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Umps Completely Blow… (…Blocking-Plate Call)

April 10, 2014

Gerrit Cole didn’t have his best stuff Thursday afternoon but wasn’t helped out any in what should have been an inning-ending play at the plate. The throw was dead on the plate and Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez edged to the third base side to apply a tag after catching it–the runner was out by 10 feet. The runner slid into Sanchez… SAFE was the call, as Sanchez was adjudged to have blocked the plate.

The thing is, if he has the ball, the new rule doesn’t prevent him from blocking the plate. Full text here (scroll down):  

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20140224&content_id=68268622&vkey=pr_mlb&c_id=mlb

and the relevant part is point 2 which details catcher responsibilities. I have added emphasis:

2. Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the Umpire, the catcher without possession of the ball blocks the pathway of the runner, the Umpire shall call or signal the runner safe.

Note that, if the catcher has the ball, this rule doesn’t say shit about anything. (Section 2 then goes on to give the catcher the right to field the ball if it comes in on the third-base side.)

Adding insult to injury, this call is indeed reviewable–but never challengeable. The play can only be examined/clarified at the umpires’ discretion. With dark clouds overhead on Getaway Day, the umpires were in no mood to call New York and at least get a clarification. Poor stuff.

One of the alleged beautiful elements of baseball is that the rules ‘almost never change’. The game is played, more or less, as it was 100 years ago (in the NL anyway). Well, until 2014. Between half-baked instant replay and this plate-blocking rule, the game is under attack.   

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