A lawyer’s view of the three-point line officiating issue… the sport’s fairness is ‘clear’

Controversy is brewing over a three-peat line infringement call in the game between Samsung and KIA in Gwangju on Wednesday.메이저놀이터

Here’s what happened. Samsung’s Pirela hit a hard ground ball that rolled toward first base. The pitcher, Yang Hyun-jong, quickly picked up the ball and threw it towards first base, but the throw was deflected towards second base. In a way, Yang couldn’t have thrown the ball that far, because the runner, Pirela, was running in the path of the throw. The ball was lost, and the runner on first base went to third base.

KIA manager Kim Jong-guk immediately requested a video replay, thinking that the runner had run inside the first base foul line and down the fairway, violating the three-peat line rule. After a lengthy review, the umpire declared a save, explaining that the pitcher’s delivery was wrong from the start, so the runner’s run didn’t affect the outcome.

Immediately after the call, the TV screen showed Yang Hyun-jong’s expression of disbelief. Manager Kim Jong-kook also came out of the dugout to protest the call, arguing that Pirela was blocking his path to the plate, forcing him to dodge and throw, resulting in a bad throw. However, the call was not repeated, and he was automatically ejected for protesting the video review.

However, the situation felt like déjà vu. Just a month earlier, the same situation had occurred. It was a game between NC and KIA on June 16. With runners on first and second base, KIA’s Shin Beom-soo tried to lay down a sacrifice bunt. NC pitcher Ryu Jin-wook, who caught the bunt, slipped while trying to throw to third base and threw to first base, but the throw coincidentally hit the ankle of Shin, who was running to first base. The ball slipped out of play and the runner from third came home, tying the game. NC’s head coach Kang In-hwon then requested a video review, claiming that the runner had crossed the third base line. After the video review, the call was overturned. It was determined that Shin Beom-soo jumped inside the foul line and interfered with Ryu Jin-wook’s throw.

Manager Kim Jong-kook jumped out of the dugout to protest, as Ryu Jin-wook’s throw to first base was heavily skewed toward home, and Shin Bum-soo was not in a position to block the throw while running the bases. The call was not overturned, and Kim was ejected.

So, what is the three-foot line rule all about? The Baseball Rules of Order states in Rule 5.09 Out: “A runner is out when the umpire determines that he has obstructed a fielder by stepping outside the three-foot line inside or outside the foul line during the second half of his run between home plate and first base.

From a lawyer’s perspective, the above rule seems a bit problematic. First, it’s not clear what constitutes interference, and second, it gives the umpire a lot of discretion.

Penal codes are unenforceable if they’re not clear – you can’t punish an action if you’re not sure if it’s against the law. It’s not just criminal codes, it’s the same with rules in sports – if you don’t know what’s against the rules, and the call varies depending on the situation, no one is going to think it’s fair. ‘Interference’ is not a clear term – as we’ve seen in the previous two examples, one person might think it’s interference, and another might think it’s not – and that’s a sign of lack of clarity.

Next, are outs and safeties a matter of umpire discretion? If they were, we wouldn’t have video replay in the first place. No, the sport would cease to exist as a sport before then, because the umpire’s discretion to call outs and saves would make or break the game. We should be asking umpires to apply the correct rules, not letting them make judgments. Of course, we can’t take judgment out of every rule – it’s not even possible – but we need to make sure that the rules are as clear as possible.

The same goes for the three-peat line rule. We need to show players the correct way to run the bases, not leave it up to the umpires to decide if they’ve been interfered with, and we need to overhaul the three-peatline rule. That’s the right way to go.

For example, something like, “A runner must step on the outside of the foul line during the second half of the run between home plate and first base. If he does not, the umpire shall call him out.” How about that? Wouldn’t that be clearer for players, spectators, and umpires?

Clear is another word for fair, and that’s what sports are all about.