I don’t like to get technical very often in this blog, but a big play in Monday’s Modesto Nuts’ game caused a rarely-used baseball rule to be invoked, and the question today was whether the umpires correctly applied the rule.
Here’s the situation, some of which was in my game story:
In the bottom of the sixth inning, with one out, Taylor Featherston was on second base and Harold Riggins was on first.
Trevor Story hit a drive into the gap in right-center. Featherston was holding near second base for a possible tag-up, while Riggins got a better read on the ball and was already at second base when the ball landed.
The two runners turned third base separated by about 10 feet, and third base coach Jon Stone gave Featherston the go-ahead to score while putting up the stop sign for Riggins.
Stone did more than hold up his hands. He stepped into Riggins’ path and made contact with the baserunner as Featherston scored.
What’s the ruling?
(imagine the Final Jeopardy theme here.)
According to Rule 7.09H, interference is to be called when a base coach touches or holds a runner and assists him in returning or leaving a base. Unless the interference is the third out of the inning the play remains live, and the out call is to be made as soon as the play ends
When no call was made, Bakersfield manager Ken Griffey came out of the dugout to claim Riggins should be called out, then returned to the dugout.
The ball was put in play. The pitcher stepped off the rubber and threw to third base, which is the usual baseball appeal procedure. At that point, Riggins was called out.
Did the umpires get the call right?
If in their judgement, Riggins’ path was influenced by Stone’s actions, then Riggins is out under the rule. So, that answer is yes, and getting the call right is the ultimate goal.
But was the rule applied correctly?
Again, under baseball rules, interference by a coach is not a play that can be appealed. So as soon as the ball was placed into play, Riggins was not eligible to be put out on appeal. The umpires did not correctly apply the rule.