Buster Posey vs. Scott Hairston: By rule, Hairston should have been called out for interference at the plate?

San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, left, looks to throw to first base for a double play after getting a force out on New York Mets' Scott Hairston (12) during the ninth inning of the baseball game Saturday, April 21, 2012 at Citi Field in New York. Posey's throw to first went wide, allowing Ruben Tejada, not pictured, to score the game-winning run. The Mets won 5-4. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig).

Once again, Scott Hairston found himself in the cross-hairs of San Francisco Giants’ fans.

This time it wasn’t for delivering a game-winning hit or belting a home run against the Giants.

It was for a slide, an interpreted legal slide that led to an errant throw by Posey and cost the Giants a 5-4 loss to the New York Mets on Saturday.

Let’s set the stage for those who missed it.

The bases were loaded with one out in the bottom of the ninth when Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a bouncer to first baseman Brandon Belt. Belt threw home to force out Scott Hairston. As Posey went to throw the ball back to first in an attempt to double up Nieuwenhuis and end the inning, Hairston slid into Posey, clipping the catcher’s right foot and causing him to fall just as he threw the ball to first.

Posey’s throw sailed into right field and the Mets scored the winning run.

All media reports, including Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow, called the slide a legal play. Despite Posey’s objections that he was interfered with, Hairston was ruled to be in the base line because he was able to make contact with the plate with his hand as he slid into Posey.

But here’s the point no one is talking about.

Why should a player who has been forced out be allowed to impact the play LONG AFTER he’s been eliminated from the play?

In fact, the rule book says he should not.

Rule 7.09(d) on batter on runner interference states:

“Any batter or runner who has just been put out hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate.”

Pretty cut and dried. Except that there is an additional comment that opens that rule up for interpretation.

“If the batter or runner continues to advance after he has been put out, he shall not by that act alone be considered as confusing, hindering or impeding the fielders.”

It is that comment that allows runners sliding into second to attempt to break up double plays. But this play was not like a play at second when the runner is going hard into the base just as the infield receives the throw, forces the runner out and makes the throw to first in a bang-bang fashion.

Hairston was forced out at the plate while he was still a good 20 feet away from the plate.

Take a look at the photo at the top of this post.

Posey has already caught the ball, forced out Hairston and now the ball is in his throwing hand, ready to be released — and Hairston HAS NOT YET started his slide.

He’s already out. LONG OUT. At what point is a runner no longer be allowed to be part of the play? At what point is it purely interference and not just considered part of the completion of the play?

On this play, Hairston’s slide that clipped Posey was CLEARLY not part of the “act alone” of continuing to advance on the play. It was a deliberate effort to continue the play after he had been forced out with the explicit intent to interfere with the defender.

The only reason why Hairston was given the opportunity to interfere with Posey was that Posey hestitated briefly before throwing because pitcher Jeremy Affeldt was running to cover first base. (Now, there’s a secondary question about whether since it was Affeldt covering first whether Posey should have attempted the throw at all. But that’s not really pertinent to the argument we are making here.)

So MoreSplashHits contends that if a runner has not yet started his slide by the time he is forced out at any base, then he should be considered out on interference if he comes in contact with the defender.

Bruce Bochy and the Giants tried to lobby MLB to alter its rules about making contact with the catcher at the plays at the plate in an effort to protect catchers in the wake of Posey’s season-ending injury.

But at least when Scott Cousins barreled into Posey last May, he was a live runner on the basepaths. Even if Posey had caught the ball and maintained possession to record the out on Cousins, Cousins still would have been a live runner on the basepaths until contact was made with Posey.

In this case, Hairston was not a live baserunner. He was out, when he was allowed to contact the catcher.

MoreSplashHits believes Hairston should have been called out on interference.

That’s our interpretation of the rule. And it’s the proper interpretation of the rule.

What do you think?


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