Saturday, March 8, 2014
Champions will be crowned at Fenway Park. The question is, what bizarre play will be the final act of this unforgettable series?
Game 4 ended with a pick-off play at first base while the tying run – one of the most productive hitters in postseason history – was at-bat.
Game 3 ended with the first walkoff obstruction. A rule that most people don’t understand was invoked to give the Cardinals a win and their first lead in the series.
Will Middlebrooks unintentionally got in the way of Allen Craig as Craig tried to score. Outside of curling up in the fetal position there was not much Middlebrooks could do.
I guess we know what it felt like in Oakland in January 2002.
That was when the Raiders were knocked out of the AFC playoffs by Tom Brady and the Patriots. In New England we remember that game as the Snow Bowl Game, a fond memory of Adam Vinatieri making a field goal, and the Pats heading to their first Super Bowl in 16 years.
In Oakland, Raider fans remember it as the Tuck Rule Game. To them, it’s the game that saw Charles Woodson sack Brady for a turnover that would’ve sealed the game for the Raiders. Only it wasn’t a fumble. Brady was ruled to be tucking the ball back in – not throwing it – so the rare Tuck Rule was invoked and the Patriots got to continue their game-tying drive.
No professional league wants a controversial call overshadowing an epic playoff game. When it happens, a league has to act in the offseason. The NFL didn’t overturn the Tuck Rule in the summer of 2002, stubbornly standing by a rule that had been added to the books just three years earlier.
It was finally removed last offseason.
In the spring of 1998 the NHL had a zero-tolerance policy on crease violations. A goal could not be scored if a skater entered – even barely – the blue area in front of the net.
That changed after the Bruins lost in OT to the Capitals in the Eastern quarterfinals. P.J. Axelsson scored in overtime of Game 3. But the goal was disallowed because the toe of Tim Taylor’s skate – no more than an inch of his blade – was in the edge of the crease. It was a crease violation, the goal was overturned, and the Caps went on to win the game and series.
Commissioner Gary Bettman amended the rule that summer. A skater entering the crease now has to interfere with the goalie to disallow a goal.
Now, baseball Commissioner Bud Selig must act and amend the obstruction rule. By the letter of the rule the umpires were right. But the rule doesn’t say there needs to be intent. It should.
“The way the obstruction rule is set up right now, the baserunner can be the aggressor and beneficiary on both sides,” said Red Sox Manager John Farrell. “They can seek out an infielder, run into him, and benefit by advancing. So yesterday when there’s no intent, given the heightened importance of the game at the time and where we are, you’d like to see possibly the type B portion of that rule addressed.”
Of course, that won’t help the Red Sox now. They’ll have to help themselves. They’ve managed to do that throughout this magical season and postseason. They’ve been overcoming obstructions all season.
Tom Caron is studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the NESN. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.