MLB Rumors: Did the Astros get away with one?
Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez was furious after a walk-off loss to the Houston Astros. The game ended in controversial fashion, as Houston slugger Jake Meyers appeared to be outside the basepaths, thus causing what would become a game-ending error from Nationals catcher Keibert Ruiz.
With a five-man infield, Martinez’s defensive adjustment was the right call, as an easy out was made at home plate. Ruiz made an accurate throw to first base, which would have resulted in a double play.
Meyers, however, was in the way of the throw.
The fielder right of way rule, per the MLB rulebook, is meant to give the fielding player every opportunity to make a play on the ball. If a baserunner, or any offensive player or coach, gets in the way, then the runner should be called out:
"“Fielders have a right to occupy any space needed to catch or field a batted ball and also must not be hindered while attempting to field a thrown ball. If any member of the batting team (including the coaches) interferes with a fielder’s right of way to field a batted ball, the batter shall be declared out. If any member of the batting team (including the coaches) interferes with a fielder’s right of way to field a thrown ball, the runner on whom the play is being made shall be ruled out. In both cases, the ball will be declared dead and all runners must return to their last legally occupied base at the time of the interference. However, a runner is not obligated to vacate a base he is legally permitted to occupy to allow a defender the space to field a batted or thrown ball in the proximity of said base.”"
Of course, if Meyers is deemed within the basepaths, then it’s on the catcher Ruiz to avoid the runner. The rule itself leaves much up to the umpire’s interpretation, which doesn’t help matters. Martinez was furious after the game, even printing out a still photo of Meyers running to first base.
Martinez is sure to be fined for his antics, but he’s right — baseball needs to do a better job defining its rules for all involved.