Throw beats the runner
In yesterday's Yankee game, Derek Jeter was called out on an attempted steal of third base on a play where the replay showed that Jeter avoided the tag at third. But in my opinion, the umpire made the correct call. The throw beat Jeter to the bag, and the third baseman applied a tag on Jeter. The tag missed Jeter only because Jeter held his left hand and arm back as he slid head first into third base, where his body moved forward right into the tag but his hand and arm never got tagged.
When I saw the play originally in real time on TV, there was no doubt in my mind that Jeter was out. Why was that? Because the throw beat Jeter to the bag and the third baseman applied a tag on Jeter right as he hit the base. I truly believe that anyone umpiring third base that day would have made the same call. It was only through Jeter's clever but unnatural holding back of his arm was he able to avoid the tag and the human eye would only pick up on this in a slow motion replay.
Even watching the replay and knowing that the tag was not applied, I still think Jeter should have been called out. I am a believer that if the throw beats the runner and a tag is reasonably attempted, then the runner is out no matter if the tag actually touches the runner or not. I think that the general principle of the defense executing a play in getting the ball and being in a position to apply a tag upholds the spirit of the law even if it does not conform to the letter of the law.
Also, I think that the most difficult judgment call that a baseball umpire has to make is if a tag has been applied or not. When arms and legs are moving at the speeds which professional athletes move, it can be extremely difficult to judge if a glove grazes someone's jersey or if it misses by a fraction of an inch. Because of that, I feel that it is reasonable to assume in any case where it could be argued that a tag was or was not made, then a runner should be called out. I realize that this still leaves room for interpretation and judgment by an umpire, but I think this is actually an easier judgment call to make than trying to determine if a glove makes contact with a runner.