Rules Area 

Written by Rich Marazzi

"I've never seen that happen in the history of my years in professional baseball. Ever," said Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland following the Tigers’ Sept. 22
8-0 win over the Twins. Here is what happened.
The Twins were batting in the top of the fifth and had Alexi Casilla on second base and one out when Denard Span hit a pop fly behind second base. Tigers’ shortstop Jhonny Peraltabackpedaled and bumped into Casilla who was standing on the base with his back to the play. Umpire Brian O’Nora called Casilla out for interfering with Peralta.
Twins’ manager Ron Gardenhire argued the play and was told that the base does not necessarily protect the runner from being called out for interference. Apparently O’Nora wanted to seeCasilla make an effort to give Peralta some space. Casilla did not and was called out.
Was O’Nora correct? Rule 7.08(b) reads, "A runner who is adjudged to have hindered a fielder who is attempting to play on a batted ball is out whether it was intentional or not. If, however, the runner has contact with a legally occupied base when he hinders the fielder, he should not be called out, unless such hindrance, in the umpire's judgment ... is intentional."
The question here is what is to be interpreted as intentional? Does intent mean that there must be an overt act on the part of the runner? Or does it include situations where a runner can create interference by “intentionally” refusing to avoid or give ground to the fielder? This certainly would apply in a situation where a foul fly is near the on-deck batter or a base coach. In such cases the on-deck batter or coach must relinquish his space or attempt to, if necessary.
The runner having legal contact with a base obviously takes this to another level. But until MLB can clarify what the word “intentional” means or does not mean, I would support O’Nora’s call. IfCasilla had made some attempt to avoid the fielder while making contact with the base, I doubt if O’Nora would have made the call.
Would every umpire have reacted like O’Nora? I doubt it. But since many rules are subject to interpretation, it’s difficult to fault the umpires in certain situations and this is one.

One final point. The rule states, “If the umpire declares the hindrance intentional, the following penalty shall apply. With less than two out, the umpire shall declare both the batter and the runner out. With two out, the umpire shall declare the batter out. Because O’Nora ruled interference, in his judgment there was intent. Therefore, two outs should have been called on the play. 

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