The first one is Rule 7.04(c) and reads as follows (as part of a larger section):
Rule 7.04(c) Comment: If a fielder, after having made a legal catch, should fall into a stand or among spectators or into the dugout or any other out-of-play area while in possession of the ball after making a legal catch, or fall while in the dugout after making a legal catch, the ball is dead and each runner shall advance one base, without liability to be put out, from his last legally touched base at the time the fielder fell into, or in, such out-of-play area.
Okay, got that? So how many times have you seen a first or third baseman (or the catcher or an outfielder) pursue a fly ball or pop out and fall into the dugout or over the fence or into the stands? It doesn't happen a lot, but it happens enough to have seen it quite a few times in a lifetime of viewing. According to what this rule is saying, Once the fielder falls out of the playing field, the runners get to advance a base and the ball is dead. Yet, how many times do you see a fielder falling into the stands and come up firing the ball back into play?
Where is the limit of the rule? Say there are runners on and there are less than two outs. Lance Berkman hits a towering pop up and Ike Davis tracks it in foul territory. Davis inches over to the dugout and makes a spectacular play, but in the process, falls down the steps of the dugout. What constitutes the dugout? Is it the steps? The floor of the dugout? In such a case, shouldn't that be a situation the rule talks about? Berkman should be out and the ball is dead, but any runner on base should be given an extra base. Isn't that what the rules says? Have you ever seen that called?
The same thing is true when falling into the stands. Is it like football where your feet have to land in bounds? If the fielder comes down in the stands, that should relate to this rule, no? Have you ever seen a runner given a base? Remember the famous play with Derek Jeter flying into the stands? If that hadn't been the third out, wouldn't this rule apply? The Fan has been watching baseball a long time and can't remember this rule ever being enforced. Has it been?
The second rule involves plays that happen much more frequently. The second rule is 7.06 and it reads thusly (with our discussion point in bold print:
7.06 When obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal "Obstruction." If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batterrunner is obstructed before he touches first base, the ball is dead and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpires judgment, if there had been no obstruction. The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction. Any preceding runners, forced to advance by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction, shall advance without liability to be put out.Rule 7.06(a) Comment: When a play is being made on an obstructed runner, the umpire shall signal obstruction in the same manner that he calls Time, with both hands overhead. The ball is immediately dead when this signal is given; however, should a thrown ball be in flight before the obstruction is called by the umpire, the runners are to be awarded such bases on wild throws as they would have been awarded had not obstruction occurred. On a play where a runner was trapped between second and third and obstructed by the third baseman going into third base while the throw is in flight from the shortstop, if such throw goes into the dugout the obstructed runner is to be awarded home base. Any other runners on base in this situation would also be awarded two bases from the base they last legally touched before obstruction was called.(b) If no play is being made on the obstructed runner, the play shall proceed until no further action is possible. The umpire shall then call Time and impose such penalties, if any, as in his judgment will nullify the act of obstruction.Rule 7.06(b) Comment: Under 7.06(b) when the ball is not dead on obstruction and an obstructed runner advances beyond the base which, in the umpires 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.
When was the last time a catcher was called for obstruction on a play at the plate? Have you seen it in your lifetime? This author hasn't. And yet the plate gets blocked all the time. Once the catcher has the ball, he can block the plate. But not until then. But catchers block the plate all the time. It seems to be accepted practice. Lately, the Fan has also noticed that on steal attempts--since so many runners attempting to steal slide in head first (or hands first if you want to be technical)--fielders waiting for the throw from the catcher are blocking the base with their knees. That seems to be obstruction as Rule 7.06 defines it. The key thing is that the runner is entitled to a free run at the base. Once the fielder has the ball from the catcher, then all is fair in war and baseball, but until then, the base-path belongs to the runner. Have you ever seen a runner called safe on such plays due to obstruction?
Again, these questions are posed in an open-ended way. Feel free to comment because the Fan doesn't know the answers. These seem to be examples of two rules that are often ignored in baseball. Thoughts?