After typing that title, there’s one thing I think of, and that’s one of the only two Glee episodes I’ve ever seen when the gang sang Jamie Foxx’s “Blame It (On The Alcohol).” However, this post is not about song parodies, but about understanding the rule book and why the Twins were screwed out of a fair game yesterday.
Just to get you all fired up like Ron Gardenhire, let’s review the play again. Grounder down the left field line, a fan reaches out and touches the ball. Delmon Young is stomping over to retrieve the ball.
The ball hits the fan’s hand, hits the fence in foul territory, and clocks a kid in the head and (I’m guessing) his dad in the chest.
Demolition Delmon finally gets to do what he wishes he could do on all fly balls, and that is throw his arms into the air to show that he cannot play the ball.
Third base umpire Gary Darling refuses to call the play dead until Double-D touches the ball. Note that Jhonny Peralta is in the frame on the right.
Whereas on replays, we see the fan interference occurring when Peralta was just leaving second base, Delmon Young didn’t get to the ball until Peralta was halfway to home plate. The time that elapsed between the first fan touching the ball and Delmon picking it up is a little over 4.5 seconds. This is more than enough time for a runner with average speed like Peralta to run roughly 90 feet from a little past second base to getting around third.
Delmon noticeably slowed down to get to the ball once it was touched, and we can’t fully blame him for that. Almost always when a fan touches the ball, the umpires call the play dead immediately and just give a ground-rule double to the offense. Looking at the rule book, we find Rule 2.00 (d):
Spectator interference occurs when a spectator reaches out of the stands, or goes on the playing field, and (1) touches a live ball, or (2) touches a player and hinders an attempt to make a play on a live ball.
On any interference the ball is dead.
Okay, but this doesn’t help explain how Darling knew where to place Peralta. For that, we turn to Rule 3.15:
… If the interference is intentional, the ball shall be dead at the moment of the interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.
In other words, Darling let Peralta score because he believed that Peralta would have scored without the fan interference. Well, we already knew that. This is where I believe Delmon’s actions came into play. Once the ball was interfered with, he slowed down, put his arms into the air, and jogged over to the ball to field it. As I said above, it took him about 4.5 seconds to do this, allowing Peralta to move up one full base. Darling wrongfully failed to call the ball dead until Young touched it, but that’s likely because he was going to let everything play out before deciding where to appropriately place Peralta.
This is an unusual move by an umpire, and I don’t fully agree with it. By allowing the play to continue even when everyone else in the ballpark (except Jhonny Peralta and third base coach Gene Lamont, apparently) knew it should be dead, Ron Darling allowed Peralta to circle the bases while Delmon Young gave up on the play.
After the game, Darling was quoted as saying that he saw the man in the orange shirt reach for the ball (he did not) and that he felt Peralta would have scored without the interference (of which I partially disagree). We don’t know what would have happened, but we certainly know that if the ball hadn’t been touched by the fans, Delmon Young would have given a little more effort in retrieving the ball. Assuming he would have fielded the ball cleanly, I think at worst we would have seen a play at the plate, but most likely would have seen Peralta hold up at third base.
In conclusion, while I may be saying that Darling is to blame, we should still give credit to Peralta and Lamont for recognizing that Darling had not signaled that the ball was dead. But then what about the title? Why do you start off by blaming Delmon Young? Hey, he did what 99% of all fielders would have done there. I don’t blame him. But as a writer, when you think of an awesome title, you stick with it. That’s what you learn on Day 1 in journalism school, right?