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Obstruction Calls Are 2024's Point of Emphasis


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Obstruction calls are set to increase in 2024 thanks to a new MLB point of emphasis of Official Baseball Rule 6.01(h), according to an ESPN source. Succinctly, the league office will instruct umpires to rule a runner safe in the event a fielder blocks a runner's path to the base while preparing to receive a throw.

This point of emphasis brings OBR 6.01(h) into greater alignment with 6.01(i)(2), the Collisions at Home Plate rule for fielders that functionally employs a similar penalty to the existing obstruction rule, but only applies at home plate and is also much more strict in its standard for violation.

Home plate collision rule OBR 6.01(i)(2) states, in part, "Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as they are attempting to score...it shall not be considered a violation of this Rule 6.01(i)(2) if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in a legitimate attempt to field the throw."

Meanwhile, the existing definition for Obstruction (at any base), as found in the rulebook's Definition of Terms, states: "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."

The definition of obstruction predates the home plate collision rule by a number of decades and is plainly not as detailed. Although OBR and the MLB Umpire Manual both make reference to "the act of fielding" relative to obstruction, the phrase "legitimate attempt" is nowhere to be seen in this particular rule relative to a fielder preparing to receive a throw who might use their leg to block a runner's base path.

Over the past few years, runner's lane interferencea rule since changed prior to the 2024 season by expanding the width of the runner's lane—has received emphasis, which in turn resulted in a handful of additional arguments and ejections.

Will obstruction suffer this same fate? | Video as follows:

Alternate Link: MLB instructs umps to call more obstruction on the bases in 2024 POE

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"Fielding the ball" and "catching a throw" are two different things (yes, I know MLB uses the term "field the throw" at home plate, but still no), and the conflagration that occurred to "allow" blocking the base was ignorant.

Blocking the base should have NEVER been acceptable as it most certainly impedes a runner.  The notion that providing a path, even it is not the runner's chosen path is NOT impeding was an exercise in mental gymnastics to justify stupidity.  Even more fun was the calculations and quantum physics that went into determining just how much of the base could be blocked . . . 

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"The league is instructing teams to tell their players it is OK to straddle the bag or stand in front or behind it, but not to go to a knee or block the path of the runner unless moving to receive the ball. The call is a judgment one that is not reviewable."

It is reviewable at home plate though...

I'll believe it when I see it. The frequency with which this happens at 2B on a steal make me doubt it will be called regularly and consistently.

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14 hours ago, ErichKeane said:

I like that this is a POE at the pro level.  I've been calling this and getting some pretty grouchy coaches over it, so seeing it called more at the pro level is going to help!

 

Call this in LL on something blatant and you get a 50/50 from parents those who it was called for are all YAH!  those against are like "WHAT!"

 

Call it in LL on something a bit more less but Yes it was there ( IE a 1st baseman standing at the bag, on a line drive to the gap in left and they are in the runners path and the runner is forced to run around them while rounding 1st and heading to 2nd)  I have called that at 12U you get "huh?" and "WTH" from everyone. 

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2 hours ago, ArchAngel72 said:

Call this in LL on something blatant and you get a 50/50 from parents those who it was called for are all YAH!  those against are like "WHAT!"

True, because we all come up watching professional players who so rarely obstruct or interfere. Our brains have thus been trained up to a pattern where baseball plays generally occur legally. As we know, youth baseball is quite different, including the officiating—many adults present at youth games assume that the umpire is making something up against their team.

2 hours ago, ArchAngel72 said:

Call it in LL on something a bit more less but Yes it was there ( IE a 1st baseman standing at the bag, on a line drive to the gap in left and they are in the runners path and the runner is forced to run around them while rounding 1st and heading to 2nd)  I have called that at 12U you get "huh?" and "WTH" from everyone. 

I discourage umpires we train from calling the "less than blatant." We have to judge whether a runner was clearly hindered in advancing (or returning) to a base. Get the big ones (and I am NOT asserting that contact is required), and leave the borderline ones uncalled (a "talk to" offense, in your example, with F3).

That won't guarantee that anyone likes the call, but will give us more confidence to say, "Coach, the runner was clearly hindered in his advance by F3 being out of position." He won't agree, but we'll be certain (and any video will support our judgment call).

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5 hours ago, maven said:

I discourage umpires we train from calling the "less than blatant." We have to judge whether a runner was clearly hindered in advancing (or returning) to a base. Get the big ones (and I am NOT asserting that contact is required), and leave the borderline ones uncalled (a "talk to" offense, in your example, with F3).

That won't guarantee that anyone likes the call, but will give us more confidence to say, "Coach, the runner was clearly hindered in his advance by F3 being out of position." He won't agree, but we'll be certain (and any video will support our judgment call).

 

I understand what you are saying, My feelings are if at the level I am at, with 8-10U  I will stop early season games and chat with F3 and the coach ( or whatever fielder was the problem cause trust me its usually F3,F4,F6,F5 and then F2 or F1 in that order on the same LL homerun)  But somewhere in the 2nd half of the season I stop talking to the players and start enforcing it cause how else are they at that point going to learn.  10-12U  I give them 2 or 3 weeks of the season to chat with. Then its call it as I see it cause at their age they should know better and to be honest its 75% of them that do grasp it.

🤷‍♂️

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