ST. LOUIS -- After a night to think about it -- sleep was out of the question -- Red Sox manager John Farrell didn't feel any better about the obstruction call that produced a 5-4 loss to the Cardinals in Game 3 of the World Series Saturday night.
But his beef no longer was with the umpires. "That call was made as it should have been,'' Farrell said Sunday.
His issue is with the rule's wording. "If there was the ability to have some measure in there . . . of judgment or intent, because right now, there is none,'' Farrell said. "When Will Middlebrooks is lying on his stomach, it's hard to say that he was intending to impede that runner's progress. The way the obstruction rule is set up right now, the baserunner can be the aggressor and beneficiary on both sides.''
Not surprisingly, the obstruction call made by third-base umpire Jim Joyce on Middlebrooks still was a hot topic before Sunday night's Game 4.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny disclosed that the bizarre ending, which put his team ahead 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, spilled into the clubhouse.
"I think our fans didn't even know what to do,'' Matheny said. "We were wanting to celebrate, but we see a guy [Allen Craig] lying there and it's all confusing. We're all kind of cautiously celebrating, and actually we got inside the clubhouse, and it was still kind of that somber mood. And Chris Carpenter yelled out real loud, 'Hey, boys, we just won a World Series game.' So that changed it a little bit. We're all trying to get our heads around what happened.''
With one out in the ninth, the Cardinals had Yadier Molina at third and Craig at second against Red Sox closer Koji Uehara.
With the infield in, Dustin Pedroia made a fine diving stop of Jon Jay's ground shot to second. Pedroia threw home to easily get Molina, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia then fired to third in an attempt to get Craig. But his wide throw hit the sliding Craig on the left arm and deflected into leftfield. As Craig popped up to come home, Middlebrooks, on the ground with his legs up, caused him to stumble.
Daniel Nava's throw from leftfield beat the sliding Craig, but plate umpire Dana DeMuth called him safe, signaling that Joyce had called obstruction.
"I thought, wow, I think I've just witnessed the worst call in the history of the game at home plate,'' Adam Wainwright said, "only to find out there was obstruction. So there were four or five times I didn't know what the heck was going on.''
The Red Sox seethed afterward, either unaware of the clear wording of Rule 2.00 or not caring about it. "I think it's absolutely a crying shame that a call like that is going to decide a World Series game. It's a joke,'' Jake Peavy said, according to WEEI.com. "It's a joke that call decides a World Series game that two teams are absolutely pouring their heart out on the field. It's a joke. I don't know how [Joyce] is going to lay his head down tonight.''
In terms of applying the rule, Joyce probably did OK. Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, read an example from Rule 2.00 that covers obstruction: "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 only interpretation, Joyce and crew chief John Hirschbeck said, is whether Craig would have advanced if not for the obstruction. Because it was a close play at the plate with the obstruction, that was a no-brainer.
"The rule is that the runner has every right to go to home plate at that particular play unobstructed without any liability,'' Joyce said. "He doesn't have to get out of the way, he just has the baseline, and unfortunately, the defensive player was there.''