It has been close to 20 hours and we feel no better now than when AJ Pierzynski created a phantom interference call supported by Doug Eddings.
OBSTRUCTION (from MLB official rules): 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.
As can be seen in the images above, Willy Aybar is not “in possession of the ball” and he is not “in the act of fielding the ball”. So the question then is whether or not Aybar “impedes the progress” of Pierzynski. We needed the still-frame above to even determine if contact had actually occurred.
Clearly Pierzynski is initiating the contact. That should end the discussion, right? Nope. We get this interpretation from umpire Ted Barrett following the game:
“As a runner, you’re allowed to (make contact). What Doug ruled at second base was, even though A.J. did kind of stick his arm out to make contact, Aybar was still in his way, so A.J., if he would have turned, he wouldn’t have been able to continue on to third. So after making the throw, Aybar is no longer in the act of fielding and he can’t obstruct the runner…”
Is there any difference between this play and the time Alex Rodriguez slapped the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove in the ’04 ALCS? Sure different situations. But ultimately the runner’s responsibility is to advance to the next base and should not initiate contact with a fielder unless a fielder is blocking the runner’s path to the base.
Where does it stop? Is it OK for a runner rounding first base on a routine single to alter their path by a few steps to initiate contact with the first baseman and be awarded second base? And if not…Why is it, in the words of Barrett, ok for Pierzynski to make contact?
Did Aybar “impede the progress” of Pierzynski? His progress where exactly? Progress from falling backwards on his own fat ass?
And the umpire should not be bailing out a runner that was stupid enough to get himself into the situation in a first place. Aybar did not hinder the runner. Aybar did not impede the runner. Aybar did not cause Pierzynski to be tagged out. This is no different than a basketball player that leaves his feet out of control and creates contact. A referee is not going to bail that player out with a foul call and an umpire should not be bailing a runner out when he gets himself in a pickle.
And to make matters worse, we had to watch this garbage while listening to the White Sox TV announcers. We have never hidden our disdain for the homerisms of Hawk Harrelson and Darrin Jackson (although we like Jackson better than Tom Paciorek). And they were at their homerific best yesterday. While some announcers may watch a play and note that their team “got a break”, Harrelson and Co., repeatedly praised Pierzynski for his baseball “instincts”. Instincts? This play never happens if Pierzynski does not break a cardinal rule of baseball by trying to advance to third base on a ground ball in front of him.
From the White Sox broadcast:
Jackson: That is third baseman’s fault for not veering to the left and getting out of the way…I’m gonna tell ya. AJ’s got some of the best baseball instincts that you are going to come across anywhere.
a few moments later after more Pierzynski ass-kissing…
Harrelson: I have had so many enjoyable moments watching him play, since he was a sophomore in high school, that he was doing stuff like that back then.
What is being said around the Blogosphere…
- One White Sox blogger says this is “one more reason to hate A.J,” calling the play an “Emmy winning performance.” [The Bard's Room]
- Another White Sox blogger says Pierzynski “suckered Eddings with inspiration drawn from desperation,” and compared Eddings to a pro wresling referree. [Sox Machine]
- And yet another White Sox blogger says Pierzynski “somehow was able to sell his case to the umpire.” [Bugs and Cranks]
- Her Rays wishes she could turn the little weasel into her favorite game of “Whack-A-Mole.” [Her Rays]
- Outs Per Swing feels the rule is in question and Aybar should not be penalized for not doing something that was impossible to do. [Outs Per Swing]
- “GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.” [DRays Bay]