The sports world was in pandemonium Saturday night when Allen Craig scored on a walk-off obstruction call to give the Cardinals a 2-1 series lead. However, the umpires made the correct and necessary call.
From the time Craig was in grade school, his coaches taught him that if he was interfered with on the base paths, he was to run to the next base regardless of the outcome. Any time a fielder gets in the way of a runner without the ball, it is obstruction and the runner is awarded the next base.
Intention does not matter. Of course Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks could not get out of the way because he was sprawled out on the ground. Middlebrooks attempted to move by flailing his legs in the air, but Craig tripped over him anyway.
The ruling may not be exactly fair to Middlebrooks, who was put in a terrible position. But I don’t think we want umpires judging the intent of a player. College football’s targeting rule is a perfect example of the need for a hard and fast rule, instead of a grey area for officials and umpires to guess on the fly.
Many people argue that a hobbled Craig would have been thrown out at home plate even if he were not interfered with. Obviously that is a possibility, but it is impossible to know how the rest of the play would have ended up with Craig barreling down the line without hesitation.
Obstruction is a fairly rare occurrence anyway, and with 162 games to play for each team, no play can be dissected with too much vigor because every fan, player and reporter would be emotionally exhausted by the middle of May.
But this was the fall classic. Millions of eyes were watching and only a small percentage of the fans knew the exact rule. Suddenly, obstruction is trending on twitter and the umpires are being hammered before the Cardinals are done celebrating.
A lot of people feel like the Red Sox got hosed, and to those people I would say Jarrod Saltalamacchia made a bad throw and Middlebrooks failed to get off the bag and catch the ball. A good throw and/or a good catch would have solved the problem and not put the game in the hands of the umpires.
The fact is that umpires and officials are routinely roasted for blowing the game with a bad call or a misinterpretation of a rule. But these guys got it right. In the clutch moment on the biggest stage, umpire Jim Joyce and his crew did their job, and the Red Sox did not.