Joe West infuriated Astros fans during Game 4 of the ALCS, giving all baseball fans a hot debate topic for the bar this weekend. West made a call on the field that fan interference prevented Mookie Betts from catching what could have (should have?) been a double by Jose Altuve.
But here’s the deal: once the ball crosses into the stands, interference cannot be called. The MLB rulebook clearly delineates that
“When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.”2018 Official Baseball Rules
What constitutes interference, though? Looks like Joe West needs to brush up on his rule book knowledge, because rule 6.01(e) goes on to say
“No interference shall be allowed when a fielder reaches over a fence, railing, rope or into a stand to catch a ball. He does so at his own risk. However, should a spectator reach out on the playing field side of such fence, railing or rope, and plainly prevent the fielder from catching the ball, then the batsman should be called out for the spectator’s interference.”2018 Official Baseball Rules
AKA, it wasn’t interference. It should have been a double.
There was not sufficient video evidence to overturn the call on the field, so Altuve remained out. A security guard leaning out to see where the ball went blocked the TV camera with the best angle down the line. I can’t blame him…but c’mon, man!
This photo from the other side looks clear; the ball crossed into the stands.
Here’s a closer look, and a bit of levity:
All this fan wants is a fair game. Is that too much to ask, with sophisticated cameras covering almost every inch and angle of the playing field?
Umps are not infallible, but they certainly can be infuriating.
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