Baseball’s twilight zone is in the rules

SoftBank Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo was enraged to see his second baseman, Keizo Kawashima, taken out on a slide by Nippon Ham Fighters and former major leaguer Kensuke Tanaka, and argued the play was dangerous. Dangerous or not, it was not against the rules, which allow runners on the base path to interfere with fielders — except when they are batting fielded balls. Them’s the rules. As Casey Stengel famously said, “You can look it up.”

Which raises a question or two.



Why the heck was Kudo arguing about something that wasn’t against the rules? The umpires confirmed that by saying Tanaka did not leave the base path, which was never in question. Kudo’s point was that in Japan, where players rarely put opponents physically at risk regardless of rules that allow them to, the play was dangerous and SHOULDN’T BE permitted.

What the heck were managers doing during the 30 years I’ve watched NPB games by not arguing for obstruction calls at home plate or phantom outs at second base on double plays — which were always against the rules?

At least this time, umpire Masanobu Sasaki could fall back on what the rule book actually says. And now, the umps will proudly point to the rule and warn (and threaten with ejection) any catcher with the temerity of blocking the plate without the ball –which though illegal was considered a catcher’s duty until Feb. 1 , 2016, when players reported for camp.

What would he have said a year ago… “Uhm it’s the rule, you CAN obstruct the plate. Well, OK, you can’t technically block the plate without the ball, but we all know that you can, because IN THIS CASE we ignore the rules.

Author: jballa5_wp

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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