Take a look at this – there’s a lot to think about….what do you have?
First of all, umpiring, like golf, is a humbling experience. Just when you think you’ve gotten pretty good, you realize that you don’t know shit.
My biggest pet peeve in umpiring, I think, is the ump who quotes a ruling like he’s 100 percent sure, when he turns out to be wrong. Well…that’s me! Before watching this play and then researching the rules, I would have bet anything that the protection for interference goes away (and, therefore, the potential for obstruction exists) when a ball is deflected or misplayed. In fact, in discussing this play with a coach (and before getting the right info), I confidently said the fielder is only protected on the initial play. And it turns out, I couldn’t be more incorrect.
Here are some interpretations, from my friends over at umpire-empire:
After a batted ball has been touched (deflected) by an infielder, if the ball then strikes a runner (unintentionally on the part of the runner), it is alive and in play despite the fact that another infielder may be in position to field the ball. This is not the case if a fielder is making a play on the ball. Specifically, if a batted ball is deflected by an infielder and another infielder has a play on the ball, the runner must avoid the fielder. If the runner interferes with the fielder making a play – even though the ball has been touched by another fielder – the runner is declared out. Under the rules, a fielder making a play on a batted ball takes priority.
After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and has missed, he can no longer be in the “act of fielding” the ball. For example: if an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner
The MLBUM (#43, play 5 in the 2013 edition) says it’s umpire Judgement. If the ball deflects off one fielder, and the umpire decides the second fielder had “a legitimate play on the ball”, INT is called. “However, if the umpire judges that the second fielder is does not have a legitimate play on the ball (i.e. Merely moving in the direction of the loose ball”, then OBS is called.
So now I know.