It was clearly fan interference. It was so clear that I can't believe there's any actual argument. It's so clear that even Joe West could see it from 100 feet away.
Which is actually the best argument in favor of fan interference.
I assume that when an umpire is running out towards the wall, and can't quite tell, that the default ruling is “home run”. Without any evidence to the contrary, the umpire assumes the ball went into the stands. But, West didn't make that call. He pretty quickly signaled fan interference. he said that he saw something. That he saw a fan reaching out and hitting Mookie’s glove. That he could tell Mookie was away from the wall. That he could see all that. After all, he was at a pretty good angle to see that sort of thing. I haven't seen a camera show from his angle yet, but I bet you can tell if someone is leaning. And everything he's said after the game repeated that. Which you can say, of course he's going to say that. But, remember in 1999 when the ump admitted that he didn't see Knoblauch make the tag? That he only anticipated the tag being made? Or after the interference call on Will Middlebrooks in 2013 where the umpire claimed Will was in the baseline, when he wasn't? So, Joe West sticking to his story, and having his story hold up is actually a thing.
But, you don't need his angle or his call to determine that it was fan interference. But, it helps if you combine a few different angles. First, you need to know how the seats are situated behind the wall. They're close to the wall. Very close. So close that if you stand up, you're pretty much up against the wall. So, someone standing straight up in front of their seat is basically making their stomach a vertical extension of the wall.
So, if you're standing up, and your stomach is the face of the wall, anything in front of your stomach is within the field of play. Unless you're leaning your upper body back at a 45-degree angle.
Now, back to the view we've all been staring at all day. Do the fans have anything in front of their stomach? Absolutely. They all have their hands out in front of them. Not even just crossed in front of them, but reaching out in front of them. One guy is reaching out so far he has to brace himself against the wall using his other hand. You only need to do that if you're reaching out over the wall, not if you're staying behind it.
It's not even close.
So, now that we've determined that the fans interfered with a player on the field of play, we can discuss the other loophole people like to use. They claim Betts wasn't going to catch it anyway. They give two lame excuses for this train of thought. My personal favorite is that Betts was already closing his glove before the ball got there. It had nothing to do with a fan hitting his glove. Mookie was closing it himself, so he would have missed the ball.
Mookie is probably the best defensive right fielder in baseball. Have you ever seen him try to make a catch, but close the glove too early only to have the ball bounce off the side of the glove? Have you ever seen anyone try to catch a ball with a closed glove? Manny? Of course not. That's because you don't manually close the glove yourself. The force of the ball entering the pocket of the glove basically closes it for you. It’s crazy to think that Mookie is trying to time the closure of his glove for the exact instant the ball goes inside. I can't even fathom how that would work.
The other excuse is that you can’t assume Mookie would make such an incredible catch. Which, I admit is a valid question. It's also one that the fans cheated us out of ever being able to learn the answer to. A lot has to go into a catch like that. Tracking the ball down. Leaping to reach it, timing the leap just right, and grabbing the ball out of the air. That’s not easy. But, the key part is that Mookie already did the toughest parts. You know how if a third baseman makes an amazing dive to stop the ball, gets up, and throws the ball into the stands you can still give him an error? It was a difficult play, but he did the difficult part before the error. Once he's standing there with the ball, it's a routine throw. That's where Mookie was. He already ran to the wall. He already jumped. He already timed the jump perfectly. He already had his glove in the right spot. We know all of this because the ball actually hit his glove after the fan knocked it closed. So he did all the hard stuff. All that was left was the routine part of actually catching a flyball. That's much easier to assume.
So I wish people would stop saying the Sox got lucky. Unless you consider an umpire making the correct call "luck". I wish headlines would stop saying that the Astros had a home run taken away. They never had a home run. It would have been an out if the fans weren't there. The headlines could say "Great play by Mookie prevents Astros home run" because that would at least be true.
It was a great play.
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