Hobbs: Some rules interfere with game

Published 2:21 pm Friday, July 1, 2022

With consciousness raising all in vogue these days, maybe this year’s College World Series will ultimately become known for something beyond earning Ole Miss its first national championship in a men’s sport.

Not likely.

But we can dream can’t we?

And the more we get this crisis out in the open — firmly in the public discourse so to speak — the closer we’ll be to achieving that elusive perfect society.

To wit, the Rebels’ 4-2 championship game victory over Oklahoma shone some much-needed light on the biggest head-scratcher in the baseball rule book.

All baseball rules, the game’s keepers will tell you, are based on logic.

Except this one — which defies all known logic while confounding seamheads and casual fans alike.

As with so many things, it’s not the rule itself, but the execution of it.

Granted, it may not affect you much in your personal everyday life, but, just this once, think of others who are suffering.

Besides, it’s a pet peeve of mine, a rare objection to a game I’m otherwise pretty enamored with. It deserves some dialogue and attention.

So … to set the stage:

The second, and, as it turned out, deciding game of the CWS championship round, was scoreless in the top of sixth. But Oklahoma was seriously threatening with runners at first and third and one out.

The Sooners put down a very good sacrifice bunt, a rarity itself in this day and age but still perfectly legal.

The game’s (apparent) first run run trotted in easily from the third base as the Ole Miss pitcher fielded the ball and … well, then it all hit the fan.

The pitcher fired toward first base, a bit too wildly to even get the bunter, OU’s John Spikerman.

But it turned out that Spikerman was running inside the baseline instead of outside of it. You ever wonder what that extra white stripe is on the foul side of the of the first-base line? That is where a runner has to be when the throw could be coming from that general direction — to give the fielder a clear opportunity to catch the ball.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco picked up on it immediately and demanded a video review, which overturned the apparent error and ruled Spikerman out at first for runner’s interference.

The video review isn’t relevant to our gripe. It could just as easily have been called originally, and usually is.

But in the end, it was absolutely the right call. In fact, it was textbook runner’s interference. They could use the video to train umpires and baserunners alike.

And that’s fine.

The tragedy comes when you get to the fine print in the rule book itself.

Most Sooners fans were likely thinking, well at least the run scored, even if it’s not still runners at the corners with one out.

Guess again. And this is the persnickety part that usually catches everybody off guard.

The OU runner who’d crossed the plate and was by now was sitting in the dugout minding his own business was summoned from his haunch and ordered back to third base — the run came off the scoreboard as if it never happened.

And, of course, nothing ever came of the Sooners’ budding rally.

The umpires got booed to Des Moines and back, and mistakenly so. It was unquestionably the right call. We want want our umpires to follow the rule book.

Instead, boo to the game’s overlords.

And, understand this: We absolutely cannot let baseball runner’s interference run rampant in this country. It needs to be nipped in the bud, strictly enforced, or we’ll all be living in social chaos.

The problem is with the fine print in the rule that sends that runner back to third — a classic example of the punishment not fitting the crime.

The runner’s interference had no effect whatsoever in the runner scoring.

In fact, when the pitcher throws to first, he is conceding the run.

That’s the key argument. Somebody, again mistakenly, said you can’t make the umpires judge where the runners would end up. Can’t what? They do it all the time when sorting out things such as fan interference.

They’re in charge for a reason. Let them do their jobs.

OK, end of rant.

But it’s time we get this fixed and pronto.

Write your Congress-type person. Maybe you can make a difference.

Baseball logic doesn’t seem to be doing much good.


Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at scooter.hobbs@americanpress.com