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First, the rule straight from MLB’s Official Baseball Rules, 2019 Edition…
Rule 6.01(h)(2) Comment: Under Rule 6.01(h)(2), when the ball is not dead on obstruction and an obstructed runner advances beyond the base which, in the umpire’s judgment, he would have been awarded because of being obstructed, he does so at his own peril and may be tagged out. This is a judgment call.
NOTE: The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score. The base line belongs to the runner and the catcher should be there only when he is fielding a ball or when he already has the ball in his hand.
Rule 6.01(h) Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered “in the act of fielding a ball.” It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the “act of fielding” the ball. For example: An infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.
Now, the reality…
In last night’s game, Knapp was in fact, blocking Dansby’s pathway & also the baseline; which by the rule & note is in violation of MLB’s Official Rules.
Everyone likes to throw out the line: “he gave him a lane, it’s legal”
I read the official rules & put them at the top of the article….it says nothing about leaving a lane open for the runner. It says the base line belongs to the runner and the catcher should not be there. In last night’s game, Knapp occupied the baseline well before the relay Gregorius, had the ball. Snitker was 100% correct to be upset & challenge the play. But like Snitker said, the umpires don’t enforce the rule.
It costed the Braves a series sweep.
How To Improve The Rule
My idea for a small change to the field of play to make this rule easier to properly enforce would be to add an outside base line leading to home plate 7 to 10 feet up the base path from 3rd base; much like the outside base line leading up to first base. The catcher can’t be in the base line before the runner reaches the beginning of that outside line or he’d be deemed in violation of the rules.