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August 27, 2012

BP Unfiltered

Ethier's Interference

by Colin Wyers

Please, watch this highlight from last night's Marlins-Dodgers game. Don't worry, I'll wait.

There's a lot going on here, so let's take it step by step through the first ruling:

1) Luis Cruz hits a popup very close to the first base foul line, with Andre Ethier at first and Adrian Gonzalez at second.

2) Carlos Lee, at the time playing first base, lumbers over towards the ball in a very Carlos Lee sort of way. In the process of doing so, he runs into Andre Ethier, who was the runner at first.

3) The batter is called out on the infield fly rule (or thrown out at first, this really isn't clear to me, and as you'll see in a bit, it's totally inconsequential), and Gonzalez is out trying to advance to third on the ball. So the Marlins seem to turn a double play on the ball, and the inning is over. Maybe.

Then Don Mattingly comes out and the umpires gather to discuss the play. After lengthy discussion, they decide that instead Ethier was out on interference with Lee, and that the ball was dead after that so no other outs occurred. Ozzie Guillen came out next to confer with the umps and (this may be the most incredible thing about the whole play) did not seem to get angry about anything. Cruz then rendered the whole dispute meaningless by indisputably making an out on a ball hit to the left fielder.

Everyone involved seemed rather confused as to what had just happened, and for good reason—this may be largely unprecedented. There have been runners called out for interfering with a ball in play, of course (those are simply just rare). But most of the time they appear to be in the process of actually running; a runner on first will typically be attempting to advance to second or a runner on third will be trying to come home. I cannot find, in the record we have of full play-by-play data, any instance of a runner called out for interference at the base he started from. It just goes to show you—baseball always has something new up its sleeves.

Colin Wyers is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Colin's other articles. You can contact Colin by clicking here

3 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Actually, I believe the ball was ruled a foul ball, since it wasn't touched and rolled foul after landing fair. Therefore, Ethier's out on interference, and Cruz is charged a strike.

Aug 27, 2012 15:59 PM
rating: 5

I watched this play live. I would agree with eighteen. I think the announcers had it correctly called as well. Just when you've seen it all!

Aug 27, 2012 16:15 PM
rating: 1

In one other article I read the claim was that the first base umpire's hand in the air signaling "out" was for the infield fly rule (if fair), but I think it was conceivably for the interference call.


Assuming Carlos Lee would have made that catch with "normal effort" begs the question whether the umpire takes defense into account when making the call...

Another one lauds Vin Scully's quick recognition of the final ruling.


However, if the infield fly rule had been called prior to the interference, and the ball had been touched or stayed fair, I think it would have been both Cruz and Ethier out, with Gonzalez returned to second base upon the dead ball from the interference call.

Did one of the umps call and signal infield fly?

One other instance of interference being called on a runner at his base was on July 29, 1989 (thanks to Baseball Hall of Shame).

Vince Coleman swatted an errant pickoff throw into foul territory from his prone position, popped up, and took off for second. Andres Galarraga told Eric Gregg, "I'm not chasing that." Gregg called Coleman out admonishing him "Vince, you can't do that. Not even in the Pacific Coast League."

Coleman was called out for interference at second later in the same game for blatantly swiping with his hands at the middle infielder trying to turn a double play, but that was just "routine" interference.

Aug 28, 2012 07:39 AM
rating: 0
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