The potentially applicable rules to A-Rod

(Updated: reader Jeffrey Lang-Weir pointed out that there is a definition in 2, which led to this re-write)

Rule 2 defines interference.

INTERFERENCE
(a) Offensive interference is an act by the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play. If the umpire declares the batter, batter- runner, or a runner out for interference, all other runners shall return to the last base that was in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference, unless otherwise provided by these rules.

Rule 7.08 deals with when a runner’s out, and this is what those who would argue that A-Rod should have been called out are referring to:

7.08
Any runner is out when –
[...]
(b) He intentionally interferes with a thrown ball; or hinders a fielder
attempting to make a play on a batted ball;
Rule 7.08(b) Comment: A runner who is adjudged to have hindered a fielder who is attempting to make a play on a batted ball is out whether it was intentional or not.

Now, watching the replay it’s pretty clear that when he runs through, that’s okay: as long as he doesn’t get in the way of the fielder making the play, he’s fine.

The issue is – does yelling at the fielders count as hindering them as they attempt to make a play on the batter?

While what we see enforced in games is is that physically hampering the fielder is illegal (and almost never done) while vocally attempting the same thing is, at least, not enforced, it’s clear from the definition that confusing the fielder is illegal and offensive interference.

As long as it’s not enforced – like foreign substances on uniforms for pitchers – a runner would be dumb not to take advantage of it when it could so clearly help his team.

With two outs, too, what’s the harm? If it doesn’t work, inning over. If it works, huge benefit. There’s no reason for him not to try, and that’s why it’s a smart play on his part. I’m sure – to editorialize for a second – that if this had been Jeter, or if you don’t think Jeter would do that, pick a saavy popular veteran of your choice – that this would hardly be the subject of that much controversy.

11 comments ↓

#1 Evan on 05.31.07 at 12:09 pm

I have to agree. As long as the rule isn’t enforced, ARod would have to be crazy not to take advantage of the opportunity.

The blame here lies with the umpires who failed to enforce a rule of the game.

#2 vj on 05.31.07 at 12:57 pm

Derek, you may have a formatting glitch, all of the posts suddenly are in italics. Cheers, vj

#3 Ryan on 05.31.07 at 7:00 pm

Well…A-Rod, you better armour up buddy because you have to face Toronto pitching a lot and they might not be too friendly with their inside pitches!

#4 david h on 05.31.07 at 9:00 pm

“confuses any fielder attempting to make a play” – seems like this fits the definition. If it’s not enforced, and it seems clear that it isn’t, then yeah, go for it, it’s a good move. However, the Rule 2 definition of interference doesn’t seem to give the umpires as much leeway as rule 7.08, on its own, does.

#5 zzyzx on 06.01.07 at 5:27 am

It might have not been enforced before, but it sure will be now.

I disagree that it would be called heads up if Jeter had done it. People know that this is wrong because it’s considered to be a jerk move in slow pitch softball. Fake throws and tags don’t have the same reaction as someone who tries to call off outfielders. I’ve almost seemed some fights start because of that.

#6 tgf on 06.01.07 at 7:22 pm

I’m surprised Torre is coming out in public against it. Managers of guys that commit crimes off the field rarely say anything bad about their player. And anyone who thinks this is “bush league” (see the above linked boston globe article) and the hidden ball trick or stealing signs is fine is being incosistent.

#7 Anthony on 06.02.07 at 7:11 am

Tango Tiger raised a good point on his blog (click link on my name): the point of calling a ball is to avoid injury. This could conceivably increase the likelihood of injuries in the future.

Now I agree with you that it isn’t cheating, and there’s entirely way too much focus on it (certainly much more than if Jeter did it). Just curious what your take is on the injury angle.

#8 thoan on 06.02.07 at 3:38 pm

When the latest A-Rod “outrage” occurred, I immediately thought of the “Cheater’s Guide” book, and how it could instruct us in this case.

Speaking as one with legal training, I think A-Rod skates around Rule 2. Speech is not an “act.” This distinction actually comes up in conspiracy cases with some regularity. An “act” requires, well, action. How can a non-act “hinder a fielder?” What if A-Rod had uttered a particularly funny “Yo mama” joke to the second baseman, who was doubled over with laughter and missed the play? Best not to start conflating speech with acts.

Turning to a less legalistic approach, it is hard to see how what A-Rod did is anything but the offensive equivalent of the hidden ball trick. As DMZ has written, this sort of thing has made the game deeper and more interesting. Personally, I’m agnostic about the “ethics” or “sportsmanship” involved. But since there is no rule against it, the defense can do equally sneaky stuff and, really, it was clever and amusing, this is not a basis for condemning the Yankee’s mercenary 3B. There’s much better grist for that mill.

#9 John Collins on 06.07.07 at 10:52 am

Speech isn’t an act? That sounds absurd. Crying “fire” in a crowded theater, or delivering a speech that incites a riot, or reading the Gettysburg Address, isn’t action? Speech is the result of a decision, and has a causal impact. It’s action.

#10 Don on 09.02.07 at 7:07 am

If you are in the Major Leagues, you should be able to catch that ball no matter if you could hear a pin drop or if F16 jets are flying over.