible the runner was adjusting based on that.)

Is "trying to make it harder" the same as intentional interference?  I don't think so.  Look at a slide at second base on a double play ... that is an attempt to make it harder for the fielder to complete the play.  Look at the batter who wags the bat in a fake bunt on a steal.  Look at the pitcher who has a funky-chicken windup.

All that said ... as a Cardinals fan and an umpire, I'm not sure I'm a fan of all their "within the rulebook" base-running antics this year.  It's a slippery slope.

If you watch this replay he was clearly on the inside of the baseline before the fielder threw the ball.  It makes me think that the fielder had it in his mind that there was a possible 3 foot lane violation.  The actual fielder was an outfielder so it's very possible.  And another thing to look at, if the ball had not hit the runner would the catcher have been able to keep his foot on home plate or would the throw had pulled him off?  Wasn't exactly a great throw.  And,the big one, GO CARDINALS from SoCal.  Going to see them in San Diego on Wednesday.

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18 hours ago, The Man in Blue said:

In debating this with a few other umpires, I guess the argument boils down to when and how intent manifests itself. 

I'm on the side of the call that was made ... the runner did not react or knowingly interfere with the throw itself.

The argument in favor of this being interference falls on the question "Why else would he have veered into fair territory?"  (I've not heard anybody other than me bring up the point that the catcher was standing with home plate entirely blocked.  It is possible the runner was adjusting based on that.)

Is "trying to make it harder" the same as intentional interference?  I don't think so.  Look at a slide at second base on a double play ... that is an attempt to make it harder for the fielder to complete the play.  Look at the batter who wags the bat in a fake bunt on a steal.  Look at the pitcher who has a funky-chicken windup.

All that said ... as a Cardinals fan and an umpire, I'm not sure I'm a fan of all their "within the rulebook" base-running antics this year.  It's a slippery slope.

Caveat up front:  the Cardinals are "my" National League team, but second only to the M's.

I thought this video was really interesting (thanks again for posting these here, @Lindsay) and I get why RLI wasn't called. What I don't understand is how PU didn't see the runner as intentionally trying to disrupt the throw. We have the benefit of seeing R3 start running outside the foul line then moving to the inside of the line, but how many times do runners take that line during "normal" play? Hardly ever, I'd wager.

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Simply running in a spot which makes the throw more difficult is apparently not interference. Does anyone have any ideas what would make it INT? I am sure if R3 had flailed his arms around or suddenly veered towards foul territory it would then be INT. 

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23 hours ago, Mussgrass said:

Simply running in a spot which makes the throw more difficult is apparently not interference. Does anyone have any ideas what would make it INT? I am sure if R3 had flailed his arms around or suddenly veered towards foul territory it would then be INT. 

Why would suddenly veering into foul territory make this any less interference than suddenly veering into fair territory which is exactly what he did?  R3 knew exactly what he was doing and was hoping for an outcome exactly what happened. Back in my playing days I have done this same thing.  Believe me, I know umpires have plenty to look for but I would think with the game on the line he (HP Umpire) should kind of have his radar up as soon as that ball was hit. Seriously, just my two cents.

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I guess my thinking is that if he had kept on veering in his path to the plate that would be INT more than veering once. Maybe because that would be more likely to be interfering with the throw, as opposed to simply running in a spot that makes it more difficult to make the throw.

Keep in mind, this is totally different by rule than RLI. In this case there is no runner's lane that he must be in.

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46 minutes ago, urout17 said:

R3 knew exactly what he was doing and was hoping for an outcome exactly what happened. Back in my playing days I have done this same thing. 

I agree that's likely (if not probable). The burden of proof is very high to call this INF though. 

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Putting himself into the position to make the throw more difficult ...  Isn't a batter crowding the plater doing the same thing?  He doesn't know where the pitch is going to go, but he is taking away space for it to happen.  Isn't a batter standing still in the box when the catcher is making a play on a stealing runner at third base the same thing?  

I will agree, I don't like the look of it.  However if we are going to say the batter being in the wrong place is NOT interference then how do you not say the same for a runner who puts himself in an advantageous position but does nothing to directly interfere with the throw?

I am struggling to see the interference in the Calhoun play up above also.  The argument I can see for it is that he "was watching the throw" and you may see all those strange start-stop gyrations.  However if you watch the whole play, his start-stop movements were due to the ball being dropped, bobbled, and recovered -- not a throw -- and once the ball is thrown he does not move into the path.  That ball is already headed at him and he turns his head so it gets his helmet, not his face.

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15 hours ago, The Man in Blue said:

I am struggling to see the interference in the Calhoun play up above also.  The argument I can see for it is that he "was watching the throw" and you may see all those strange start-stop gyrations.  However if you watch the whole play, his start-stop movements were due to the ball being dropped, bobbled, and recovered -- not a throw -- and once the ball is thrown he does not move into the path.  That ball is already headed at him and he turns his head so it gets his helmet, not his face.

At the risk of venturing into OT territory, if I was U2 during live action I probably would've had Calhoun safe at 2B as well. With the benefit of replay, I think it's pretty clear he moved his head to block the ball--Manchester United defenders should be proud. Judging intent--therein lies the rub.

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9 hours ago, 834k3r said:

At the risk of venturing into OT territory, if I was U2 during live action I probably would've had Calhoun safe at 2B as well. With the benefit of replay, I think it's pretty clear he moved his head to block the ball--Manchester United defenders should be proud. Judging intent--therein lies the rub.

 

Do you think he did?  I really thought it looked like he was turning to avoid being hit in the face, not moving his head into the path.  With the TV angle, I can't say I disagree, just that I saw it differently.  😉

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13 hours ago, The Man in Blue said:

 

Do you think he did?  I really thought it looked like he was turning to avoid being hit in the face, not moving his head into the path.  With the TV angle, I can't say I disagree, just that I saw it differently.  😉

Fair enough. That's why we love being umpires, right? 🤪

Turning his head is one thing, but at 0:57, 1:06, and 2:22 of the video he's not just turning; I see it as he's tilting his head and slightly moving his body deliberately to interfere.

YMMV, and probably does.

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15 hours ago, The Man in Blue said:

 

Do you think he did?  I really thought it looked like he was turning to avoid being hit in the face, not moving his head into the path.  With the TV angle, I can't say I disagree, just that I saw it differently.  😉

He head butted the baseball.  Really nothing to discuss.  He flat out head butted the baseball.

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