When will the stupid stop?

As the result of a disputed play last month NPB on Monday decided to adopt a lowest-common-denominator policy and choose the stupidest available option.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has ever worked in a Japanese company where one stupid decision has to be counteracted by another even more illogical one in order for someone to save face.

On Aug. 18 in the ninth inning in Yokohama with Hanshin trailing 2-1, pinch-runner Takahiro Kumagai attempted to steal second and was ruled safe because DeNA shortstop Yota Kyoda had inadvertently blocked the path to the base as he scooped up the bounced throw from his catcher. Even with the bounce, the ball got to Kyoda in time so that he was not blocking the base without the ball.

But while Kyoda did have the ball, he was unable to make the tag until after Kumagai had slid into his leg, so the second base umpire made the correct call.

DeNA manager Daisuke Miura asked for a review that ruled Kumagai out because fielding the throw had required him to move to the first-base side of the bag and that blocking the base had been inadvertent.

The question that should have been “Is the fielder blocking the base illegally?” became “was the player in the base path?”

The problem with this thinking stems from the fact that NPB games are now adjudicated using contradictory statements. Baseball’s rules that NPB uses allow fielders to have the ball in the base path, but NPB has another set of rules that says they cannot.

This happened as a result of American baseball’s gradual evolution toward completely ignoring the obstruction rule at home plate

The obstruction rule has been in the books for over a century because baseball in America’s National League at the turn of the 20th century had become a contact sport in which fielders and coaches routinely bumped, tripped and hindered runners. The rule prevents a fielder from obstructing the basepath without possessing the ball. Fielders with the ball, even guarding home plate, have the same right to the basepath as the base runner.

Yet because the obstruction rule had been ignored at home plate for most of the last 60 years, it had become expected that catchers should cover the plate without the ball, and that runners were free to try and run them over.

This rule would never have needed clarification if it had been routinely enforced, but to eliminate the insanity, MLB clarified it a few years ago with only one new nugget added: A runner moving away from a direct path to the base in order to collide with a fielder will be out automatically.

Japan then made this unnecessary clarification even murkier by adding that a catcher with the ball can no longer be in the base path, where the rest of baseball’s rules state he can be. This is Japan’s “collision rule.” Ironically, Japanese umpires seemed to have ceased enforcing this rule, so it remains to be seen what chaos will come of that.

The Monday ruling by NPB’s executive body stated that an infielder can no longer be in the basepath with the ball, period.

By that logic, a runner who is heading for first base someday will be interdicted by a pitcher or infielder with the ball in hand and standing on the first-base line, and be awarded first base by the logic that the fielder was not allowing him a path to the base. And before long a base runner caught in a run down will be awarded a base because the fielder preparing to tag him out was between him and the base.

This stupidity is consequence of not enforcing rules and then making up contradictory half measures rather than admitting that the rules had been routinely ignored, because doing that would point out that former umpires and administrators had failed to follow the rules – something that is seriously frowned upon in Japan.

So to answer the opening question, the stupid will never, ever stop, because every misstep and mistake will become accepted practice and patched over with illogical and contradictory fixes.

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