Rule 7.13: Protecting Catchers, Hurting The Game

It’s important to remember that Rule 7.13 — a.k.a. the “don’t demolish the catcher” rule — was born from good intentions. No one wanted to see the next Buster Posey or Carlos Santana suffer a serious leg injury because they got run over at the plate. With all we know now about concussions, no one needed to see another catcher risk serious head trauma because they stood in there against a base runner. It’s a good idea, one that was obviously long overdue, and by at least one measure, it’s working: we haven’t had any catchers injured in collisions since the rule went into effect. We’ve had catchers getting Tommy John surgery and being assaulted by discarded masks during no-hitter celebrations, but not by collisions. That was the goal, and it’s been achieved. We should be happy about that.

Happy? Good. Because oh lord, is this not working right now. Needless to say, it hasn’t been a good few days for our old friend Rule 7.13.

Here’s Russell Martin clearly forcing out Devin Mesoraco last Wednesday:

martin_home-plate

And here’s Chris Gimenez clearly tagging out Kole Calhoun last night:

rangers_home-plate_2014-06-22

On neither play is there even a hint of uncertainty about whether the runner was out. The ball (on the Martin play) and the tag (Gimenez) both unquestionably beat the runner to the base. Organized professional baseball has been around for something like 150 years, through endless changes and iterations. One thing that has never changed is that if the ball is in the glove and applied to your body (or the base, depending on if it’s a force) and you’re not on a base, you’re out. It’s one of the fundamental building blocks of the sport.

But now it’s 2014, so, surprise! Nothing is what you think it is. Both runners were called safe after instant replay reviews, with the umpires ruling that the catchers impeded the access of the runner to the plate, and thus violated the rule. Even Mesoraco, a catcher himself, didn’t understand the call, saying “I don’t think anyone really understands right now what you can do and what you can’t do,” and that apparently extends to the umpires, too, because after the Pirates game, MLB EVP Joe Torre said that the rule was applied incorrectly.

So maybe, based on that, the rule isn’t the problem. Maybe it’s the umpiring that’s the problem, if the ump made a mistake, and with time, that sort of thing will disappear, and you’ll stop hearing every catcher — in addition to Mesoraco, here’s Josh Thole (link) and Chris Robinson (link) — and manager — Ryne Sandberg (link), Terry Collins (link), and Ron Washington (link) —  and runner — Ike Davis (link), David Wright (link) —  insisting that they don’t understand it.

But that’s the problem really: no one understands it, and I guarantee that if you could get some umpires on the record, they’d all say something different as well. The lack of consistency means that what we have now isn’t working, and I’m starting to wonder what this might all lead to. Take, for example, the last two innings of Friday’s Mets / Marlins game, and what happened with two other plays at the plate that seemed to be obvious outs. In the eighth, Marcell Ozuna threw out Wright at the plate:

marlins_home-plate_2014-06-22

Again, a play where the ball-vs-runner outcome is not in question. The ball beat the runner by weeks, and the tag got down in time. But technically, by the letter of the rule, you could argue that Jarrod Saltalamacchia had his foot blocking the plate before he received the ball. That’s exactly what Mets manager Collins did, coming out to ask the umpires to review it, which they did, presumably while holding back laughter, and they decided to let the play stand. Wright was out. Obviously. Actual time was wasted to confirm this.

One inning later, Kirk Nieuwenhuis tried to test Ozuna’s arm with two outs in the ninth:

marlins_block-plate

Again, not a whole lot of question about the play. The ball clearly beat the runner to the plate, and Nieuwenhuis didn’t seem to touch the plate anyway. (Though the GIF cuts off, he did scamper back just in case after sliding past it.) Another obvious call, but Collins challenged again — or at least came out to implore the umpires to do so, because while the first one went in the books as an official replay, this one did not — and the play stood. So this raises a few very important questions, other than why anyone is trying to run on Ozuna:

1) What makes the plays in Miami okay, but the ones in Pittsburgh and Anaheim not okay?

Any successful rule needs to be about consistency, and if you look at these plays over and over, it’s hard to see that. (Obviously, I’ve chosen just videos from the last few days, but we can probably agree that the full season to date would have many similar ones.) In all four cases, the runner is clearly out. In all four cases, the catcher’s foot is in front of the plate before the ball has arrived, though none really seem to be preventing the runner from scoring, and Martin in particular is doing his best to shift his entire weight away from the bag to the point that he completely falls over to the left in order to get out of the way. Two of the plays were kept as outs. Two turned into runs. Though not all ended up impacting the game, it’s hard to think of a more meaningful change in baseball than an out turning into a run.

In fact, there’s only one thing I can see that seems to be different, and it’s sort of terrifying. Join me, then, at item number two:

2) Is this rule giving the runner more of an incentive to run into the catcher?

Mesoraco makes contact with Martin’s leg, though not nearly enough to impede his access to the plate. (And again, that was especially silly because it was a force play, and a call that MLB had to publicly apologize for.) Calhoun makes contact with Gimenez’ leg, though again not nearly enough to block his ability to touch the plate.

Wright didn’t. Nieuwenhuis didn’t. They each tried to slide around, and whether that was conscious or not, that’s the big difference here. Wright was probably going to be out no matter what, given by how much the ball beat him, but what if Nieuwenhuis had taken a complete direct-line route right into Saltalamacchia’s leg? That play might have looked a whole lot more like one of the first two, and it might have been enough to get it overturned.

Obviously, a game-ending out at home in a one-run affair is of monumental importance; by WPA, it was the most important play of the game by a factor of more than three. Nieuwenhuis shouldn’t have been thinking “things might go better for me if I run down the catcher” at the time, but it’s not hard to imagine him seeing the other possible results and doing it differently if he had the opportunity again. And now we’re talking about whether it’s better for a runner to slam into a catcher, which seems to be slightly opposed to the original intent of the rule.

And if that’s so…

3) As a manager, why wouldn’t you beg for a replay on every play at the plate, no matter how ludcrious-seeming?

If there’s no consensus on what the rule is, and its application appears to be inconsistent, can you fault a manager for thinking that there’s a magic wand that *might* just overturn the run that just did or didn’t score? If the ball, the runner and the catcher are within the same zip code of one another, wouldn’t you do whatever you can to see if the wind just might be blowing your way that night?

Think about what that would mean. It would mean any mildly-close play at the plate now becomes a question mark, something like the mess the NFL has created with what constitutes a catch. (Mets broadcaster Keith Hernandez, rightfully so, was nearly apoplectic on the air at the thought of the Wright play becoming a run.) That means more managers going to ask for replays. Not all will be granted, but the time will be spent discussing them, and it would mean more progress to actual replay stoppages. While replay has unquestionably done more good than bad — per Baseball Savant, we’ve had 278 incorrect plays overturned, including eight on Sunday alone– the question everyone seems to have about it is how to speed it up. Giving managers an incentive to constantly bug the umpires to review these plays (remember, managers don’t put their reviews at risk, because only an umpire can officially call for a replay on the collision rule) just seems like a great way to add more and more delay.

Needless to say, this all needs to change. It’s not so much that too many of these calls are getting overturned, because the Gimenez play was merely the fifth of the season, but that nobody involved seems to know what to do or not do on a given play. It can’t be simply suspended, because it’s kept catchers healthy, and that’s the entire point, but at least simplified. It needs to be spelled out more clearly, and to require less arbitrary decision-making that can be read different ways by different people. The specifics of whatever the solution is — probably a tweak to the line that states The rule that will be in effect in 2014 does not mandate that the runner always slide or that the catcher can never block the plate.” may matter less than simply having one definition everyone can understand.

Now, will MLB actually do anything before this ends up hanging over our heads down the stretch or in the playoffs? There’s precedent for it, and very recently. In mid-April, Dave wrote about how much of a disaster the new transfer rule was turning out to be. Less than two weeks later, MLB revised the rule to a more sane definition. They’ll almost certainly do the same here after the season, but that might not be soon enough. When you’re not sure if a run is a run, that’s a pretty big problem.




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Mike Petriello lives in New York and writes about the Dodgers daily at Dodgers Digest, as well as contributing to ESPN Insider. He wrote two chapters in the 2014 Hardball Times Annual as well as building The Hardball Times and TechGraphs, and was an editorial producer at Sports on Earth. Find him at @mike_petriello.


98 Responses to “Rule 7.13: Protecting Catchers, Hurting The Game”

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  1. Mr Baseball says:

    Great work. Hopefully MLB can make a clarifying ruling mid-season. Postseason games will be decided by this rule if they don’t and it will be a black eye for the game as the media will feast.

    Still nothing is as bad as the old NFL “force out” rule. How absurd of a rule that was.

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  2. george says:

    This shouldn’t be too difficult. We have the same plays at 2nd and third all the time. The rule should apply only when the runner had a good chance at being safe and was clearly blocked from scoring. None of those GIFs would apply.

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    • Marco says:

      “Had a good chance”?

      If we’re going to have the rule, I prefer less ambiguity: Block the plate, runner safe.

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      • BigNachos says:

        That sort of a rule is what leads to runners in the first two gifs being called safe, which is ridiculous. It’s not blocking the plate that’s the problem–it’s blocking the plate without the ball in the catcher’s mitt ready to make a tag that should not be allowed.

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        • Chris says:

          That’s exactly what is happening! Calhoun has already started his slide, and Gimenez doesn’t have the ball. Does Gimenez get the ball soon after? Yes. But Gimenez is blocking the plate without the ball in his mitt. I mean, he isn’t blocking in the sense that his leg is down and Calhoun has to slide through. Had Gimenez not moved, Calhoun would have crashed into him.

          What’s ridiculous is that Gimenez stood over the plate, got the ball, then, while tagging Calhoun, moved to give Calhoun a clear path. All he had to do was not be straddling the plate and he would have been fine.

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        • JMo37 says:

          I agree with BigNachos. My question is how does a catcher set up for a throw coming in down the left field line? Do you expect him to not stand in line with the ball?

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        • I don’t know if it’s ideal, JMo, but I think he ought to straddle the plate.

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      • Doug Lampert says:

        “OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner. …
        It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire, as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball.”

        Unless you insist that homeplate is different from the rest of the field then the rule can and should be dependent on the Umpire’s judgement. We trust that judgement as to obstruction calls at every point on the basepaths other than home plate and no one complains that the rule is inconsistent or incomprehensible,

        Rule 7.13 is pretty similar to rule 7.06. Why am I supposed to believe that rule 7.06 is fine but 7.13 is broken. 7.06 makes specific mention of the fielder being in the act of fielding the ball, while 7.13 doesn’t seem to, but both require judgement of the umpire.

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        • “7.06 makes specific mention of the fielder being in the act of fielding the ball, while 7.13 doesn’t seem to, but both require judgement of the umpire.”

          The problem with just applying 7.06 to plays at the plate is defining what movements are and are not part of the “act of fielding the ball”. Is getting into proper receiving position to catch a ball being fired in from 275-350 feet away an act of catching the ball? Is dropping down to stop a carom? Or is it only the act of putting glove on ball?

          I hate the new rule. I don’t want to see collisions at the plate, but the new rule doesn’t do anything but muddy the waters. I understand that rules are supposed to provide clarity and consistency. But sometimes common sense simply cannot be easily or readily defined.

          In all of those gifs the player was clearly out, by virtue of the ball beating the runner to the base and the tag being applied (or the force in Martin’s case). In none of the gifs was there any risk to saftey of the player or obvious intent to impede the runner or dislodge the catcher. Simply allowing common sense to prevail lets the umpire make the right call.

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        • Tom B says:

          IMO… As soon as the ball is thrown towards the catcher, anything he does should be considered the “act of catching”.

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        • Tom B says:

          The runner does not have to run directly through him. There is no “baseline” until the catcher attempts to apply a tag. Just like when a SS or 2B fields a GB and the runner has to avoid him.

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      • george says:

        obviously my intention wasn’t to have the rule read, “have a chance.”

        “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.”

        This is how the rule is written, and it seems fair. In the above cases it seems the replay guys just interpreted it wrong.

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        • jorgesca says:

          I don’t see how they interpreted it wrong, the catcher is blocking the plate without the ball = safe, he has the ball or is in the process of getting it, treat it as any other base and have a play.

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        • george says:

          In both cases the runner is still a few feet from the catcher by the time he receives the ball. Their pathways aren’t “blocked” until he has possession.

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    • Boris Chinchilla says:

      That’s “ludcrious” bro

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  3. Derek Norris' Jelly Brain says:

    On another note, it sure would be nice to see some accountability for overly-dramatic backswings knocking around catchers….

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    • The rest of the league says:

      Or Derek Norris could just back the hell up.

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      • Tom B says:

        The batters could also be forced to stand IN the batters box.

        But that would require the umpires to enforce the rules, and they are only second in the world to FIFA officials in NOT doing that.

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        • Za says:

          In all fairness, baseball umps get the catcher/home plate call right a hell of a lot more often than FIFA refs get their offsides calls right. Our officials are way, way, way, way better.

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        • Larry says:

          Offsides is also a lot more difficult to call correctly, altho thats not a very good excuse

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  4. fantasysportshawk says:

    I was watching the Pirates/Reds game (no volume)…it looked like the ball may have come loose in Martin’s glove, too. Still overall questionable at best, but I wonder if that factored into it.

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  5. StrikeThree says:

    What’s Martin doing on/behind the plate in the first place, foot planted, on a force out with less than 2 out? He should be straddling the front corners, ready to move right or left based on location of the the throw, giving the runner the baseline and the right of the plate. No chance for DP due to slow grounder fielded by pitcher.

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    • BigNachos says:

      Because you don’t straddle a base or plate on a force out, because that would be idiotic. You stand with one foot on the base/plate, and step toward the throw with the other. He probably should have used his left foot instead of his right on the plate, but most right-handers throwers would use their right foot naturally.

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      • StrikeThree says:

        Sorry, by straddling I mean both feet in contact or immediate proximity to the edge of the plate (17 inches apart). Planting either implies you know where the ball is going, and you’re not going to tie yourself in knot trying to receive an errant throw by a pitcher running to the line, potentially making an sidearm/underhanded throw. Similar to playing first base: ready to move in any direction. Best (worst) example I can recall of the failed plant method is Cards-Rangers 2011 World Series, Game 3, 4th inn., where Torealba plants his right foot, but can’t reach a bad throw by Napoli, down to his right and across his body. Had he been balanced, he could have shifted to his right, tagging plate with his left.

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    • Kevin says:

      It’s hard to see in this gif, but where the ball was being thrown from made a throw in front of the plate a VERY difficult angle. By setting up the way he did he made a much easier throw for the pitcher who was fielding the ball.
      Normally, yeah, he’d be in front of the plate in the field of play. On this particular play Martin was doing what made the most sense in that siutation.

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  6. Sam says:

    I don’t think its that complicated actually. The runner has to have a clear path to the plate and Calhoun didn’t have one at all. The call with Martin was close but he was also trying to get out of the way as the runner approached.

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    • Jordan says:

      Calhoun did have a clear path to the plate… right between Giminez’s legs. It’s not Giminez’s fault that Calhoun chose to slide into his leg instead.

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      • Sam says:

        You can’t be serious. A path between Giminez’ legs is not a path at all.

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        • Tom B says:

          To call this a “blocked plate” is just ridiculous. Between his legs is an extremely clear path, and the only one a sliding base-runner should need. It’s also the only path a player gets at any other base.

          There is no reason what-so-ever that Calhoun should have been called safe on that play. The catcher didn’t go to the ground to block the plate, he’s just standing there. The rule as written is just stupid. There is a huge difference between standing and receiving the ball, and going to the ground to block the path to the plate.

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    • Iron says:

      That’s how I saw it. In the first gif the plate is almost entirely blocked, in the second one entirely blocked. In the last two only a corner of the plate was blocked.

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  7. triple_r says:

    The real problem with this hullabaloo is that it adds fuel to the fires of the anti-“pussification of America” crusaders. As you said, the problem isn’t with the rule itself, but the fact that MLB can’t enforce it correctly won’t improve people’s already jaded view of it.

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  8. Jay says:

    This is a really dumb rule. In Little league you are not allowed to make contact with the catcher but the catcher can stand wherever he wants. That’s how it should be in the MLB. If anything, force the base runners to slide, this would avoid collisions and the only injuries would be players hands getting spiked or maybe a sprained ankle or two.

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    • Iron says:

      So the catcher can stand whereever he wants in the basepath, with or without the ball, and the runner is out if he makes contact with the catcher? Not an improvement.

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    • Alex says:

      First, little league baseball is a joke. It’s 12 year old kids playing by rules for 9 year olds on a field for 10 year olds.

      Second, have you really never seen a catcher drop his shin guard on a guy to block the plate? It’s an excellent way for the runner to end up with a broken leg. If you let catchers block the parts and force runners to slide there will be a substantial increase in leg injuries to runners.

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      • Tom B says:

        ” If you let catchers block the parts and force runners to slide there will be a substantial increase in leg injuries to runners.”

        ^ This.

        Is totally wrong.

        The runner simply needs to slide. There is ZERO reason for the runner to be allowed to not slide and run through a player. This is not football.

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      • Alex says:

        And what happens when a guy is forced to slide in to a catcher that has established himself in front of the plate with his hard plastic shin guards set to immediately stop the runner’s momentum once he slides? What if the catcher does what he had been taught to do and actually leaves an opening until the last moment before dropping his shin guards directly on or in front of the runner’s legs so he doesn’t even have a chance to react? Have you really never seen an injury on plays like this?

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        • Tom B says:

          Then the runner should have stayed at 3rd base.

          Is this really this complicated?

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        • Tom B says:

          How many times do you think a catcher would have to get cleated in the thigh/hip to stop dropping his leg in front of a runner like that?

          Catchers are taught to straddle the base. They only stop doing that in College/MiL because the RULES CHANGE and colliding with the catcher is no longer an illegal play.

          If the rules were consistent, they would never learn or utilize this bad behaviour in the first place.

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        • Rob says:

          What competitive baseball are you watching where catchers aren’t taught to block the opponent’s slide with their shin guards? Yes, you are taught to straddle the plate, but only until the ball is arriving, at which point you try to drop your left shin in front of the plate. If done correctly, the runner never reaches the plate, having his slide stopped completely short of the base. The thigh is not at risk because the knee should be bent roughly 90 degrees. This actually allows you use your thigh muscles to help stop the sliding runners momentum.

          Not many guys can do it at lower levels, but as you move up the ladder, catchers tend to get better and better defensively. That is a main reason you aren’t forced to slide in the professional game. It’s just not fair to the runner when the other guy has armor and really knows how to use it.

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    • Tom B says:

      That’s not how the little league rule works at all. The only rule in little league is that you have to slide, and that should be the rule in the majors too. The catcher can do whatever he wants to block the plate.

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      • Tom B says:

        ^ As long as he is making a play on the ball. Obviously he can’t just stand in the way for no reason.

        The problem here is that all of these things are already covered in the rules. This didn’t need a special rule, just enforcement.

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  9. Warning Track Power says:

    I agree that the rule has been applied inconsistently and that it is not well-defined or understood.

    However, I think for the most part it has been too lax regarding catchers blocking the plate. I cannot interpret the part about the runner having the right to a path as meaning that the catcher can block the plate so long as he gets the ball at the very last second. The intent is to avoid collisions.

    I think of the three GIFs the first two are similar and the third is not like the first two. Wright is about to but has not begun his slide as Saltalamacchia receives the ball. On the other hand both Mesoraco and Calhoun are already sliding as Martin and Gimenez receive their respective throws. It is not reasonable to think that one can slide and somehow choose a new path to the plate hence a slide is a committed choice of path. If the runner has chosen a path (is sliding) and the catcher does not have the ball and the catcher is (subjectively judged to be) blocking the plate, then the runner is safe. That’s how I see it. The Wright-Saltalamacchia play is tougher only because I don’t think it’s as to firmly say that Wright has chosen a path.

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    • jorgesca says:

      Yes and that is how the rule was intended, the problem is the umpires and players are the ones not understanding it.

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  10. Chris from Bothell says:

    The game was around and worked fine for over a century before Buster Frickin Posey, it can survive another hundred years without a confusing rule change that does more harm than good. Can’t believe other games are getting fundamentally changed (i.e. runs scoring that shouldn’t) simply because Posey’s career was altered out of the hundreds of catchers and thousands of baserunners that knew what to do with a play at home plate.

    This lane-to-the-plate thing should go the way of the transfer rule.

    Either that, or let’s go all-in on safety and create a secondary plate for the catcher to stand on, like those little league first base bases you see sometimes, where the fielder gets to stand on their own orange base and the runner needs to stand on or tag the white half of the base…

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    • Mike Petriello says:

      It’s not only Buster Posey.

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    • Ralph says:

      You have former catchers who have been in the game for 20or 30 years calling for changes. I coach youth baseball and the runner is never allowed to lower the shoulder to take out the catcher or any fielder for the matter. Like all rule changes sometimes the rule needs clarification and tweeking.

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      • Alex says:

        How many catchers were for the rule as opposed to against it? Just because some catchers wanted it doesn’t make it right, especially if most of the catchers did not want the change.

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  11. SickRick says:

    The Giminez play is the perfect study for the application of this rule. The others are all ridiculous (Wright and Kirk were out by a mile and Martin has to have 1 foot on the plate for a force play). For a tag play, the catcher has to get into position to “catch and tag” and that very often means there’s just a split second between blocking the plate w/o the ball and with the ball.

    The catcher interference comes into play not from blocking the plate w/o the ball prior to the runner reaching the plate, but on the consummation of the play when the runner crosses and the catcher ends up not having the ball in glove, bc he has to set up to receive the ball on a bang-bang play and that will usually involve getting in front of the plate before the ball arrives. So it seems unfair to penalize the catcher for doing what he’s essentially supposed to do.

    As others have said, this should be handled similar to how interference/blocking the base is handled at the other bases. What should be clearly outlawed with strict suspension penalties is what Scott Cousins did, which is to deviate from the direct path to the plate for the sole intention of taking out the catcher so that he’d be incapable of holding onto the ball. The runner’s obligation has to be to run or slide directly to the plate, not at the catcher unless the catcher is in his path to the plate.

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  12. attgig says:

    Torre commented on the Martin play and said that was a bad interpretation of the rule. the play should NOT have been overturned.

    http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/11112949/mlb-admits-wrong-interpretation-rule-pittsburgh-pirates-cincinnati-reds-game?ex_cid=espnapi_public

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  13. Anon says:

    I think you have a valid point about the clarity of the rule and consistency of its application. However, points 1 and 2 are ridiculous, and point 3 is marginal at best. On 1: The catcher positioning and amount of plate visible to the runner are noticably different (enough so that I absolutely understand the calls being made the way they were). On 2: The incentive now is to run to the base even if the catcher is in the way. Before the new rule, the incentive was to run through a catcher who had the ball to knock the ball loose (which would be a clear out under the new rule).

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  14. Lex Logan says:

    I saw the Martin play live and the call seemed right to me — Martin was blocking the plate, we don’t want catchers doing that, baseball is best played as a non-contact sport, etc. But earlier this year I watched a virtually identical play with the out call sustained after appeal. So I agree the problem is lack of clear understanding and connsistency. Why shuold home plate be different from first? We don’t allow firstbasemen to straddle the bag, position themselves in front of it, we don’t allow runners to collide with them to knock the ball loose, etc. And we shouldn’t allow runners at second or home or anywhere else to go out of their way to crash into the fielder.

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    • SickRick says:

      I’d like to know how one could possibly conclude that Martin was blocking the plate in live action or by replay.

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    • atoms says:

      I don’t really think you can call it “blocking the plate” on a force play. He’s not trying to tag the runner. If he holds the ball and touches the plate first, it’s an out. Period. You should be able to “block” a runner that is already out.

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      • Steven Gomez says:

        He can put a foot on the plate without completely blocking it.

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        • atoms says:

          He shouldn’t have to do that, though, on a force out. If the ball gets there after the runner, and he was obstructing, that’s a separate issue. In this case though, the ball clearly beat the runner, so the runner should be out immediately before blocking the plate is even an issue.

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        • Steven Gomez says:

          You can’t stand over the bag on a force play either. You have to provide a clear path to the bag.

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        • RichW says:

          Of course you can stand on or over the bag on a force play. The 2B and less often the SS do this regularly on easy 3rd out force plays at 2B. On close or unassisted force plays the IF and the runner would have to arrive simultaneously at the front of the bag to even raise the issue. Same applies to the Martin play. The runner was out before any obstruction occurred. On a tag play obstruction is the likely call.

          Out of curiosity do you claim different rules on tag plays at a base? IF often block 2B on stolen base attempts with a leg and/or glove. Is that obstruction?

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  15. Bill says:

    I’m a big proponent of replay, but I think this is one of those cases where “the spirit of the rule” gets lost and we instead get a kind of overly technical look at the letter of the law. The problem in these cases is that if the law isn’t written perfectly and clearly you wind up with results that maker little sense. The previously mentioned NFL catch rules are another example, as was the early season interpretation of the transfer rule in baseball. Common sense kind of goes out the window so the only solution is to continuously update the rule to cover every situation.

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  16. Tom B says:

    This is all wholly unnecessary.

    Catchers and Base-Runners barely ever get hurt when the runner is SLIDING into home plate.

    They really only get hurt when the runner doesn’t slide. The ONLY THING they had to make a rule against was lowering your shoulder and plowing the catcher over. That one change would have protected catchers from being run over, and left zero ambiguity in the rule.

    If a runner does not slide, he is out. Simple, clear, concise.

    Nothing left for interpretation by the idiot umpires (who clearly didn’t train enough on viewing plays in slow-motion as evidenced by the transfer rule problems earlier this year).

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    • onelasttime says:

      If that’s the case then the catcher can just sit in the baseline to impede the runners progress until the ball arrives. That’s why charging the catcher was accepted in the first place.

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      • Tom B says:

        So the runner can slide under his legs and take him out. Just like every other base.

        The problem is full speed shoulder lowering collisions. I think focusing on what the catcher is doing is handling it backwards.

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  17. Michael Darmousseh says:

    I disagree here. I think the rule is working perfectly. You can already see catchers who are changing. The current temporary problem is that catchers instincts haven’t changed yet, but they will soon. A runner shouldn’t have to think at all in these situations and the two plays definitely showed players who hesitated before sliding due to an inability to make a decision in time. This is the intent of the rule. Players should run into catchers if they aren’t given a lane and that would be a fast way for catchers to learn. Its not a hard habit to change, you just need a strong incentive. I think its working exactly as intended.

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  18. Chris says:

    Yeah, wait. I have a big problem with this article.

    As others have said, the rule states that if the catcher does not have the ball then he must provide a path to the plate. In other words, without having the baseball, he cannot stand in front of the plate.

    That is CLEARLY what is going on in both the Martin and Gimenez plays. Both were standing over the plate, without the ball, when the runners had already started to slide.

    Compare this to Salty. Look at how he is positioned in front of the plate. He cuts off part of it with his foot, but the runner has access to the back half. The runner could touch home without colliding with Salty. Whereas in both the Martin and Gimenez plays the runner would make contact with the catcher.

    I don’t see what’s hard to understand?

    The reason Torre said the Martin play shouldn’t have been subject is because it was a force play. Martin has to be on the base.

    I understand the rule is being applied inconsistently. But the examples used in this article are not good examples of why the rule is broken. In fact, I think they are great examples of what is clearly a bad job by the catcher and what is clearly a good job.

    If you want to prove your point that the rule isn’t working, find me examples of someone positioned like Salty is and the out being overturned. Or the catcher being positioned like Gimenez and NYC coming back and saying that it wasn’t an infraction and the runner was out. Otherwise, what you have here is not confusing and is absolutely evident of how the rule works.

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    • Mike Petriello says:

      Maybe the GIF slowed down creates a false impression, but the Gimenez play was so quick and bang-bang that it’s hard to fault the catcher for what he did. And it’s hard to understand how you can see a scenario like the Wright play leading to a replay and thinking that’s functioning the way it ought to.

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      • Chris says:

        I don’t think the speed of the GIF has anything to do with it.

        Watch the full play: http://texas.rangers.mlb.com/news/article/tex/umpire-review-results-in-angels-run-ron-washington-ejection?ymd=20140622&content_id=81153498&vkey=news_tex

        The key is the replay that starts around 46 seconds. You see that Gimenez saw what was happening and he chose where to stand. Where did he choose to stand? Right in front of home plate. Gimenez provided absolutely zero clear path. He went as far as to have his leg in front of the plate, so that Calhoun would have to slide into the leg.

        Gimenez had plenty of time to choose and position that wasn’t blocking the plate. He wasn’t thinking about the rule and chose a position that would have been fine in previous years. Which is understandable. The rule is new. He spent a lifetime playing one way. But. It’s still his fault.

        The Wright play is clearly not a violation, you’re right. But I think it’s understandable that as everyone is trying to figure out this rule and it’s the first year of replay that the umps would be more lenient about what is being reviewed. And, really, what is lost? A few minutes?

        Again, the Wright play leading to a replay, as people try to figure out the new home plate rule is not a big deal to me. I don’t think it shows the rule is broken or ineffective. The point of the rule is to protect the catcher and the runner from harmful collisions. In that sense, the rule is absolutely functioning how it should.

        Salty positions himself appropriately: the out stands.

        Gimenez chooses a poor position: the out is overturned.

        I think you could maybe argue the use of the phrase “blocking the plate”, as people might associate that with having a leg down or the catching sitting on the plate. In that sense, Gimenez is not “blocking” the plate. But if you take a broader approach, that he must provide part of the plate for the runner to slide at: then there is no arguing how the Gimenez play is a violation.

        But you’re right though that the rule does add more delay to the game. And, in that sense, is a problem. But does that mean that the rule is not working or is broken? I don’t think so. It’s not different to me than if you had to use a new word processing program and it took you longer to write articles because you had to adjust to the new layout and figure out how the processor worked. There will be questions and some delays, but, ultimately, things would speed up.

        +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • jorgesca says:

        I watched the game yesterday it wasn’t so “bang-bang”, as soon as Gimenez realizes the runner is coming home, he stands in front of the home plate, when he receives the ball he tries to tag, but he doesn’t move, which by itself should be fine, the problem is he is standing there way before he gets the ball.

        What I see is catchers trying to tag the runners when they receive the ball (When they now could block the plate), but not doing anything to respect the rule before they receive the ball.

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    • SickRick says:

      so catchers cannot stand in front of the plate w/o the ball….ever? 10 feet before the runner arrives, 20 feet, 90 feet.. still blocking the plate w/o the ball in violation of the rule?

      You see what I just did there? The problem with the application of the rule as you’re suggesting is that catchers must be permitted to get in position to receive the ball which often puts them in the path of oncoming runners. This is where the rule clarification has to come into play. This works the same way on plays at other bases, but bc at the plate it’s a matter of a run or not a run it needs extra clarification. The obstruction can only occur at the consummation of the play, not before.

      On many bang-bang plays, there isn’t more than a split second for the catcher to catch and tag and he has to set up to receive the ball. No way you can call that obstruction if it’s in the act of fielding/receiving the ball. If, however, there is contact and the catcher never fielded the ball, then and only then could it be concluded that there was a blocking of the plate w/o the ball.

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      • Tom B says:

        No where else on the field does the runner’s “right to the base” override the fielder’s “right to the ball”.

        The entire rule needs to be thrown out and re-written to reflect this. The catcher blocking the plate was never part of the problem, it was that somehow it became OK for runners to not slide. Fielder’s are allowed to block the runner as long as they are int he act of making a play everywhere else on the field. Why should the 5 feet around home plate be any different?

        Plowing into a “defenseless receiver” is even illegal in football now. All they have to do is force the baserunners to perform a legal slide into home plate. All of these problems fade away, catcher don’t have to re-learn the game and they get less concussions. Problem solved.

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        • Belloc says:

          Your statement is completely false. The rule doesn’t forbid catchers from blocking home plate while fielding the ball or receiving a throw. So stop acting like it does.

          The base line beyonds to the runner, not anyone else. This has always been the rule. The exception to the rule is when a fielder is in the act of fielding or receiving a throw. Rule 7.13 doesn’t change that at all.

          Catchers are the only players on the field who wear body armor. And thus, they have been the only players on the field who have been taught to position themselves in front of the base (plate) before receiving a throw. In contrast, infielders are taught to straddle the base when receiving a throw, and to position themselves behind the base line before the throw is made, so if the throw is off line they do not run the risk of obstructing the baserunner (see Game 3 of last year’s World Series) or getting knocked on their ass. In essence, the new rule simply attempts to treat catchers like every other player on the field. I don’t think that making a rule that applies universally, as opposed to a rule which discriminates, is bad for the game. The only reason 7.13 was promulgated was that catchers have for decades behaved completely different than every other fielder. And that is due to them wearing body armor. They know that if they get into a collision, whether caused by a runner sliding or running them over, they have a clear advantage over the runner because they have body armor. Tanks don’t yield to an infantry man.

          Catchers simply need more time to adjust to the new rule. They have a difficult habit to break because they have been taught for years to camp out in front of home plate before a throw is even made. But the fact that many catchers haven’t yet adjusted to a rule designed to protect them (and baserunners) isn’t grounds for ditching the rule. Catchers still have an advantage infielders do not have: catchers can still block the plate when they have possession of the ball. Infielders could block the base as well after taking possession of the ball, but they would run the risk of getting seriously injured because they do not have body armor to protect them. No infielder is going to drop to his knees and block the bag in front of a sliding Yasiel Puig, Giancarlo Stanton, or Matt Holliday.

          Also, Rule 7.13 doesn’t forbid homeplate collisions. A runner can still knock a catcher on his ass by running him over. But the runner cannot deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher or any other fielder. The fact that baserunners are choosing not to run over catchers who are blocking their direct pathway to home plate indicates that baserunners haven’t completely adjusted to the new rule either. And perhaps it also reflects that baserunners never wanted to run over catchers in the first place.

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        • Alex says:

          Yes catchers blocking the plate is part of the problem. Have you ever seen a legitimately good catcher block the plate? They will leave an “opening” for the runner to slide to, but at the last second they will shut it with their shin guard, leaving runner no where to go. If done correctly the runner’s for should never even reach home plate. This is why catchers can’t block the plate now. Forcing runners to slide into a catcher’s shin guards will lead to injuries. I don’t know how you don’t realize this.

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        • SickRick says:

          Belloc,
          But no 3Bman or 2Bman would be called for obstruction for standing 5 or 10 feet in front of their base (ball or no ball) before the runner arrives. Anyone suggesting that obstruction should be called (or considered) in these cases we’re seeing has lost sight of the basics of the game (as Mike suggests). Runners do need to complete their runs or slides w/o regard to where catchers are positioning themselves and let the play determine obstruction or not.

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        • Tom B says:

          You entire cause and effect on catcher body armor is wrong. They only learn to start blocking the plate like that in college/minor league play because the RULES CHANGE, and colliding with a pitcher is no longer illegal.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Rob says:

          No you apparently just weren’t exposed to good catching coaches growing up. I’ve seen 10 year old kids in rec league baseball use their shin guards to stop the momentum of a sliding runner.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Chris says:

        I see what you did there. But Gimenez had his position as Calhoun approached and maintained it all the way until Calhoun started to slide. Gimenez didn’t have the ball when Calhoun started to slide.

        I agree, the catcher has to be able to catch the ball. But Gimenez did not adjust to the ball. He picked his place, then Darvish threw him the ball. It wasn’t that Darvish threw the ball and Gimenez had to be right there to catch it. You see the difference, right?

        I would absolutely be agreeing with you if Salt had chose the position he chose, in front of home plate, but the throw was further back, so he had to adjust to catch the ball. If that adjustment caused him to be in front of home plate, that’s fine. He is making a play on the ball.

        I’m not arguing that I think the rule is great. I think the rule should be the same for home as it is for the other bases. You can’t run over the third baseman. You can’t run over the catcher. But you also don’t teach third baseman to put a leg in front of the bag so the runner has to slide into at his shin. So I also don’t think catchers should take the position that Gimenez took.

        Martin is, by my standards, fine. But I get why it was mistakenly called a violation, based on the rule.

        The problem is where the catcher chooses to set up. Gimenez chose his spot before the ball was thrown, then the ball was thrown to him. The spot Gimenez chose was blocking the plate. Compare that to where Salty set up.

        Salty set up in front of home. The ball came to him. Then he adjusted for the tag.

        I agree that if you have to move in front of the plate in order to catch the ball, then it’s not obstruction.

        But if the catcher chooses to set up in front of the plate, so that the runner does not have a clear path to the plate when the runner starts his slide, then that is, whether the catcher has the ball or not, obstruction.

        Gimenez was clearly blocking the plate without the ball. If he had been a step to his left, he could have received the ball and made the tag, without obstructing the runner’s slide to the plate.

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        • Tom B says:

          Except that the catchers right to make a play is determined when the ball is thrown, not when the runner starts to slide. The runner has no right to anything while a defensive play is being made, it’s that simple.

          Trying to define things like where the catcher sets up are creating the exact ambiguity that is the problem with this rule. It doesn’t solve anything and should not have anything to do with the “no collisions” rule. Interference and obstruction are already clearly defined in the rulebook.

          All the have to do is force players to slide. If there is any contact between a runner and a fielder and the runner didn’t slide, he’s out. Plain and simple. They figured this out in the little league rules.

          It doesn’t create a different subset of rules at home plate, and it doesn’t create instant replay issues with interpretation on where the catcher was standing when the runner started to slide as the sun came out from behind a cloud with 3 leaves blowing in the air and a shadow of a bird on the pitchers mound.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • SickRick says:

          none of what these catchers did would have resulted in an obstruction call at any other base.

          and btw, you do realize that straddling the base is the proper technique to receive throws for non-force plays at 2B or 3B..? which is similar to what Giminez was doing…

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    • drew butera says:

      I totally agree with this. Preventing injury is what this is about, just going to have to live with the inconsistency. Should get a lot better as catchers adjust.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. Steven Gomez says:

    Neither catcher had to be standing where he was standing. Both could have received their respective throws while standing out of the basepath.

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    • Tom B says:

      Doesn’t matter where they caught it, or where they were standing. The fact that they are catching it gives them the right to be wherever they are. The interference and obstruction rules are pretty clear on when you can and can not stand in the runners way or block his path to the base.

      The entire problem with this rule is it creates a special case at home plate which is completely unnecessary.

      The runner has no right to tackle or plow full speed into a defenseless player. Take-out slides are fine (and are legal are second and third). Legal slides are well-defined in the rules and should be enforced at home plate.

      The entire problem boils down to the umpires enforcing the rules as they already exist in the rulebook. Rule 7.13 was completely unnecessary.

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  20. Cozar says:

    Martin – Positions himself blocking the front of the plate before the ball is even thrown. As a force play, though, I think they made the wrong call.

    Giminez – Perfect example of how this rule should be applied. He’s set up in front of the plate and blocking it when the runner is approaching and ready to slide. He needed to set up more to the left, receive the ball and make the tag.

    Salt #1 – He’s set up to the right of the runner’s path, allowing room to get to the plate. He also fields the ball long before the runner is close enough to be obstructed.

    Salt #2 – Again, he’s leaving the runner a lane to reach the path. He blocks the plate a little with his left foot, but that occurs during his actual process of moving to catch the ball. You can tell by his need to reach across his body to make the tag that he wasn’t blocking the plate like Martin and Giminez were.

    +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

  21. I think with the Nieuwenhuis play I could see an argument because of how and where he slid with relation to the impedance that the Marlins catcher provided. He slid to a spot adjacent to a spot on the plate that he should have been permitted to as the corner closest to the path of the baseline, if that makes sense.

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  22. 21_22 says:

    im curious if there are legal implications in rewriting the rule. since it is designed to increase player safety, couldnt a rewrite that leads to more potential collisions cause problems? interested to hear what any lawyer would have to say

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  23. KS says:

    Other than the Martin play, I don’t see what all the “confusion” is. Gimenez is clearly blocking the runner’s access to the plate. Saltalamacchia clearly is not. Just because PART of his foot may have been blocking PART of the plate doesn’t mean the runner didn’t have clear access to the base.

    Seems to me the rule was quite correctly applied in those instances.

    The Martin play is questionable, since obviously on a force play the fielder must have his foot on the base. I think a decent argument could be made that Martin IS needlessly blocking access to the plate. After all, first basemen both keep their foot on the bag and allow the runner access to the bag all the time. Catchers will just have to learn to do the same on force plays at the plate. In other words, there will have to be adjustments made. Aren’t baseball players expected to be doing that all the time, in many phases of the game?

    Imagine a first baseman in an analogous position as Martin–wouldn’t it be proper to rule obstruction?

    There’s always a period of adjustment when a new rule is introduced. And sometimes there’s confusion about a new rule that needs to be addressed. But it seems to me there’s a much bigger hue and cry over this rule than circumstances warrant.

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    • SickRick says:

      No, a 1Bman taking a throw on a bunt say that is fielded by the pitcher is in the exact same spot in relation to the baserunner as Martin is on that play and no one ever would claim obstruction has occurred.

      People aren’t used to seeing so many of these plays at the plate so they are coming up with all these contrived theories as to what has to be wrong with what these catchers are doing now. It’s preposterous.

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  24. octelium says:

    How about Sating that the catch may not be within the boundaries of the batters box to receive the throw except on a force out. Seems like that would clear up a lot of space for the runners….

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  25. The Foils says:

    If the catcher’s foot is in front of the plate when you begin to slide and the catcher has no ball, you have scored a run.

    Else, if tagged, no run.

    Simple rule is simple. Stupid, maybe. But simple.

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  26. TF12 says:

    I look at it this way, look at four videos over again and mentally eliminate home plate and the runner. From the angle of each throw, how would you ask your catcher to set up to receive a throw that simultaneously offers the largest target, allows him to move laterally and vertically in case of an errant throw, and when he catches the throw allows him to shorten the distance between himself and the runner to make a tag? IMO, going Roger Dorn on everything is not the answer.

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  27. isavage30 says:

    The only one of these that’s questionable to me is the Martin one. The Gimenez play is clear interference. The other two the ball is already there well before the runner so it’s clearly not interference. The Martin play is pretty much the definition of borderline and could go either way. But you will always have situations where a call can go either way.

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  28. Wayne says:

    I say leave it to the umps discretion…challenge only the safe or out call…pretty easy to see if there’s a collision or not…

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  29. RichW says:

    To consistently apply this catcher obstruction rule, the umpire must make the call when it occurs. What no one appears to know is the point or distance from contact at which obstruction occurs. IMO if one feels that Martin obstructed on that force play then the umpire should have made the call at about the point where the runner passed the bat lying on the field. I still think that force plays and tag plays must be judged differently.

    Remember the WS obstruction call last year. It was made in the course of play which allowed the correct penalty to be applied.

    http://www.closecallsports.com/2013/10/reviewing-jim-joyces-game-ending.html

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  30. Frank Restly says:

    Simple solution – allow the phantom touch of home plate by the catcher on force plays – same thing that is still allowed at second base.

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    • Jay says:

      Would also like to add that, 3rd base and 2nd can still be blocked by the fielder when he gets the ball while home plate is seemingly left wide open now for baserunners. Just the concept of being allowed to block other bases when people are sliding into them(except first base obviously) doesn’t make sense to me. The catcher should be able to block the plate and prevent a run from being scored and base runners should be forced to slide…So what if a player gets spiked or a cut on his leg. The avoidance of collisions will prevent concussions and broken limbs, but I think a few scrapes or cuts can be dealt with from sliding into someone.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  31. Wes says:

    Why sbould catchers be protected any more than shortstops.runners should be required to slide.!!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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