Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Procedural Justice and Fan Interference

One notion of justice is what philosophers call "procedural justice," that is, justice is playing according to the rules. On this view, process is the key to a just result. Everyone agrees to to the rules beforehand and it is the objective application of those rules that thereby defines a just act.

In a game the other night between the Phillies and Marlins, we found a case study that lets us examine intuitions about this approach. With a runner on second base, Philadelphia's Hunter Pence hit a long drive to right field. The Marlin's right fielder went to make a play on the ball and it bounced away allowing Pence to get to second base. The right fielder and bullpen pitchers all claimed it was fan interference. The Marlin's manager came out to protest and the umpires used video replay to review the play. The video showed clear fan interference and Pence was called out and Ryan Howard, the base runner was returned to second base.

It WAS clearly fan interference -- the Philly fans in Florida do reach over onto the field of play and make contact with the glove of the outfielder and the ball. The ball would most likely have been caught in a spectacular play. BUT the rules say that instant replay is only to be consulted in cases where the issue is whether a hit should rightly be considered a home run. If that is the case, then questions of fan interference would be on the table. But this was a double, not a home run, so the rule would not apply and the video evidence would not have been called for. BUT it did allow for the correct call to be made.

So, was the calling out of Pence a just decision or not?