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There was a fun controversial play in last night’s baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros in the American League championship series involving two of the best and shortest players in baseball. The Astros’ Jose Altuve, last year’s MVP, hit a long flyball that was coming down in the stands. The Red Sox’s Mookie Betts, likely this year’s MVP, leapt above the wall, but there his glove ran into the hands of Astros fans trying to catch the homer hit right at them.

The umpire called the hitter out due to fan interference and sent the baserunner back to first. If he’d called it a homer, that would have scored two runs, which wound up being how many the Astros lost by to fall behind 1 and 3 in best of 7 series.

My view is the umpire was mistaken. The fans were not flagrantly reaching into the field of play to interfere where they did not belong, they were sticking their hands out to try to catch the ball and keep it from whomping them in the groin. I’ve only rarely have had a hardball hit near me in the stands at an MLB park, but it’s pretty terrifying, if it gets past your hands toward your body or face it will hurt. The fans in Houston were engaging in perfectly reasonable self defense against the ball that had been hit 400 feet and was coming at their bodies in the stands..

So I would not have called fan interference. But then what? Was it a homer or was it just a ball in play, probably a double? Baseball does not have a rule like in football where a touchdown is scored the moment the nose of the football touches the imaginary plane rising up from the front of the goalline stripe. If Betts had leaned into the stands and caught the homer, it would have been an out even though the ball had crossed the line between the field and the outfield bleachers and into the promised land of the homer. But it appeared that the ball struck Mookie’s glove, which had been inadvertently closed by his glove slamming into the hands of fans trying to catch the ball so it wouldn’t hurt them. The ball seemed to mostly bounce off Mookie’s glove and back down onto the field.

So I’d say: no interference, no homer, a live ball, probably a double for Altuve.

But what do baseball rules say about the plane of the wall? Baseball isn’t like football where once the nose of the ball in possession of an offensive player penetrates an imaginary plane rising straight up from the front of the goalline, it’s a touchdown.

Baseball highlight reels are full of clips of outfielders snagging balls over the wall thus turning homers into outs.

On the other hand, baseball rules might imply that the plane of the wall matters when it comes to fan interference. If the fans aren’t reaching over the wall, then no interference.

I might allow fans to reach forward toward the ball, even sticking their hands over the plane of the wall, to protect themselves from being hit by the ball on the body or head, which might have been the case here.

But fans should be penalized for reaching outward toward a ball that wouldn’t have hit them except for their reaching. For example, a hooking line drive is hit fair over 3rd base and it’s right to left spin causes it to roll toward the stands in foul territory in left. The leftfielder positions himself for the carom off the low fence, but a fan leans over the wall and touches the ball, causing it to carom in an unexpected direction, allowing the hitter to get an extra base. The ump should send the runner back to whichever base he figures the runner would have reached if the ball was fielded cleanly without fan interference.)

But, finally, what do you do when the ball crosses the plane of the wall, hits the fielder’s glove, and then the ball bounces off the glove back onto the field of play? I’d lean toward: live ball, play continues.

What if it bounces off the fielder’s glove and the fingers of a spectator back onto the field of play (which might have happened to Betts). I don’t want to encourage home fans to try to touch the ball to guarantee it being a homer, so I’d say: live ball, play continues.

The fans in Houston’s bleachers were at risk of being hit by two fast-moving objects, the hard baseball, and Betts’ glove and hand. Their reactions — stick their hands out — were natural and not strategic. So, I’d say, live ball and let the players play.

The umpire would have done best not to make a call and instead just let the players play.

 
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  1. FO337 says:

    This is an allegory of some kind for The Wall, right?

    Speaking of, who’s this Daniel Horowitz guy? Seems pretty righteous.

    https://www.conservativereview.com/news/president-trump-has-full-constitutional-power-to-stop-the-border-invasion-even-without-congress/

    • Replies: @Marty
  2. bomag says:

    The key here is if the interference occurred on or off the field of play.

    Looks like it occurred OFF the field of play.

    HOME RUN!

    • Agree: Bubba
  3. Anonym says:

    The fans in Houston were engaging in perfectly reasonable self defense against the ball that had been hit 400 feet and was coming on their bodies in the stands..

    That sentence is a bit NSFW Steve.

  4. So I’d say: no interference, no homer, a live ball, probably a double for Altuve.

    However, ever since 1996 during a playoff game vs. BAL, when Derek Jeter hit a ball and the fan did the same thing (reached over and caught it), and the call was made that it was a HR, there has been widespread controversy over this exact sort of thing.

    So technically, the ump made the right call: It’s an out, due to fan interference.

  5. I’m going to need to know the race, voting habits and sexual preferences of all the players, fans and umpires involved before I can rule on this.

    • LOL: bomag
  6. “So I’d say: no interference, no homer, a live ball, probably a double for Altuve.”

    However, ever since 1996 during a playoff game vs. BAL, when Derek Jeter hit a ball and the fan did the same thing (reached over and caught it), and the call was made that it was a HR, there has been widespread controversy over this exact sort of thing. There appears to be no direct way to draw the line as to what constitutes a HR whenever the ball is close to a player being able to have a reasonable chance to make a play.

    Also in baseball, it’s the only sport where the player and NOT the ball/puck itself scores. In other words, suppose the ball had cleared the fence far enough with no doubt as to being a HR, if the runner doesn’t touch all four bases rounding the infield, he’s automatically out. It’s the player, NOT the ball itself that does the scoring. Which is kinda cool. If Mazeroski didn’t touch all four bases vs NY in game 7, it’s a nice long flyball, but it’s out number one in the 9th.

    So technically, the ump made the right call: It’s an out, due to fan interference. Intentional or not is irrelevant. The point is that fan contact was made with a still live baseball where a player had a legitimate chance to make a play.

    Pretty much goes back to Jeter’s HR, which wouldn’t be a HR today under the current understanding of the rules.

  7. They’d better figure out the best option quick because the stadium construction guarantees it will be a recurring problem.

  8. Agreed. It should have been called a double.

    It was not a homer.

  9. jJay says:

    My son plays PONY league baseball. One of the game fields is a popular hang out for the homeless. So this kid knocks the ball over the right fielder’s head. A solid triple, but one of the vagrants picked the ball up and threw it back to right fielder. The batter had to stop at second.

    The umpire let it go. Every baseball field has it’s own unique character. Do you really want rigorous law enforcement on the perimeter of every baseball field? It so, every field should have the exactly the same dimensions, wall heights, and no plant for the ball to get stuck in.

    I don’t think fans should participate in the game, but baseball would loose some of its charm were to be regulated like football.

  10. GW says:

    It looked like the right call.

  11. “[A] rule like in football where a touchdown is scored the moment the nose of the football touches the imaginary plane rising up from the front of the goalline stripe.” The rule which leads to hot-dogging players ‘breaking the plane’ and then tossing it back into the field of play (except when they didn’t and not only give up a touchdown but also fumble). Cf, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-xHCITb2WM . Would have been even funnier if BYU or Boise State had done it to them for reasons that don’t have to be stated to iSteve readers, but even so…

  12. Bitfu says:

    A homer all the way. The fan’s hands were chest high when he touched the ball. What’s more, he was trying to catch that ball with alligator arms–there was no extension whatsoever.

    If the fan did not make a move, do you really think that ball would have landed in the field of play (or Betts’ glove no less)? Absolutely not–that ball would have hit the fan in the chest, and would have been a home-run.

    • Replies: @bomag
  13. The Z Blog says: • Website

    Well, the fans could have been motivated by what they believed are secret radio signals from the planet Zingmar. They could be jerks trying to alter the game. They could have been drunk and unaware of what they were doing. There’s a lot of Occam’s Butterknife going on here.

    What matters is the player was interfered with by fans while trying to catch a live ball. That was plainly obvious. Even assuming MLB has a special camera that can detect fan motivation, the rule does not allow for that sort of mitigation.

    • Replies: @Inquiring Mind
  14. anonymous[340] • Disclaimer says:

    Sure, it’s always a homer. That’s why they lowered the seams. See, it engages the fans.

    Boycott Ba$hball.

  15. It was fan interference. Those fans had several seconds to get out of the way of the ball and ensure they were not interfering in the field of play by crossing the invisible boundary. In fact, those fans did the exact opposite.

    Fans are warned in advance by Major League Baseball that flying baseballs are potentially dangerous and that they should conduct themselves cautiously. Instead of doing their best to get our the way, these fans did the complete opposite and actually placed themselves in the field of play, even if when subsequently doing so at least one of them acted in a reflexive manner.

    Some of those fans actually could have been thrown out of the game for what they did.

    If the outfielder had crossed the invisible plane and reached into the stands to attempt to save a homerun, that’s a different story. Then it’s a legitimate free-for-all. But that wasn’t the case here.

    The fans effectively reached into the field of play and acted inappropriately. It was the right call.

  16. Not a home run. Fan interference, inadvertent or otherwise.

  17. Always, when stumped, we should ask ourselves; “What would Homer do?”

  18. Danindc says:

    Bad call. You can’t go into the seats. Great effort by Betts but fans did nothing wrong so no interference. It was a home run. Likely cost Astros the win.
    Is there a more pressure-packed endeavor than playoff baseball?

  19. MEH 0910 says:

    Homer Simpson-Steve Bartman Incident (Chicago Cubs)

  20. I hate to say it, but even the best shot doesn’t make it clear whether the line was crossed by that particular fan. Other fans’ hands did cross the line.

    Like it or not, it is up to the umpire to make the call, and his call can only be overruled by evidence to the contrary. This was a judgement call.

    Did the ump make the right call? Maybe.
    Was the replay ruling correct? Yes.

    I don’t have a dog in this race. I am rooting slightly for the Astros, but the winner of this game means far less to me than a softball game I watched last weekend.

    If they wanted the fans to care they would put the games on network TV.

    • Agree: Dtbb
  21. Barnard says:

    I agree, the ball was over the fence before they made contact with it. What were they supposed to do, let it hit them? This is completely different from the Jeffrey Maier play in 1996 because he reached over the wall and was as no risk of getting hit. According to the rules, I think it should be called a home run.

    • Agree: Travis
  22. Mookie says:

    It looks like the right call. Freeze at 1:54 and 1:55. There are six arms reaching for the ball: two from the guy in the red shirt, two from the guy in the blue shirt, one from the idiot in the white shirt two seats away, and one from Mookie. Only the guy in the blue shirt could conceivably be protecting himself from the ball. The hands of red shirt guy and white shirt idiot reaching over from the next section are on or over the vertical plane separating the field from the stands.

    Mookie’s timing and positioning were perfect. He clearly would have caught the ball but for the fact that the impact of his glove with the pool of hands from blue shirt guy and red shirt guy closed his glove, thereby interfering with the play. Good call.

    If red shirt guy and white shirt idiot had kept their arms down the call may have been different.

  23. No, no, no! No, no, no!. You cannot say both that the ourfielder’s glove was hit by the fans’ hands and that there was no interference. Hardball or not, the fans have an obligation to let the play go naturally. The call was exactly right.

    • Replies: @Danindc
  24. slumber_j says:

    The fans in Houston were engaging in perfectly reasonable self defense against the ball that had been hit 400 feet and was coming on their bodies in the stands.

    If they’d been Black Bodies, how would things have been different? Discuss.

    • LOL: Fred Boynton
    • Replies: @Buzz Mohawk
  25. Hubbub says:

    But it appeared that the ball struck Mookie’s glove, which had been inadvertently closed by his glove slamming into the hands of fans trying to catch the ball so it wouldn’t hurt them.

    I saw Mookie’s glove close before the ball got to his glove and before the fans touched it. He was not in a good position to see the ball clearly and make a clean catch. Altuve was robbed.

  26. The umpires are a joke just look at this sequence from NLDS game 3 between the Braves/Dodgers. The Ump called a high pitch a strike because Acuna dropped his bat. I watched this game live and Buehler’s command was GONE the guy walked the pitcher to load the bases and then threw 3 balls way outside to Acuna before that crazy strike call. That grand slam on the next pitch was an incredible moment though.

  27. peterike says:

    A ball hit into the stands is a home run. The ball, far as I can tell, made it over the fence. The fact that fans interfered with the catching of the ball is, frankly, tough noogies. It’s a stupid rule. Fans are part of the game — the most important part, actually — and if occasionally they interfere with a borderline ball, well that’s too bad. As a player, it’s your job to out-hustle them.

    At the very least, it should have been a double. Calling it an out is disgraceful, and nobody likes to see an umpire take away from the obvious live happenings on the field. It’s like all those absurd “that wasn’t a catch” rules in football when the receiver quite obviously “caught” the ball in any normal definition of catching a football. A little more sandlot style ruling (obviously a home run) vs. today’s absurd techno-precision would be better for all concerned. This kind of thing is contributing to the ongoing ruination of sports.

    • Replies: @Dtbb
  28. The fans in Houston were engaging in perfectly reasonable self defense against the ball that had been hit 400 feet and was coming on their bodies in the stands..

    I hate to be a stickler*, but that’s sure better than at 4 ft or 40 ft away off the same bat. That ball has lost a decent amount of energy getting through the air, and the higher up those fans were (about 8 ‘ where their hands were), the slightly-better too.

    I don’t at all blame those fans for blocking their heads and bodies, as you say, along with flash thoughts of “man, this one will bring a lot on ebay!”

    BTW, upon looking for drag coefficient values for baseballs, I read here that they’ve been going down slightly (2-3 %) over the last few years for reasons not quite determined yet. That’s been resulting in more homers.

    * No, actually, I enjoy it.

  29. JerryC says:

    No, the ball cleared the yellow line at the top of the wall on the fly. So it can be either an out (if the fans reached into the field of play) or a homer (if Betts reached into the stands), but it can’t be a live ball.

  30. @slumber_j

    If they’d been Black Bodies, how would things have been different? Discuss.

    Is this a physics/sociology test?

    Answer: If they’d been Black Bodies, they would have absorbed the baseball they way they absorb light, and they would have been victims deserving compensation.

    Plus a riot would have broken out.

    • Agree: slumber_j
    • LOL: Forbes
    • Replies: @anonymous
  31. It’s probably strange to people unfamiliar with the sport that baseball has fans sitting right at the wall. I think that we are used to it because that’s just the way it is. Are there any other sports that are set up to essentially make fan interference part of the game?

  32. GW says:

    “The fans in Houston were engaging in perfectly reasonable self defense against the ball that had been hit 400 feet and was coming on their bodies in the stands..”

    Irrelevant. The rules state the player has the right to make a catch in the field of play. Once he goes into the stands there’s a difference, sure. The ball looked to still be on the player’s side of the field, thus fan interference prevented him from catching the ball.

  33. Hodag says:

    Looked like interference to me. But Joe West is terrible and has been since I was a child.

    • Replies: @Paleo Liberal
  34. I would tend to agree that the play should have been ruled a double. I might’ve called it a home run, but I haven’t umpired a baseball game since I did local 4th and 3rd graders’ games as a teenager.

    Anyway, I don’t watch baseball anymore because it is too unbearably white. I mean, just look at the players in this series!

  35. anonymous[340] • Disclaimer says:
    @Buzz Mohawk

    Give it a break, please.

    Why does Mr. Sailer put up with off-topic comments? The witless, race obsessed dingleberries seem especially effective in crapping up the thread.

    • Disagree: BenKenobi
    • Replies: @Buzz Mohawk
  36. @Hodag

    Sometimes a blind pig finds an acorn.

    Sometimes a blind umpire gets the call right.

    To be polite, Joe West has had more than his share of controversial calls. Far better than the umpires for beer league softball games, but perhaps not the best MLB umpire.

  37. Alfa158 says:

    Steve should look at it as a question from his beloved game of golf. If a drive bounces off a fan in the gallery and rolls into the cup is that a hole in one, or is the player penalized? It wasn’t intentional so is it interference, or do we treat the fan like a passive tree the ball might have bounced off?

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
    , @Dtbb
  38. Anon[367] • Disclaimer says:

    Why was Homer named Homer? He told a story about a man on a long journey Home.

    Almost makes you think ‘home’ originated from ‘Homer’ but No.

    https://www.etymonline.com/word/home

    Central story of the West is about a man headed homeward.

    Central pastime of America is about players moving around the field to come to home base.

    But the New World undermined the home-centric emotions of the West. The adventurers left their homelands and settled in the New World and, in time, lost their roots. Moving(migration) became more central than settling. And then this new ideal infected other parts of the world where the big dream is not to appreciate and defend the homeland but move to the US one day. And Americanism having been globalized, Europeans now believe their continent must be open to mass migration.

    Still, until 1965, the US was the New Homeland for white people. So, there was some sense of new roots, a sense of This Is Our Land. But with 1965 immigration act, the US was no longer even the New Homeland for whites. A home is no longer your home if it’s Open House all the time.

    For most of US history, due to difficulty of movement and communication, the immigration from Old World to the New World meant being cut off from the old homeland and culture. But now, with the technology and internet, it is possible for white Americans to reconnect with their European roots. But Europeans are handing over their homelands to Africans, Muslims, and South Asians.

  39. Anon[367] • Disclaimer says:

    Elizabeth Warren has competition.

  40. Forbes says:

    Wrong call. Fans are not reaching into field of play. But then I want Boston to lose. So I’m biased.

    But the call is what it is–and there isn’t enough visual evidence to overturn it. If it was a non-call, i.e. play the ball off the missed catch, it doubt it would have been overturned on replay as, again, insufficient visual evidence.

  41. Pat Boyle says:

    I never watch baseball on TV. But last night I watched this game and a great game it was. It was indisputably a homer.

  42. But Red Sox fan Ron Darling claimed the Astros fans shut Betts’ glove with an evil pincer-like move, preventing the outfielder from making the catch. How this clown ended up in TBS’s booth is one of life’s great mysteries.

    • Replies: @Fred Boynton
  43. IIRC, the old rule in hockey was that the puck had to entirely cross the goal line under the crossbar and between the goal posts within the frame of the goal and make contact with something inside the frame (i.e., the netting itself, or the ice). So a goalkeeper whose body was on the crease side of the goal could conceivably still pluck a puck out of the air that had crossed the goal line under the crossbar (sort of like the NFL’s plane in the end zone) and make a save.

    That makes sense to me in these circumstances in baseball – if the ball hits something (fan, seat) on the out of play side of the outfield fence (with a vertical plane from the inside of the fence to heaven), it’s a HR even if it deflects into the fielder’s glove. If the ball breaks that plane but the fielder catches it, it’s an out. The area on the out of play side of the plane should be a no man’s land, where the fan’s right to protect himself and the fielder’s right to attempt to make an out are coequal and opposing – the fan has no duty to yield to the fielder’s attempt, and the fan has an equal right to field the ball himself even if the fan’s attempt interferes with the fielder’s body or glove beyond the plane. Only a fan breaking that plane and entering into the field of play and thereby impeding the fielder’s efforts to make the out should be fan interference.

  44. I don’t comment on baseball matters, they being far outside my field of concern. But I will say this:

    People with the vocabulary of a nine year old and no facility of address need to stop making videos. Why would anybody want to listen to this? It’s painful to hear some dumbass just repeat the clause “over the line” in four or five consecutive sentences, without going into depth about the relevant rules, without arguing spiritedly, engaging neither the mind nor the passions of his viewers, not even bothering to vary his syntax or his tone of voice to give the proceedings some pizzazz.

    Look Mr. Holden, there’s a reason why you’re not making the big bucks as a professional sportscaster: You suck. You really, really suck. You just need to get the hell off the internet already. It’s an insult to bandwidth that any of it must be utilized to transmit festering garbage like this. You are not the purpose for which this stuff was invented. The untold thousands of scientists and engineers, whose labors and discoveries where necessary to build up the modern internet, would have hanged themselves in despair had they known that the end toward which all their hard work was tending was just to allow some fat real estate salesman from Texas the ability to broadcast (poorly, shamelessly) his freaking sportsball opinions to his 225 subscribers.

    Have some humility and sense of proportion, and remove yourself from the public square. You should be grateful that you’re even alive in the first place. You should be thankful that the physical universe hasn’t rebelled against your existence, and that the oxygen doesn’t rush out of your lungs in protest against the indignity of becoming part of a being like yourself. But instead, to the original sin of Adam and whatever personal sins you’ve committed, you now wish to add the effrontery of appallingly bad taste. What shall be your reward be if you continue in this fashion?

    This is how civilizations die. They eventually become unworthy of life, unworthy of further efforts, an offense against God and every creature. Thus does the great course of time—so many battles, so many labors, so much heart’s blood poured out in the service of higher ideals—wind itself up in absurdities, and slumps back into silent ruin. The epic becomes farce, and then is ended.

    • Replies: @rob
  45. Clyde says:

    You might think a guy named Mookie is a clown or fool? He is making 10 million this year, all 10 guaranteed, in a one year contract.

    • Replies: @Fred Boynton
  46. istevefan says:
    @Paleo Liberal

    If they wanted the fans to care they would put the games on network TV.

    I hate that too.

  47. Umpy Joe says:

    I’d have given him the double. When overrun with competing variables, the most just decision is the one that leaves both sides somewhat pissed off.
    There’s just too much going on. Calling it all one way or the other, in this case, is a bit arrogant.

  48. istevefan says:

    Three years ago I was at the ALCS game 6 between the Royals and Blue Jays. Moustakis hit a homerun that was contested by the Blue Jays who claimed a fan reached over the wall and caught the ball. But the umpires let the homerun stand.

    I was in those outfield seats, but was not in the line of sight of the ball. I could not see it because everyone was standing up. So I did not understand why the game was stopped for a review.

    Watch the replay angles. It’s a close call. At the game I had no doubt it was a homer. But watching at home, I could not be for sure.

  49. Does spectator interference have to be intentional?

  50. From the angle of the fielder’s arm it is clear that the ball had passed the plane of the wall before it hit the outside of the fielder’s glove, which had been closed by contact with a spectator’s hand, also beyond the plane of the wall. So, no interference, and the fielder knocked the ball back onto the field without it touching anything other than his glove. It should have been a live ball. But the ump blew it. Forgivably, given his distance from a close play. But he blew it.

    • Replies: @RadicalCenter
  51. If the folks in charge of baseball cared, the walls could be a few feet higher and the seats could be offset a few feet back so that this sort of interference was impossible. I assume that the owners/etc don’t care enough to fix the problem.

    • Replies: @Buzz Mohawk
    , @Ian M.
  52. Deckin says:

    One thing this video and still photos demonstrate conclusively is what athletic hand-eye coordination looks like in real time compared to the common person’s abilities.

    If you watch only Bettis follows the ball with his eyes all the way to its stopping place. The three guys in the stands have stopped tracking the ball somewhere from 3-5 feet before where it touches down. It’s not at all easy to, especially under stress. Athletes really are different.

  53. Maybe there needs to be a variation on the automatic double rules, such that a case like this would be included. I assumed there was such a version, but now after checking, I can’t find it.

    If a catcher flips over spectators when he’s trying to catch a pop foul, they don’t call that spectator interference.

    On second look at the video, however, it looks like perhaps it should have been called a ball in play, as if the glove mashed into the ivy at Wrigley Field or something. The fans’ hands in this case were obstacles that the glove bumped into. The ball seems to have bounced off the closed glove.

    A jury would have to acquit the umpire in this case, because none of the interpretations can be made beyond a reasonable doubt.

  54. @Alfa158

    It wasn’t intentional so is it interference, or do we treat the fan like a passive tree the ball might have bounced off?

    Are Houston fans still passive trees? Bill James was surprised at how quiet the Astrodome used to be.

  55. Why is this even a controversy?

    Fan Hands appear to be even with – and not over – the imaginary plane extending from the fence skyward to the heavens. No different than foul territory.

    Ball hits Betts’ glove and back into field of play. Hard to tell exactly if and where there was fan-to-glove contact. As such: Live ball. Altuve double. (A homer? That’s not even in the realm of possibility.)

    Bad call by West (but he had a horrible vantage)……..BUT I HAVE THE SOLUTION!

    During the playoffs they run an officiating crew of 6, rather than 4. As it is now the two extra umps (RF and LF line) stand just outside the edge of the infield dirt. Lotta good that does.

    Position them out by the warning track. They’ll still be able to see what’s in front of them, and yet have a better perspective on these kind of calls against the wall.

    There. I saved baseball from itself. You’re welcome. LOL

  56. Relevant rule:

    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.

    https://www.sbnation.com/mlb/2018/10/17/17992716/alcs-game-4-jose-altuve-home-run-fan-interference-mookie-betts-red-sox-astros

    There was no definitive angle in any replay to settle it. My sense was that Betts kept his mitt on the playing field side, given where he jumped from, and the mostly vertical angle of his jump and his reach.

    I think the fans did what anybody might do instinctively in that situation: put their hands where they needed to be to catch the ball. That likely was somewhere in the field of play.

    • Replies: @candid_observer
  57. IHTG says:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/18/opinion/democrat-electorate-left-turn.html

    • Replies: @Paleo Liberal
  58. @Mark Roulo

    Eccentricities make baseball more fun, such as keeping Fenway Park as silly as it is. Every venue is different. The ivy on the outfield wall at Wrigley and the fans behind it at the Astrodome should remain where they are.

    The only suggestion for a physical change that makes sense is from iSteve: Move home plate back a few yards so you can stretch everything out, because players now run faster and hit the ball harder. Do that — and add a pitch clock! — and you’ll bring a lot of charm back to the game.

  59. Ian M. says:
    @Mark Roulo

    If you made the walls a few feet higher, an outfielder would never have the opportunity to rob a batter of a homerun, and that’s too exciting of a play to get rid of.

    But the other idea – offset the seats a few feet back – might be workable.

  60. @anonymous

    Mea culpa, #340.

    On the other hand, this is an HBD blog, where scientific questions such as, “Why do Black Bodies behave differently?” are often discussed. At least we’re not talking about dingleberries.

    • Replies: @slumber_j
  61. Ian M. says:

    I’m pretty sure that if I were an Astros’ fan, I would be pissed. I’m also pretty sure that had the call gone the other way and I were a Red Sox fan, I would also be pissed.

    I’m glad I’m not either.

    I thought Betts’s glove was probably over the line. There was one replay angle right down the rightfield wall that would have settled it, but the security guy was in the way.

    I also think it’s assuming a lot to say that Betts would have caught that ball had the fans not interfered, as the announcers said several times. He did have a line on the ball, but there’s no way to say with any certainty that he would have held on to the ball after hitting the wall and then tumbling to the ground. (Guessing whether he would have held on to the ball is probably irrelevant to determining the correct call though).

    They should change the rule such that a play like that results in a double.

    But what a throw by Betts to nail Kemp at second.

  62. Ian M. says:
    @Paleo Liberal

    If they wanted the fans to care they would put the games on network TV.

    They would also start games earlier or figure out a way to reduce the length of games such that they would end earlier than 1 am EST. According to Baseball Reference, the game last night lasted 4 hours and 33 minutes. That’s outrageous for a 9-inning game.

    • Replies: @Paleo Liberal
  63. El Dato says:

    After all the talk about Donna Zuckerberg’s Classical Fetish, I was expecting an article about the Blind Bard of Antiquity recounting events that happened during the Bronze Age Collapse thousand years earlier.

    But no…

  64. I agree with Steve here. How is a fan’s hands in the stands any different from say, the wall, or the fence? As long as the fans are not where they’re not supposed to be their behavior shouldn’t matter.

  65. @candid_observer

    The point about where the fans hands were is actually pretty clear, I think, if you look at the behavior and position of the fans themselves. They are standing right next to the fence, slightly leaning over, and extending their hands even further.

    It isn’t physically possible to do that without having your hands on the other side of the fence.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  66. @Gandydancer

    You and commenter at number forty seem to have the most logical perspective.

    First, as noted, a batted ball doesn’t automatically or presumptively become a home run by virtue of crossing the plane of the wall and going out of the field.

    Second, a fielder is allowed to catch the ball when it’s already out of the field of play and clearly over the wall, if he is able to do so. As with the example of a catcher bowling over fans in their seats to catch a foul pop.

    If a fielder can catch the ball in such an off-the-field / over-the-Wall location, making an out, why shouldn’t he be allowed to bat the ball back into the field of play if he is able (a much better outcome for the opposing team than an out, thus not unfair to the opposing team compared to the much more common outcome of a ball caught by a player for an out over the wall / in the stands).

    How far would the batter here have made it before the ball was thrown back into the Infield? Probably a triple? (Or maybe a really fast guy, motoring without pause (no Manny Machado style),could get an inside-the-Park homer.)

  67. njguy73 says:
    @Buzz Mohawk

    Do that — and add a pitch clock! — and you’ll bring a lot of charm back to the game.

    No. Just start enforcing Rule 8.04.

    Next question.

  68. Steve, your reasoning is usually impeccable, but this makes no sense:

    The fans (…) were sticking their hands out to try to catch the ball and keep it from whomping them in the groin.

    The fans in Houston were engaging in perfectly reasonable self defense against the ball …

    If they wanted to protect their groins, the front row wouldn’t have stood up from behind the wall and exposed more of their body to the ball. The video clearly shows all the fans near the ball stretching and competing to catch it, risking unnecessary injury to do so.

    You went to school in Houston, maybe you’re joshing a bit due to tangential loyalty to your alma mater? ;)

  69. @Bragadocious

    How this clown ended up in TBS’s booth is one of life’s great mysteries.

    Ron Darling is one of them Asian Ivy Leaguers, Yale I believe.

    • Replies: @Paleo Liberal
  70. @Ian M.

    I saw a World Series game, many years ago, with Steve Carlton as the starter. The game lasted about 2 hours. Carlton was a fast pitcher in every sense of the word. He hated the pitchers who go to the mound, have a little ritual, shake off a few pitches, and then finally throw a pitch. His motto was “think long, think wrong”.

    • Replies: @ScarletNumber
  71. @Clyde

    You might think a guy named Mookie is a clown or fool?

    I don’t know about this, but I’m pretty sure everyone visiting this site knows Mookie’s a black male by the name alone without ever seeing him or his picture.

  72. @Paleo Liberal

    I can’t even find them on the radio.

  73. @IHTG

    Depends on what you mean by “left”.

    A LOT of what passes for “left wing” these days is stuff that benefits the corporations and the very rich, but is socially liberal.

    The first, and I think so far ONLY, African American billionaire is Oprah Winfrey.

    Imagine someone similar to Oprah, but a lesbian. (I don’t know and don’t care which team Oprah plays for, or if she swings both ways. )

    There is no better time in the history of the planet to be rich and black, rich and female, and/or rich and gay. The tax and economic systems, in the US and the rest of the world, are set up to make the rich richer, the poor poorer, and the middle class hanging on for dear life.

    There has been an interesting deal between the establishment left and right: the left wing gets to win on most social issues (except guns, and isn’t doing that well on abortion), while the pro-business right-wing gets to win on economic issues (tax breaks for the rich, bailouts for large corporations, etc.). Notice that BOTH of these help the hypothetical black lesbian billionaire.

    The Archie Bunker types are completely screwed, and left to die in a sea of opioids.

  74. anon[246] • Disclaimer says:

    I didn’t see Steve Bartman in the stands, so it wasn’t fan interference.

  75. bomag says:
    @Bitfu

    Agree here.

    Betts MIGHT have caught the ball for an out, but he didn’t, and the ball was out of play, so tough luck.

    I scanned the rules; if a ball is out of play, fan interference doesn’t matter; you take what you get.

  76. The plot thickens.

    Turns out there was a camera with the correct view to determine which side of the plane of the wall the ball was on.

    But a security guard blocked the camera.

    D’oh!

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  77. J.Ross says: • Website

    OT So, how’s that wall comin’?

    https://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2018/10/100-isis-terrorists-caught-in-guatemala-as-central-american-caravan-heads-to-u-s/

    Think any of them are good at baseball?

  78. @Paleo Liberal

    But what do baseball rules say about the plane of the wall? Baseball isn’t like football. Baseball highlight reels are full of clips of outfielders snagging balls over the wall thus turning homers into outs.

    On the other hand, baseball rules might imply that the plane of the wall matters when it comes to fan interference. If the fans aren’t reaching over the wall, then no interference. (I might allow fans to reach forward toward the ball, even sticking their hands over the plane of the wall, to protect themselves from being hit by the ball on the body or head, which seems to be the case here, rather than reach outward toward a ball that wouldn’t have hit them except for their reach.)

    But, finally, what do you do when the ball crosses the plane of the wall, hits the fielder’s glove, and then the ball bounces off the glove back onto the field of play? I’d lean toward: live ball, play continues.

    What if it bounces off the fielder’s glove and the fingers of a spectator back onto the field of play (which might have happened here). I don’t want to encourage home fans to try to touch the ball to guarantee it being a homer, so I’d say: live ball, play continues.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
    , @Paleo Liberal
  79. @Buzz Mohawk

    The ivy on the outfield wall at Wrigley and the fans behind it at the Astrodome should remain where they are.

    If the fans are at the Astrodome, they are a good 950 miles behind the Wrigley wall. And they’d better have a work permit, because without one you aren’t allowed in the building anymore.

    • Replies: @Buzz Mohawk
  80. @Steve Sailer

    Call Otis. Their sensors will open the doors wherever you stick your hand.

    • Agree: Paleo Liberal
  81. Dtbb says:
    @peterike

    On the sandlot this is an obvious “DO OVER!” The proper ruling is homer. Mookie was into the fans domain and the ball contacted a fan in that domain so instant homer. After it touched the fan outside of the field of play all latter events are irrelevant.

  82. Dtbb says:
    @Alfa158

    Hole in one. It’s called rub of the green.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  83. slumber_j says:
    @Buzz Mohawk

    For that matter, unlike some people at least we bothered to name ourselves…

  84. @candid_observer

    It depends how far back from the fence the closest place to stand is. I can’t tell in this case.

    • Replies: @candid_observer
  85. Marty says:
    @FO337

    Michael Savages’s lawyer.

  86. @Buzz Mohawk

    Also, slope the field slightly downhill from homeplate to make rolling and bouncing hit balls go ever so slightly faster, which would give a modest advantage to line driver hitters who are being crowded out of the game by home run hitters.

    Successful teams like the Dodgers and Yankees are sending up 7 or 8 guys who can hit 20 homers or more per year, which is fun when they hit homers, but can make for excruciatingly boring games when they don’t. Plus, there is little rising tension as the team gets closer and closer to scoring a run. Instead there is just waiting around for somebody to finally hit one out.

    Football is a great spectator sport because of the rising hope and tension of the drive down the field. Basketball isn’t as good because there is too much scoring of equal value goals.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
    , @Dtbb
    , @anonymous
  87. @Steve Sailer

    Plus, there is little rising tension as the team gets closer and closer to scoring a run.

    The Finns accentuate this tension in pesäpallo by increasing the length of the basepath as you advance. It gets harder, not easier, to score.

  88. Dtbb says:
    @Steve Sailer

    Infields slope away from pitcher’s mound in all directions for drainage. Arc of dirt infield is slightly built up and then slopes toward outfield also.

  89. Danindc says:
    @Tono Bungay

    Does that include leaving their seat so Mookie is unhindered?

  90. @Reg Cæsar

    LOL! I sure screwed that up. Two strikes in one swing!

    I’m still learning how to write, and I can’t think of the Astros without the dome.

  91. @Steve Sailer

    I agree that the plane of the wall is implied by the interference rule.

    The question remains: did the fan cross the line. It really isn’t clear. It looks like the fan probably didn’t cross the wall, but there is no clear angle.

    In that case we need to use the umpire’s judgment.

    I like Reg Caesar’s idea of sensors. They are doing that for just about everything else in baseball, more so in tennis. I’m not trying to put words in anyone’s mouth, but I wouldn’t mind sensors for the strike zone, when the plate was stepped on, etc. Why should bad calls be a big part of the game? This isn’t the NFL.

    • Replies: @Fred Boynton
  92. @Dtbb

    Fans get hit by golf balls all the time. Arnold Palmer’s rivals complained that his huge galleries gave him an advantage in that his wild shots were more likely to hit a fan and not roll out of bounds than their bad shots were. But then wiser heads pointed out that Arnie’s fans’ ticket purchases were boosting their prize winnings, so shut up about it.

  93. Sports sucks. It’s all fixed and they are all on steroids.

    It is fun to watch you suckers acting like it is real. Like all professional sports are not exactly like professional wrestling.

  94. Cricket has slightly different rules, but here is an incredible boundary catch. Had the catcher’s feet touched the ground outside the boundary rope while he held the ball it would have been a cricket equivalent of a home run.

    And no gloves.

    • Replies: @Buzz Mohawk
  95. @Paleo Liberal

    Your memory may be playing tricks on you. The games that best fit your description were both in the NLCS, not the World Series

    * 1983 Game 4 vs Los Angeles, defeated Jerry Reuss 1-0, giving up 7 hits in 7.2 innings. Time 2:17
    * 1978 Game 3 at Los Angeles, defeated Don Sutton 7-4, giving up 8 hits in a complete game. Time 2:18

    Do either of these look familiar to you (or Steve)?

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  96. @ScarletNumber

    The weirdest fast game of all time was the 7th game of the 1960 World Series won by the Pirates over the Yankees 10-9 on Mazeroski’s walk-off homer. It only took 2 hours and 36 minutes. Fans got their money’s worth and time’s worth out of that game.

    Nobody struck out in the whole game, which was one reason it was so fast.

    That happened to be the last game of the classic 16 team major leagues that had endured from 1901 to 1960.

    • Replies: @ScarletNumber
  97. The umpire called the hitter out due to fan interference and sent the baserunner back to first.

    You are really underselling this. The umpire in question was Joe West, who is obese and 65. There was no way he was in a position to properly make this call. Unfortunately, due to a security guard who was watching the play instead of doing his job, replay was inconclusive.

    I wonder if there is a subconscious bias against the home team in this situation. One could argue that if this was Fenway, then the fans would have cleared the way for Betts to make the catch. Then again, you could argue that the fans are part of home field advantage.

    As for me, I would have called it a home run.

  98. @Steve Sailer

    And there were 5 mid-inning pitching changes.

  99. Peterike says:

    So which is the whitest team left in the playoffs? I want to know who to root for.

  100. @Steve Sailer

    Look at the guy in the white shirt who’s leaning both forward somewhat, and to his right. He has his hand on the rail, and is leaning over the rail. He also is reaching still further out into the field, but the ball seems to be clearly in front of his hand.

  101. @Yojimbo/Zatoichi

    “Also in baseball, it’s the only sport where the player and NOT the ball/puck itself scores.” And this relates to my one issue with baseball, that a fielder can jump from the field of play, land outside the field of play like the seats, and record an out outside of the field of play. The play in question is interference because of this fact.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  102. anonymous[340] • Disclaimer says:
    @Steve Sailer

    Why does this topic bring out the 8th grade science fair in so many?

    The one, simple thing that can (and should, unless you find the game more “fun when they hit homers”) be done is to return to the relatively high-seamed ball of just a few years ago.

    1. It has been repeatedly noted on this blog, most notably last year by commenter Travis, that the new ball carries substantially farther. Beyond the immediate effect of converting a can of corn to a dinger, everyone retools: batters swing for the fences, pitchers try to strike everyone out, and more batters are walked but disinclined to run the bases aggressively.

    2. I’m not aware of formal analyses, but have also read that pitchers who would otherwise (even in light of #1) throw an off-speed pitch don’t because the new ball won’t break as sharply. Another reason that pitching to contact is no longer an effective approach.

    Some faithful fans don’t want to see it, but the game is now home run derby. Instead of a replay of a spectacular fielding play, great throw, or close play at the plate, everyone here is fixated on an umpire’s judgment call about whether the new super ball cleared the fence.

    Maybe you guys just need to nerd?

  103. @It's All Ball Bearings

    Snagging a seeming homer hit over the outfield fence was not seen that much when I was a kid. I can recall Eric David causing a sensation by doing it 4 times in 1987 and then Ken Griffey Jr. making it a regular thing in the early 1990s. So I’d say the later 1980s was when it became a normal expectation.

    I vaguely recall that fences used to be maybe 10 feet tall in Dodger Stadium, the role model for 1960s-1970s stadiums, so it was harder to get up over the fence, so not that many outfielders tried. The Dodgers had a super athletic centerfield named Willie Davis all through the 1960s, but I don’t recall him routinely robbing hitters of homers by reaching over the fence. It just wasn’t a thing yet. Similarly, Willie Mays was legendary for running down balls hit within the fences, but I don’t recall that it was routine for him to reach over the fence.

    Okay, it says here that the outfield fence in Dodger Stadium was shortened from 10 feet to 8 feet in 1973.

    That probably improved Ron Cey’s career considerably. My early 1980s roommate, who was a San Francisco Giants fan, would point out grumpily that a lot of Cey’s homers just barely cleared the fence.

    My impression is that postwar stadiums were generally designed to avoid players coming into contact with fans. For example, the outfield bleachers at Dodger Stadium are set back about 8 feet from the fences, so these kind of plays are rare.

    One unfortunate precedent set by Dodger Stadium was that the bleachers were set back several feet from the outfield fence, providing space for small stairways by which fans enter and exit. As a result, many home runs drop inside that small space, just out of reach of the fans, taking away a lot of the fun.

    http://www.andrewclem.com/Baseball/DodgerStadium.html

    (Although there are a few seats in the left and right field corners that are set at ground level.) I presume the thinking of postwar stadium designers was to rationalize ballparks to avoid these kind of controversies.

    But controversies are fun. The Houston ballpark has a 7 foot fence in right field that I could get a glove over. The ballpark is built to have these kind of Betts-Altuve controversies. Modern stadium design is a lot like the “crowded house” set-up of the House of Commons, where it’s expected that historical moments of high drama will take place with statesmen crowding into a too-small arena.

  104. AWM says:

    Live ball, probably a double.

  105. @Fred Boynton

    Close. He’s half Asian, and he finished up at NYU, although about 90%+ of his classes were at Yale.

    One year he injured his hand, and was out for the season. He needed a few credits to graduate, so he enrolled at NYU. IIRC, he had a restaurant a few blocks away, so that was very convenient. In fact, one time I saw him rushing from class to his restaurant, while all the men shouted words of praise and encouragement.

    I knew a young lady who worked at the NYU admissions office, and I talked to her right after her shift ended the day Ron Darling enrolled. She said Ron Darling came up to the desk, asking for help filling out forms because his hand was injured and he couldn’t write. According to this young lady, the ladies in the admissions office thought Mr. Darling to be rather attractive. He was pretty much swarmed with ladies helping him fill out his forms.

  106. @Jonathan Mason

    That’s great. Thanks for posting it. Most of us Americans have seen very little cricket, and know even less about it.

  107. @The Z Blog

    Yes, but in light of recent Senate hearings for Supreme Court confirmation, were the fans acting to protect themselves in a way against fan interests or in a way furthering fan interests?

    I rest my case!

  108. I don’t know exactly how the interference rule reads, but it seems to me that if a player is allowed to reach over the fence to catch a ball for an out (which he clearly is), the fans should be obligated to stay out of his way while he does so. If that’s what the rule says, then it was fan interference whether or not that was their intent.

    • Replies: @Rex Little
  109. @Rex Little

    Update: I just read that the rules say it isn’t interference unless the fan reaches over the fence into the field of play. So if the umpire saw the fan reach over the fence, he made the correct call. If not, he didn’t.

  110. @Paleo Liberal

    Sensors only “work” because they are thought to be infallible. In tennis, for example, they work great on hard-courts and grass courts because on close plays it’s hard to tell exactly where the ball hit and the sensors give you a decisive answer. On clay courts sensors are not used because you can literally see the mark the ball makes when it hits the clay. They don’t use sensors here because they are worried that the discrepancy between the physical evidence on the clay court and what the sensors say will result in both players and fans losing their religious faith in the infallibility of the sensors.

    If you introduce sensors into baseball, you will need to keep both TV and rogue fans from introducing video evidence that the sensors are wrong. In tennis, they show you a simulated video of what the sensor is supposedly telling them but they do not show video replay of the actual event so as not to cast doubt on the infallibility of the sensors.

  111. MEH 0910 says:

    • Replies: @MEH 0910
  112. Sorry, the fans were not protecting themselves from danger, they were embracing it. Such as is was.

  113. rob says:
    @Intelligent Dasein

    I don’t agree with you on much, ID, and didn’t watch the video, but this was a great comment.

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