Boston Red Sox

Oct 29, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Home plate umpire Sam Holbrook (34) calls Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner (not pictured) on an interference call during the seventh inning in game six of the 2019 World Series against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

By Matt McCarthy,

Let’s make this clear: home plate umpire Sam Holbrook undeniably, undoubtedly, and unequivocally got it right when he called Nationals shortstop Trea Turner out for interference in the seventh inning of World Series Game 6.

It may not have seemed like it, it may not have looked like it, but the rules are the rules and they are clear.

MLB rule 5.09 (a) (11) states a batter is out when:

In running the last half of the distance from home base to first base, while the ball is being fielded to first base, he runs…(to the left of) the foul line, and in the umpire’s judgment in so doing interferes with the fielder taking the throw at first base. 

The rule then clearly defines where batter-runners can be in the final 45 feet before first base:

The lines marking the three-foot lane are a part of that lane and a batter-runner is required to have both feet within the three-foot lane or on the lines marking the lane. The batter-runner is permitted to exit the three-foot lane by means of a step, stride, reach or slide in the immediate vicinity of first base for the sole purpose of touching first base

Turner is required to run in the marked three-foot lane. He did not. It’s pretty simple, right?

Yeah but McCarthy, I read the rule and I’m still not sure about the call.

You have questions, I have answers.

Turner was running straight at the bag when he reached first base. Doesn’t this matter?

Absolutely not. Turner clearly ran to the left of the foul line before straightening out his path to the base in his final step or two. He never once came close to getting both feet inside the three-foot running lane (which is clearly painted on the field). This is a violation. Watch as his left foot clips the infield grass the entire way up the line, including in the final 45 feet before the bag.

Simply put: if you do not run in the painted lane for the final 45 feet before touching first base and you prevent the first baseman from catching the ball, you are out.

The intention of this rule is to provide a throwing lane to first base for the fielder and to allow the first baseman to make a play on the ball. Turner did not allow that to happen.

Doesn’t this happen all the time? Why isn’t this type of interference called more?

Of course runners run inside the foul line all the time. Jose Altuve did it an inning later, much to the outrage of Twitter.

So why wasn’t Altuve in violation of the rules?

It’s simple: he didn’t interfere with the throwing lane of the fielder and he didn’t interfere with the first baseman making a play on the ball. Turner did both of those things. That’s why he was called out.

Is this a bad rule?

Yes, yes, yes. The base is in fair territory and we expect the batter-runner to run in a lane in foul territory? How absurd is that?

But the umpire’s job is to apply the rules as written, and Holbrook did that.

Yeah, but I hate umpires! I want robots!

The RoboUmp 5000 would have made the same call.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s own Hardcore Baseball podcast and on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.

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