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Perrotto: Andrew McCutchen Getting Justice for Obstruction



Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

BRADENTON, Fla. – Andrew McCutchen spoke. Major League Baseball listened.

The Pittsburgh Pirates veteran outfielder/designated hitter was outspoken last season about infielders blocking bases when runners were attempting to steal bases, which is against the rules.

McCutchen saw enough players get banged up – and outright injured – on the basepaths.

“I’ve seen too many people pulling up, grabbing their wrist, grabbing their shoulders, having to come out of the game,” McCutchen said. “I saw (Pirates infielder/outfielder) Ji Hwan Bae have to do it countless amounts of times last season. As fast as a runner as he is, sliding into the basepaths and coming back in, he’s grabbing his shoulder. ‘Awe, man, he had his legs in front of the base and tried to get around but couldn’t. It’s the little things like that.

“To me, I felt like it was pretty obvious. It was like, obviously, why should we not be doing this.”

Major League Baseball officials read McCutchen’s comments in various media outlets and got in touch with him. While McCutchen did not talk with Commissioner Rob Manfred, he did speak with people who worked in MLB’s on-field operations department.

McCutchen’s message resonated with those officials. During spring training, MLB is advising managers that umpires will be vigilant about calling obstruction on infielders this season.

Infielders who do not possess the ball and are impeding runners violate rule 6.01.

“I had a lot to do with that, so I think it’s important for a lot of reasons,” McCutchen said. “With stolen bases going up, that’s what the game wants – they want more action – so you have pitch clocks, you’ve got the amount of times guys can (make pickoff throws). So obviously stolen bases are going to go up, and that’s going to give more time for injury on the basepaths. I think it’s a good thing, just cracking down on it, just being careful about it. That’s one of those things where there are rules that go hand in hand. No one really does it but sometimes people can when they can take advantage.

“If I’m stealing a base, a guy can pretty much throw his whole body in front of the base to stop me from getting there. There are no rules that say he can’t. I feel like it was pretty important that there needs to be some language in there that speaks on that, so guys aren’t getting hurt on both sides, defense or offense. I think it’s a good thing. We’ll see what happens.”

Of course, it is one thing to emphasize a rule in spring training. It’s yet another, though, to enforce it during the regular season.

Every few years, it seems that MLB decides to crack down on various rules violations. Sometimes, the edict sticks. Other times, it is forgotten by the end of April.

McCutchen is hopeful MLB is serious about the obstruction emphasis.

“The game has evolved. The game’s changing,” McCutchen said. “There’s some language with home plate now. We’ve had that for 10 years or so now. There’s been no language changed on the base paths. My thing was, there needs to be something done with that as well. We’re trying to prevent injury. That’s why I mentioned it and why I was vocal about it. I’m just trying to prevent injury here. What can we do? It was nice that Major League Baseball and a few of the people I talked to were pretty responsive to it.”

It also speaks to how much respect McCutchen has earned during his 15-year career. Enough that MLB responded when he spoke up.

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