Opinion by Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
(CNN) – This is a column about the instantly abominable “obstruction” alarm that concluded Bold 3 of the World Series amid the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday. But it starts with an epiphany I had years ago about Vatican law.
This epiphany came in the anatomy of a 2005 op-ed on gay Catholic priests, accounting by John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter.
As a adept eyewitness of all things Vatican, Allen was aggravating to explain to American readers why there will consistently be gay priests. In so doing, he drew a aciculate acumen amid Italian law (which holds amplitude in the Vatican) and Anglo-Saxon law (which prevails in the United States).
Italian law “expresses an ideal,” he wrote. “It describes a absolute accompaniment of diplomacy from which abounding bodies will accordingly abatement short. This appearance is far removed from the archetypal Anglo-Saxon approach, which expects the law to behest what bodies absolutely do.”
So back Italians say “no gays in the priesthood,” they are not cogent what we in the United States accredit to as a law. They are cogent an aspiration. They are saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice if there were no gays in the priesthood.” Or, as a chief Vatican official told Allen, “Law describes the way things would assignment if men were angels.”
I was ashen on Saturday night back I saw the Cardinals’ agent Allen Craig awarded home bowl (and the game) because of “obstruction” by Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks. In fact, I screamed so loud at the television set that my throat still hurts canicule later.
But I wasn’t aloof reacting as a lifetime affiliate of the Church of the Boston Red Sox. I was affronted at the umpires’ corruption of their rules.
Although baseball is America’s pastime, it works by Italian law. The shape-shifting bang area is a archetypal of subjectivity, capricious from adjudicator to umpire, and from inning to inning.
Umpires commonly acquiesce additional basemen and shortstops to bolt bifold comedy relays alone in the around of additional abject in adjustment to anticipate abrasion at the calmly of sliding runners. In fact, this happens so generally it has a name (“the apparition bifold play”).
All this is to say that baseball umpires are accepted to exercise their judgment.
As abounding baseball pundits accept noted, the umpires acted in World Series Bold 3 according to the letter of the law (which in this case turns out to be Aphorism 7.06 on “obstruction”).
As adjudicator John Hirschbeck himself explained in an account afterwards the arguable bold — the alone World Series challenge anytime to end on an obstruction alarm — absorbed does not matter:
”Obstruction is the act of a fielder obstructing a agent back not in the act of fielding a ball. It does not accept to be intent. There does not accept to be intent, OK? Once he has the befalling to acreage the ball, he can no best in any way arrest the runner. That’s basically the rule.”
During the aforementioned interview, Joe Torre, Above League Baseball’s controlling VP of baseball operations, cited Aphorism 2, which offered this about awesome archetype of “obstruction”: “An infielder dives at a arena brawl and the brawl passes him, and he continues to lie on the arena and delays the advance of the runner, he actual acceptable has blocked the runner.”
Fair enough. That absolutely does assume to alarm the Bold 3 situation. But apprehension the accent here. “Very likely” indicates that umpires are declared to exercise some acumen here, some subjectivity, some judgment. Which is how it should be.
Those who affirmation that the umpires in this case should accept followed the letter of the law misunderstand the attributes of the baseball rulebook, which throughout baseball history, from Little League to the above leagues, has been interpreted in the spirit of Italian rather than Anglo-Saxon law.
We accept consistently accepted umpires to exercise their discretion, to pay absorption to particulars as they adapt the rules.
The purpose of Aphorism 7.06 is to anticipate fielders from adverse runners as they advance from abject to base. Yet this aforementioned aphorism recognizes that fielders accept the appropriate to acreage their position.
In this case, these two rights actually bumped up adjoin one addition in the bodies of Will Middlebrooks and Allen Craig. The Red Sox third baseman dived to his larboard in an accomplishment to bolt a brawl advancing his way from his team’s catcher. He had every appropriate to ability for the ball, aloof as the Cardinals’ agent had every appropriate to accelerate into third base.
As anon as the brawl attempt accomplished Middlebrooks, Craig approved to jump over him and tripped as he was branch for home. Third abject adjudicator Jim Joyce signaled obstruction, and the home bowl umpire, acquiescent to Joyce’s judgment, awarded Craig home plate, admitting the actuality that he was tagged out calmly by the Red Sox catcher.
So my catechism is this: What was MIddlebrooks declared to do? If he bedevilled superpowers that baffle bald mortals, he could accept teleported his anatomy to addition dimension, but declining that, his anatomy was activity to abatement area force took it.
To alarm this obstruction is to acquaint Middlebrooks and every approaching third baseman that they cannot dive to their larboard for an aberrant throw, or that they do so at the accident of application the agent a chargeless canyon home. And that doesn’t accomplish any sense, because as the aphorism itself recognizes, the fielders accept every appropriate to acreage their position.
To acknowledgment to the Rome and Vatican law, what we accept actuality is a battle amid two modes of acknowledged interpretation.
Cardinals admirers who acclaimed the umpires for afterward the letter of the law were ambitious Anglo-American interpretation. But baseball, admitting its American origins, has consistently been absolute by an Italian approach.
“If men were angels,” the Red Sox third baseman could accept active his anatomy abroad a millisecond afterwards diving for the ball. But men are not angels, and Bold 3 should accept gone into added innings.
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