October 18, 2018

Altuve Ruled Out on Fan Interference in ALCS Game 4: Mookie Betts tries to make a play at the wall on a Jose Altuve hit, and the umpires rule that a fan interfered and call Altuve out.

posted by bender to baseball at 09:22 AM - 20 comments

I'm not particularly interested in whether or not they got this call right or not. I find it frustrating that MLB has a fan interference rule that applies to anything other than someone jumping over the rail and running onto the field. Either (1) let fans sit close to the action, and get over the fact that occasionally fans and players are going to touch each other while reaching for the same ball, or (2) engineer it out of the ballparks. I am absolutely for option 1, but those fans are 0% wrong for reaching for that ball, and it is ridiculous that the rule allows the umpires to decide that a ball that was not caught was actually an out.

posted by bender at 09:29 AM on October 18

OK, just now seeing this play for the first time and, boy, did Boston ever get a gift there. Had nobody been there, the ball would've bounced off the side of the mitt and it would've been a home run. Crazy call

posted by NoMich at 10:19 AM on October 18

I'm not particularly interested in whether or not they got this call right or not. I find it frustrating that MLB has a fan interference rule that applies to anything other than someone jumping over the rail and running onto the field. Either (1) let fans sit close to the action, and get over the fact that occasionally fans and players are going to touch each other while reaching for the same ball, or (2) engineer it out of the ballparks.

At Wrigley, they have a "basket" all the way around the outfield wall, so there's no real chance of fan interference on home run balls. But of course, possibly the most famous fan interference incident of all time (with apologies to Jeffrey Maier, the only other fan known by name for interference) happened at Wrigley, on a foul ball, so there's probably no designing it out of the game 100%.

Apparently the baskets at Wrigley were installed in 1970 because of fan interference, but in this case drunk fans in the 1969 season regularly jumping from the bleachers onto the field.

OK, just now seeing this play for the first time and, boy, did Boston ever get a gift there. Had nobody been there, the ball would've bounced off the side of the mitt and it would've been a home run. Crazy call

If you look at one of the replays, seems his glove hit the fan's hand before the ball hit the glove, so I think he may have been impeded in getting his glove as far over to his left as he needed to in order to make the catch.

posted by holden at 10:20 AM on October 18

(2) engineer it out of the ballparks

Would solve the issue but hard to implement. And to what extent - would a buffer be required around the entire diamond, including dugouts / etc.?

And I agree that it was the correct ruling both on the field and by replay. Contact is made with the player's glove when he is attempting to make the catch.

posted by cixelsyd at 10:51 AM on October 18

Would solve the issue but hard to implement. And to what extent - would a buffer be required around the entire diamond, including dugouts / etc.?

I agree. In some situations it would be relatively easy, and in others, it would take quite a bit of effort. My vote would be to make the easy changes and then eliminate the fan interference rule. If a ball touches a fan and is not caught by a player, it should simply be treated as if it landed where that fan is standing--foul, homerun, whatever.

posted by bender at 11:05 AM on October 18

The teams are never going to change their stadiums to put fans further from the action.

Given that, I'd like the fan interference rule to be narrowed so that it only can be called in one of two circumstances:

1. The ball has not yet left the field or foul territory and a fan interferes.

2. A fan commits an egregious act like intentionally grabbing a fielder's glove.

posted by rcade at 11:32 AM on October 18

If a ball touches a fan and is not caught by a player, it should simply be treated as if it landed where that fan is standing--foul, homerun, whatever.

Wouldn't this create the expectation that home fans should intentionally mess up a fielder's chances of robbing a home run by getting there first? Today the expectation is that fans should do what we can to back off.

posted by rcade at 11:34 AM on October 18

If you look at one of the replays, seems his glove hit the fan's hand before the ball hit the glove, so I think he may have been impeded in getting his glove as far over to his left as he needed to in order to make the catch.

I watched the replay on a bigger screen and I see what you're saying.

Also, doesn't the rule state that the ball has to be on the field side of the wall for it to be fan interference?

posted by NoMich at 11:42 AM on October 18

The question to be asked in the case of fan interference is whether or not the fan reached into the field of play. One replay of the action, probably taken from a camera somewhere near 3rd base, shows that Betts began his leap about a step before the wall, and at his apogee he was about a foot from it. His arm was nearly straight up, and his wrist was bent slightly back. Thus it appears that his glove would have been at the edge of the wall. The replays clearly show a fan making contact with Betts's glove, preventing Betts from opening the glove wide enough to make the catch Umpire Joe West was positioned on the right field line about 3/4 of the way from 1st base to the foul pole. His move after the ball was hit probably placed him between Betts and the foul line and perhaps 40 feet from the wall. This would have put him in a good position from which to see the play. He saw the play clearly enough to make the interference call. I'm not trying to defend a brother umpire, but I think Joe West made a really great call in a high-pressure situation.

Betts might have made his best play in the bottom of the 8th when the lead off hitter lined one into right. Betts had to move to the ball, and the batter-runner tried for 2nd. Betts threw a strike from right field to 2nd base, and the runner was out by a foot.

posted by Howard_T at 11:59 AM on October 18

1. The ball has not yet left the field or foul territory and a fan interferes.

A fan should not be able to interfere with a player regardless of where the ball is. Makes application of the ruling much simpler, and ensures we'll continue to see impossible plays by Mike Trout and the likes for years to come. And realistically, "fans" are spectators and should not be allowed to alter the outcome of a "play" by a player.

posted by cixelsyd at 12:02 PM on October 18

Wouldn't this create the expectation that home fans should intentionally mess up a fielder's chances of robbing a home run by getting there first? Today the expectation is that fans should do what we can to back off.

I don't think this is happening or would happen. Balls are flying toward the seats at 100 mph, and fans are trying to catch them and/or not get hit by them, and we are only talking about the handful of occurrences when the ball is right at a wall and both player and fan can reach it. I don't think fan-intentionally-sabotaging-player is a problem that really needs a solution, but I'm fine with your stipulation of calling fan interference when a fan does something egregious and obvious to interfere.

What I don't like is the umpire having to decide what he thinks would have happened. That is what happens with the current rule, and that is also what happens when he has to decide which side of the wall he thinks the contact occurred on. Either extend the walls (etc.) so that interference can't happen, or let a fan try to catch a ball that is flying in his direction and happen to get in the way of a player making a catch every now and again. Surely that's better than an umpire calling "Catch" when the ball actually hit the dirt, right?

I'm not trying to defend a brother umpire, but I think Joe West made a really great call in a high-pressure situation.

I also think he probably made the right call by the book. I just don't like the rule.

posted by bender at 12:33 PM on October 18

A fan should not be able to interfere with a player regardless of where the ball is.

This leads to the creation of more Bartmans, doesn't it? It's kind of unfair to expect all fans with a ball speeding towards them to properly decide when to reach out and when to dodge the ball and fielder.

I had a home run hit at me once at Arlington Stadium when I sat in the front row. I could feel every eye in the place turning my direction and froze like a rabbit in Watership Down. The home run made SportsCenter that night so my friends could laugh at my expense.

posted by rcade at 01:22 PM on October 18

Still don't get it.

So you would have felt better to interfere with the play and been tagged with interference?

Really the only other comparable sport would be basketball. You don't see fans at an NBA game reaching for balls that are beyond the court boundary if they are still in play because they would get tossed (and probably banned) from their $2K seats for doing so.

posted by cixelsyd at 01:53 PM on October 18

My situation was different. Players couldn't reach us.

posted by rcade at 02:09 PM on October 18

ESPN talked to the fans.

posted by rcade at 03:34 PM on October 18

If Joe West calls it a home run, they don't over rule that with replay.

Basically, there was never going to be enough evidence in the video to rule one way or the other, so whatever the umpire called is the final ruling.

I have no problem with that. When I saw the play for the first time (without knowing the call), my first instinct was that it WASN'T fan interference, that the ball/glove/hand contact was on the imaginary border above the edge of the wall, and therefore it's "fair game" for fans.

It is funny that Jeffry Maier's incident (he's 34 years old now, and it happened 22 years ago) was BLATANTLY fan interference (you can see him reach OVER the wall and catch it BELOW the top of the wall) and it wasn't called, and yet this play was called fan interference.

posted by grum@work at 04:09 PM on October 18

The seats down the lines in Fenway Park are very close to the field, about and the wall is low in short left field and all the way down to and past the foul pole. Spectators often interfere with a ball in play, sometimes on a ball at the top of the left field wall, and the club has adopted a rule that any fan interfering is immediately ejected from the park. Perhaps if a rule like this were adopted in all major league stadiums, this wouldn't happen. Those who are familiar with the game leave it alone; those who are not make the mistake.

posted by Howard_T at 04:12 PM on October 18

but in this case drunk fans in the 1969 season regularly jumping from the bleachers onto the field

I followed the Cubs closely in '69, as pride and delight when they were humming away in first place gradually turned to utter dismay, then astonishment as the Mets train chugged on to glory. It was like a 4 month long case study in momentum shift. We knew the Mets were coming. We knew that there was nothing the Cubs could do to stop them.

So any drunks jumping onto the field at Wrigley after the 4th of July may have done so purely for clinical reasons.

posted by beaverboard at 04:13 PM on October 18

ESPN talked to the fans

"A lowly regarded sports media organization spoke with partisan fans" If the fans had not reached out at all and the ball not been caught I'm certain West would have ruled a home run. And if not the replay would have reversed the call.

Maybe the fans learn a valuable lesson. Or maybe they continue with their highly trending "alternative facts" approach. Watch the video in the ESPN clip - the guy in the blue shirt's arm makes contact with and closes Betts glove. And one of the others who claim none were ever beyond the yellow line actually can be seen with his hand over the line on the wall. Crystal clear that a lot was going on and blaming West is absurd.

posted by cixelsyd at 05:55 PM on October 18

A fan definitely altered the path of Betts' glove right before the ball arrived, affecting his chance to make the catch.

posted by rcade at 08:16 PM on October 18

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