In Monday’s Angels-Blue Jays game, Toronto second baseman Devon Travis was called out for batter interference on this play. Travis swings and misses on what was apparently an intended hit-and-run, striking Angel catcher Martin Maldonado with his bat on his swing follow-though. Maldonado makes a throw that is high and too late to catch Jay third baseman Chris Coghlan advancing to second base. Home plate umpire Tony Basner applied rule 6.06 (c), calling Travis out for interference and sending Coghlan back to first base. The ruling was significant as, with nobody out, Toronto lost an out and a base in the 7th inning of a one-run game.
More on rule 6.06 (c) after the jump.
Here is the rule.
6.06 A batter is out for illegal action when—
(c) He interferes with the catcher’s fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter’s box or making any other movement that hinders the catcher’s play at home base. EXCEPTION: Batter is not out if any runner attempting to advance is put out, or if runner trying to score is called out for batter’s interference.
Rule 6.06(c) Comment: If the batter interferes with the catcher, the plate umpire shall call “interference.” The batter is out and the ball dead. No player may advance on such interference (offensive interference) and all runners must return to the last base that was, in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference. If, however, the catcher makes a play and the runner attempting to advance is put out, it is to be assumed there was no actual interference and that runner is out–not the batter. Any other runners on the base at the time may advance as the ruling is that there is no actual interference if a runner is retired. In that case play proceeds just as if no violation had been called. If a batter strikes at a ball and misses and swings so hard he carries the bat all the way around and, in the umpire’s judgment, unintentionally hits the catcher or the ball in back of him on the backswing before the catcher has securely held the ball, it shall be called a strike only (not interference). The ball will be dead, however, and no runner shall advance on the play. (EMPHASIS added)
I’ve emphasized the last point in the comment as it seems most germane to this particular play. The bat contact certainly seems unintentional but, since it occurred after the catcher had secured the ball, perhaps the ruling of a called strike and a dead ball would not apply? That said, the implication seems clear that unintentional bat contact does not constitute batter interference.
While game reports suggest that interference was called because of the bat contact, where interference might also have arisen is when Travis takes one step out of the batter’s box in regaining his balance after his swing. However, doing so did not appear to hinder the catcher in making his throw or cause him to alter his throwing motion, so a ruling of interference would seem rather harsh. The other question that arises is whether the ball should have been called dead because of the bat contact while the catcher was readying himself for the throw; if so, would Travis stepping out of the batter’s box after this not be immaterial if the ball is already dead?
What’s your take? Did the ump get the call right, or was he too easily (and too quickly) influenced by the catcher’s protest?