The alleged fan interference in Game 4 of the Red Sox-Astros series.

Fan interference calls (or lack thereof) in the baseball postseason have long been controversial, and that’s led to lots of brief fame or infamy from fans from Jeffrey Maier to Steve Bartman to Jay and Jared Macchirole. But what happened Wednesday night in Houston during Game 4 of the American League Championship Series was perhaps particularly notable, as Astros’ fan Troy Caldwell got to make his case to the public during the game that he didn’t interfere (despite umpire Joe West’s call that he did) with Mookie Betts’ attempted catch of a first-inning Jose Altuve home run. First, here’s the initial play, and the replay:

And here’s what Caldwell told Matt Young of The Houston Chronicle soon after:

“I’m going to need security to escort me out of here if the Astros don’t come back to win this,” said Caldwell, who grew up in Houston but currently lives in Atlanta and flew to town just for this game.

…”I didn’t reach over the wall; I was on this side of the line,” Caldwell said. “I don’t understand what happened. I know the rules, and I didn’t reach over the line.”

…”I think you know what I think of Joe West right about now,” Caldwell said.

At least early in Wednesday’s game, Caldwell had the support of Astros fans sitting around him, who were busier yelling at West than they were bothering Caldwell.

“I promise you I didn’t do anything wrong,” Caldwell said.

As noted by Caldwell, the rules do differentiate between interference that happens on the field and in the stands. Here’s the key part of that rule and the official comment on it in the MLB rulebook, as relayed in this helpful 2010 Fangraphs article by David Wade:

When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.

APPROVED RULING: If a spectator clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.

…Rule 3.16 Comment: There is a difference between a ball which has been thrown or batted into the stands, touching a spectator thereby being out of play even though it rebounds onto the field and a spectator going onto the field or reaching over, under or through a barrier and touching a ball in play or touching or otherwise interfering with a player. In the latter case it is clearly intentional and shall be dealt with as intentional interference as in Rule 3.15. Batter and runners shall be placed where in the umpire’s judgment they would have been had the interference not occurred.

No interference shall be allowed when a fielder reaches over a fence, railing, rope or into a stand to catch a ball. He does so at his own risk. However, should a spectator reach out on the playing field side of such fence, railing or rope, and plainly prevent the fielder from catching the ball, then the batsman should be called out for the spectator’s interference.

So, it appears the key debate here is if the interference happened in the field of play or in the stands. West’s call seems to have been based on the former, while Caldwell is arguing for the latter. And, unsurprisingly, Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch weighed in in support of that idea during an in-game interview with TBS’ Lauren Shehadi, also arguing that it was unlikely Betts would actually have made the catch (which maybe ties into the “clearly prevents” part of the discussion):

“He just said that there was fan interference on the field. My argument was more about the fact that the ball was leaving the yard, the trajectory was there. Jose paid kind of the ultimate price for something that’s out of his control. I’m not sure if Mookie makes that catch. He’s a great athlete, but how it’s an assumed out is unbelievable.”

If that play winds up impacting the outcome of this game, it’s going to be debated for a long while to come. But there’s already been a lot of debate about it from fans of both teams, as well as from media members. And what’s really interesting is that in the middle of this game, we’ve already heard from the fan involved and from one of the managers. Good for Young and the Chronicle for getting comments from the fan, and good for TBS and Shehadi for getting Hinch to weigh in; it’s interesting to hear affected parties commenting while the game’s still up for grabs. But that’s a significant change from how some of these incidents played out in the past.

[The Houston Chronicle]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.

7 thoughts on “Astros’ fan called for interference by Joe West tells media in-game he didn’t interfere with Mookie Betts, A.J. Hinch supports his case

  1. Stop lying, dude. You’re all pressed up against the wall. One guy’s hand is resting over the wall. There’s no physical way you DIDN’T reach over the line. If
    the Astros lose this game, a lot of it is on you.

  2. 3 things I noticed.
    1.) Mookie was reaching behind him over the wall, thus it was fair game for the fans to go after that ball and therefore no interference.

    2.) If you watch Mookie’s glove in slow motion, it was closing before the fan even touched it. So him saying the fan interfered with him catching the ball is incorrect. This also makes me think that he was not going to make that catch. Assuming he does because he’s done it before or is a good outfielder is quite ridiculous.

    3.) There is no way Joe West is fast enough to get to that wall to be able to definitively say that it was interference, so its remarkable how he decided that was interference. But then again, hes not known for his good calls.

    There was talk before this play that the league wants a Dodgers/Red Sox World Series so that will just stir that pot even further.

    1. 1) No. Mookie was reaching up TOWARD the wall. The guy in blue was pressed up against the wall with his thighs, slightly bent forward, with his arms extended forward. Unless he is a T-Rex, his arms are longer than the fence is thick. Also, guy in grey was holding the wall with his left hand, and extending his right hand along the wall. Guy in blue’s hand is out further than guy in grey, and therefore in the field of play.
      2) If you watch it in slow motion, you see guy in orange’s right hand hit Mookie’s open glove and force it closed just before the ball gets there.
      3) Joe West saw the fan leaned in and made the right call.

      1. This. It was clear that some outside interference closed Betts’ glove just before the ball arrived, causing it to bounce off the back of the glove and back into the field. West got the call right.

        1. Exactly, there’s no question Betts would have caught the ball without the interference. That’s why they ruled him out.

  3. ‘I didn’t do anything.’ Yeah, okay, douche. Want to refuse to take any blame? You’re banned from all MLB ballparks.

  4. I have no doubt MLB would love a Dodgers-Red Sox World Series. But Joe West isn’t exactly the favorite umpire at MLB headquarters, in part because of calls like this one.

    First, he got it right.

    Second, I don’t see him quoted anywhere. Why bother asking him?

    Third, one of the things that makes West less popular is his attitude. Most players say he’s a good technical umpire.

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