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Ryne Sandberg is still upset about a ruling at home plate on Saturday against the Reds

Jun 8, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT

Devin Mesoraco, Marlon Byrd Devin Mesoraco, Marlon Byrd

Yesterday afternoon, the Phillies found themselves trailing the Reds 6-3 with Marlon Byrd on first base and two outs. Domonic Brown ripped the first pitch from Alfredo Simon into the gap in right-center field. Speedy center fielder Billy Hamilton corralled the ball and fired a perfect relay throw to second baseman Brandon Phillips, who then made a perfect one-hop throw to catcher Devin Mesoraco with Byrd still several feet from home plate. Byrd and Mesoraco collided, and Byrd was ruled out.

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg had the umpires review the play, suggesting that Mesoraco had not provided an adequate lane to home plate for Byrd. However, the umpires upheld the ruling and Byrd was out. Sandberg strongly disagreed, so he came back out to make his case to home plate umpire Tom Hallion. He was immediately ejected. The Phillies went on to lose by one run, 6-5. Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, an MLB spokesman said the play was upheld because replay officials felt that Byrd did indeed have a sufficient lane to the plate. You can watch the play here and decide for yourself.

Sandberg was still unhappy with it after the game and says the interpretations of the rules have been inconsistent. Via Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“He put his shin guard down and blocked the plate without the ball,” Sandberg said. “I think that’s gone against us three times on different interpretations on different scenarios. Everyone just wants to know what the rule is. What is it? It can’t be just whoever is there [in New York] has their opinion, because we’re teaching the catchers one thing. We’re telling baserunners another thing.

“They want to eliminate a collision with the catcher, well, the catcher instigated the collision by blocking home plate without the ball.”

Even Mesoraco said he isn’t sure if he broke the rules:

“It’s such a hard rule to decipher, and it’s such a tough thing to really – it’s not black and white,” Mesoraco said. “My first goal is to catch the ball and tag the guy from there. If they want to call him out, they’ll call him out.”

This will certainly not be the first nor the last time that the murky rules surrounding home plate collisions leads to a misunderstanding.

  1. proudlycanadian - Jun 8, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    I understand his pain. I am still upset that a mistake by an umpire cost the Jays a triple play in their first World Series against Atlanta.

  2. musketmaniac - Jun 8, 2014 at 2:39 PM

    They made a similar mistake in the pirates game earlier today.

  3. paperlions - Jun 8, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    Looked like the right call. Just like any other fielder, the catcher is allowed to move to field the ball, fielding the ball took moved him over the plate, once he had the ball he is allowed to block the plate, which he did, and the runner is allowed to collide with him if he does, which he did….and he was tagged out.

    At full speed, that is way too much info to accurately process, but in replay, you can see that the play is completely within the rules and was ruled correctly.

    • stupidusername - Jun 8, 2014 at 6:09 PM

      Pause it at 2:09. Mesoraco is out in front of the plate in the perfect position, exactly where this rule is meant to put the catcher. But as the throw comes in, he goes backwards (probably to avoid a short hop). Just before he catches the ball he has his knee on the ground and is blocking all of the plate without the ball.

      Did fielding the throw take him into the baseline? This is what the rule says:
      “if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in order to field a throw, and the Umpire determines that the catcher could not have fielded the ball without blocking the pathway of the runner and that contact with the runner was unavoidable.”

      Well, maybe I think the catcher could have fielded that throw without backing up to the plate. It is a professional player, not out of the question to expect him to field that short hop without going to a knee right on top of the plate. The umpire in this game thinks he couldn’t have fielded it. Neither is wrong. And when does this become an issue? How close does the runner have to be to home for this to matter? You can’t say it was ruled correctly because the rule does not define what it is to block the path to field the throw or how close the runner has to be for this rule to matter.

      • paperlions - Jun 8, 2014 at 6:19 PM

        Yeah, being obtuse can be fun. It is totally reasonable to make all of those assertions.

        Really, this is a simple baseball play just like one that can occur at any base and does so all the time.

        The ball beat the runner, the fielder caught the ball and tagged the runner. In no way, shape, or form would any reasonable person ever argue that the catcher did something the keep a player that should have scored from scoring. Therefore, the runner is out….if you are being objective, you have to do mental gymnastics and ignore pretty much everything you know about baseball to justify that being a run.

      • timmmah10 - Jun 9, 2014 at 10:22 AM

        paperlions nailed it.

        I could make an argument for Byrd being out for not sliding and initiating contact if I use the same obtuse thought process from another angle.

        I’m not sure why it matters that the plate was blocked before he caught the ball when the runner was not close enough to need a path to the plate. Once the ball is caught, then there doesn’t need to be a path. If he missed the ball and Byrd ran him over, he would probably still be out for initiating contact based on the current rules.

        Byrd was toast. He shouldn’t have gone since he was out by 3 steps.

    • scotttheskeptic - Jun 8, 2014 at 7:11 PM

      Paper,

      I was ready to argue with you, as until now, the only video I had seen was from the Philadelphia broadcast. I do concur, he was not attempting to impede the runner.

      Scott

    • stupidusername - Jun 9, 2014 at 1:56 PM

      Being obtuse? The catcher is on top of the plate, without the ball. Whether he’s there because he had to be to field the ball and if he’s there soon enough for this rule to not be in effect are both judgments by the umpire. If you really don’t think this call, whether you think it’s right or wrong, could be called differently by a different umpire then you’re being very narrow-minded.

      My point was never to contest the call. I think he should be out. The idea there’s no gray area at all to the rule, as if you just need to read it and it’s all spelled out right there, is wrong.

  4. blacksables - Jun 8, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    Please explain to us how the rules are murky?

    • paperlions - Jun 8, 2014 at 3:10 PM

      They are only “murky” in that people haven’t bothered to learn them because the rule takes a lot of contingency into account, as it should. People seem want the rules to be short and stupid rather than applicable to the dynamics that can occur on such a play. Apparently, the fact that “what if” can be asked and answered makes the rule murky because the answer depends on the nature of the “what if” (e.g. whether or not the catcher has the ball determines whether or not he can block the plate….which is just like the rule for every other fielder and base and should be simple to understand).

      • proudlycanadian - Jun 8, 2014 at 3:34 PM

        Thank you for making it perfectly clear. Now what about the “in the area” calls at second base and the inside pitches that are called strikes.

      • paperlions - Jun 8, 2014 at 3:43 PM

        Well. The “neighborhood play” has been deemed legal and “part of the game” and isn’t reviewable….which is stupid, but not murky.

        The second is just bad umpiring….and man, have the guys for this Cardinal/Jays series been horrible….at least, the last 2 (I was flying home Friday and didn’t get to see the first game).

      • proudlycanadian - Jun 8, 2014 at 3:46 PM

        At least the umps have been consistent in making bad strike calls against both teams. The Cardinals pitchers have been very good in this series. Going into the series, I was surprised at their record.

      • paperlions - Jun 8, 2014 at 3:54 PM

        Their problems have been the back of the bullpen and hitting….no power and have had a hard time stringing together hits to score….well, those things, and their manager is an idiot. He’s cost them at least 3 or 4 games (probably many more) with really poor in-game decisions).

      • proudlycanadian - Jun 8, 2014 at 4:00 PM

        Starting pitching is certainly not a problem.

  5. chaseutley - Jun 8, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    Granted: the ball beat Byrd and he should have been out. But catcher sat on the plate and completely blocked it with his body.
    The interpretation of the rule in this case does nothing to prevent future home plate collisions.

    • paperlions - Jun 8, 2014 at 5:06 PM

      You are right, it doesn’t and wasn’t meant to. When the rule was announced they were explicit that the rule is not designed to eliminate all home plate collisions. The rule allows for collisions when the catcher has the ball and the plate is blocked, which is still dumb, you can’t run over the 2B/SS/3B if they are blocking a base to try to knock the ball loose….but still not murky.

  6. sportsfan18 - Jun 8, 2014 at 5:40 PM

    Ryno,

    I’m a big fan of yours, was born and raised outside of Chicago and have liked and followed the Cubs since the mid 70’s.

    Followed your career and I’m rooting for you now… the Phils will be bad for a while though, hope you make it through there to when the team turns around.

    Oh, on this play, the throw took him over the plate.

    Runner is out.

  7. eagles512 - Jun 8, 2014 at 7:03 PM

    He’s right. These umpires are clueless and have no idea what the rule is. The phillies have had it go against them each way.

    • tigersfandan - Jun 9, 2014 at 12:29 AM

      Really? I’d venture to say that the umpires know the rules much better than you do.

      • professor59 - Jun 9, 2014 at 8:02 PM

        No evidence of that at all so far.

      • tigersfandan - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:53 PM

        Exaggerate much?

  8. paco53 - Jun 8, 2014 at 7:51 PM

    I actually thought the Byrd might be reprimanded for hitting a catcher who has the ball and is waiting for the offensive player. Personally, I like the high school rule better, where a runner is ejected for malicious contact. Byrd clearly did not have a prayer of being safe and he still hit the catcher.

  9. 6superbowls - Jun 8, 2014 at 9:56 PM

    Stoopid rule that needs taken out of the game ASAP. You’re big boys in the big leagues now. You know the consequences of blocking the plate or trying to run a fielder over. Act as you will and live with those consequences. Don’t bitch and complain when you make millions to play a game and you got hurt doing something stoopid.

    • sportsfan18 - Jun 9, 2014 at 8:20 AM

      the catcher CANNOT always dictate where he is when he catches the ball…

      many times it’s bang bang at the plate and the catcher set up on one side of the plate and the many wild and off target throws coming in from the outfielders take him right in front of the runner while he’s simply trying to catch the ball.

      are runners going into second base allow to run into the SS or 2nd baseman?

      how about running down the line at first base… it’s going to be a bang bang play at first, maybe close to a tie… Can the runner run into and through the first baseman has he’s trying to catch the ball?

      don’t tell me it’s because the first baseman isn’t block the base… many times when catchers are bowled into by runners attempting to score over the years, they had not blocked off the whole plate either…

      so remove that when you say the first baseman isn’t blocking the base the runner is trying to reach…

  10. xxakshunxx - Jun 9, 2014 at 12:56 AM

    With all these bogus rules, baseballs on its way to where it was in the pre-90’s steroids era, gonna see alot more half empty stadiums throughout the league in the next couple years

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