By Steve Kallas
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By now you know all about the play: Bottom 9, 4-4, Cardinals have Yadier Molina on third base and Allen Craig on second base, one out, infield in, Jon Jay up (forget for now why Jay, inexplicably, wasn't walked; John Farrell had a very tough game.)
Jay hits it hard to Dustin Pedroia's right, Pedroia makes an excellent play and throws home to get Molina. Craig, breaking from second to third, must have hesitated a bit. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, makes the tag on Molina and throws to third. Will Middlebrooks has to come off the base and can't handle the not-great throw as Craig slides in safely.
Craig gets up to run home (with the game-winning run), gets tangled up with Middlebrooks (who is on the ground), breaks free and runs home. Daniel Nava, with one of the great back-up plays ever (did anybody even mention his name?), runs all the way to the wall (the ball had deflected off the bang-bang play at third) up the third base line way in foul territory and throws Craig out at home as Saltalamacchia applies the tag.
Jim Joyce (the third base ump), however, had already called obstruction on Middlebrooks (intent doesn't matter), who literally was lying on the ground when this happened. Dana DeMuth, despite the fact that Craig was tagged out, gave the safe sign and pointed to Joyce at third.
AND HERE IS WHERE IT REALLY GETS INTERESTING
Nobody noticed that Craig, with his awkward slide (as he was tagged out by the catcher), NEVER TOUCHED HOME. Watch the replay -- he's close, but he doesn't touch it and, lying face down and injured, he doesn't get up to make an effort to touch it. His teammates pound him and literally pick him up, but nobody (as far as one can tell from various angles – it was a madhouse at the plate) told him to touch home.
Unfortunately for the Red Sox, neither Saltalamacchia -- nor anyone else tagged Craig after he missed home.
WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?
Well, the immediate question is, when Craig is awarded home for obstruction, DOES HE HAVE TO TOUCH HOME? A quick review of the rule book (and more on this tomorrow) appears to say that he does (see NOTE to Rule 7.04(d), which at least discusses the fact that a runner who fails to touch the base to which he is entitled, "forfeits his exemption from liability to be put out, and he may be put out by tagging the base or by tagging the runner before he returns to the missed base").
While this rule may not be exactly on point (and there may be other rules to review), at first blush, it seems almost clear that, if the catcher had tagged Craig while he was lying on the ground after he failed to touch home on the slide, he could have been called out.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
There's a lot more. When was the base "awarded?" If it was deemed "awarded" when Joyce made the call at third, does the catcher's tag mean he tagged Craig after the base was awarded? Or, if the play is dead, did he stop Craig from touching home by continuing with the play? If he tagged him a second time, would that have made a difference?
Should John Farrell, when he was out arguing with the umps, have told the catcher or anyone to tag Craig? (The answer, of course, is yes, but would they then have reversed the call?). Should he have protested the game (well, he should have but it probably would not be overturned as it's a judgment call at third and, frankly, it looked like the ump at home never looked to see if Craig touched the base).
A lot more research into this play and these questions has to be done to get some answers.
It's just almost funny (sad?) that, in 2013, with millions watching and thousands covering a World Series game, it seems that nobody saw a huge part of one of the biggest plays in World Series history (imagine if this had been Game 7.)
More on this and some hard-to-believe mistakes in Game 3 will be discussed in Monday's column.
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