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Major League Baseball releases a nonsensical statement about the play in the Reds-Marlins game

Aug 1, 2014, 1:21 PM EDT

Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 8.23.06 AM Getty Images

As we mentioned this morning, an obstruction call basically determined the outcome of the Reds-Marlins game last night. And that call was, technically speaking, clown shoes.

After the game Major League Baseball said it was going to look into the matter. A few moments ago MLB released this statement:

“The Replay Official judged that the catcher did not provide a lane to the runner and hindered his path to the plate without possession of the ball. The throw also did not force the catcher into the runner’s pathway. As a result, in accordance with Rule 7.13, the ruling on the field was overturned and the run was allowed to score.

“We realize that people may reasonably have different opinions regarding the application of Rule 7.13 in any particular instance because it is a judgment call. We are continuously evaluating the application of the new rule, and we anticipate a full review with all appropriate parties in the off-season in order to determine whether any changes should be made. We also recognize that the exorbitant length of last night’s review, which was more than three times the season average, must be avoided in the future.

“That said, the most important goal of this rule has been to eliminate dangerous collisions at home plate, and it cannot be disputed that the rule has been very effective toward achieving this purpose.”

This seems pretty weird to me. Particularly the part where MLB calls this a “judgment call.” Actually, in practice this has been applied as if judgment was not a part of the equation. Rather, it’s a hyper-technical reading of the rule: “catcher in front of plate/catcher bad/runner safe.” There is no part of this where the replay officials seemed to ask themselves “did this actually friggin’ matter?” Not to mention the fact that, in its review, the replay officials ignored the judgment of the umpires on the field.

So: try again, guys.

  1. chargrz - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:29 PM

    Replay is a total JOKE! Get rid of it as it ruins the flow of the game.

    • gibbyfan - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:50 PM

      Or, at least have an umpire in the booth with the same access to replay that we viewers have. A decision could be rendered before the manager crossed the foul line. It wouldn’t be perfect but it would take care of obvious blown calls and it would get rid of the ridiculous procedure of having to contact another state.

    • gmagic9044 - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:03 PM

      I would like to think this will change, but what ruins the ‘flow of the game’ is the pre-challenge antics by managers who go out ‘not’ to argue the call, but to give their own replay coach a chance to give the go-ahead.

      The obvious (to me) solution to this is, a challenge is initiated the moment a manager enters the playing field. This would speed up the process in a number of ways, mainly: 1) The review would start minutes sooner than it currently does; 2) Managers would be leery of arguing the ‘close but not that close’ play that appears to be happening a lot this year, as managers are (wisely) using the system in place to pre-review a play before determining whether to issue an actual challenge.

      Thirdly, I do not know why every umpire needs to be involved in the replay review process. This seems like a crew chief only responsibility, which would shave some time off each challenge too.

    • 78mu - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:14 PM

      I’m fine with replay if it’s quick and it corrects a really bad call.

      And I’m fine with not crashing into a catcher without the ball or a catcher blocking the plate without the ball.

      But this call in Miami was a normal play at the plate and should not have been reviewed or overturned. He was out by 10 feet. The clown that overturned the call should spend his time actually watching some baseball and learning how it’s played.

  2. The Dangerous Mabry - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:29 PM

    It may be true that the catcher’s positioning didn’t really matter here. It may be true that this was a hyper-strict reading of the rule.

    With that said, it seems like an obvious solution for this problem is for catchers to stop setting up to receive throws in the baseline. I think we all agree he didn’t need to be there to receive the throw…so why was he there? If a rule is going to be put in place to protect catchers (and I think it’s great that one has) then the catchers need to be respectful of what’s required to make that rule work in a way that’s fair to both teams.

    Don’t set up in the baseline, and the runner won’t be called safe.

    Maybe the rule could use some tweaking, but in the meantime, these situations are absolutely avoidable.

    • kaleidoscopictreats - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:40 PM

      This comment is absolutely spot on. The hand-wringing taking place over this call has been ridiculous. If you don’t want a problem, then don’t set up in the baseline. Why not set up behind the plate, like every other fielder does at their respective bases?

      I understand that catchers aren’t used to doing things this way. But so much the worse for catchers. It’s time for them to internalize the new rules, instead of crying that the rules need to be changed every time they don’t adhere to them.

      • grumpyoleman - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:52 PM

        No other position player takes a throw standing behind the plate on a regular basis.

      • grumpyoleman - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:42 PM

        base not plate

      • grumpyoleman - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:43 PM

        Five down votes from people who apparently never played baseball before. That’s impressive.

      • bhlobos - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:52 PM

        Grumpy, I was thinking the same thing as you… the only scenario where a position player takes a ball behind the base is when the middle infielders are turning two… EVERYONE else is in front. I get what kaleidoscope is saying, but he’s suggestion the wrong side… the catcher should be in front of the plate, but still out of the baseline.

    • indyralph - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:42 PM

      Proposed tweak: draw a chalk line perpendicular to the 3rd base line about 20 feet (or thereabouts, exact distance might not be right) from home plate. Once the runner reaches the line, the catcher must offer a lane. If the runner has not crossed the line when the catcher receives the ball, the runner cannot initiate contact.

      • baberuthslegs - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:44 PM

        I thought about that this morning. Glad you articulated it.

      • Bryz - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:01 PM

        The runner’s speed is going to affect that, however. 20 feet for Billy Hamilton is not the same as 20 feet for Jose Molina.

      • indyralph - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:20 PM

        How long the runner takes to get from the line to home plate does not matter at all. All that matters is where the catcher is when the runner crosses the line. It’s literally the exact same rule, except it only applies to the last 20 feet, make it 30 if it makes you feel better, instead of the last 90 feet. And it literally draws a line in the sand. If you want to take it a step further, you could draw another line parallel to the path to the mound over which the catcher is not allowed to cross. No more judgment, for $10 of chalk per day. The only argument that I can see against it is that the current rule is just fine. To which I say, why then does it take a 6 minute replay to decide if the rule applies?

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:46 PM

      Couldn’t agree more. The rule was properly applied here and did what it was intended to. Catchers are not allowed to setup in the basepath. Plain and simple. It was unnecessary and it’s the exact unsafe behavior the rule is intended to end. Next time, I bet that catcher will setup in front of the plate properly.

  3. mholden10 - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:38 PM

    I agree with MLB 100%. There was no lane given. The catcher didn’t have the ball. The throw didn’t take the catcher into the lane. Runner is SAFE! If this was last year Mathis would have been on the DL! Did you see his knee all twisted up? Imagine if the runner blew him up? (can you say Buster Posey?) It would have been ACL/MCL surgery for Mathis. Instead a manager gets thrown out (understandable) and we wait 7 minutes for replay. Great trade off. Two thumbs up MLB.

    • pauleee - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:50 PM

      So, as someone asked in the other thread, when does the lane need to be provided? When the runner is 90 feet away? 45? If Mathis had been standing behind the plate when Stanton caught the ball, and then walked up the line a few feet before moving into fair territory, was he denying the runner a clear path up until he stepped into fair territory?

      • pauleee - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:54 PM

        Posted before I saw indyralph’s comment. Some guideline like this must be implemented. A runner who is closer to 3rd then home doesn’t need a path (yet).

      • mholden10 - Aug 1, 2014 at 3:41 PM

        If this was a year ago, do you agree Mathis would have been blown up? (obvious answer is yes) Then the rule worked. Now you ask would the runner have been out., Yes. But the catcher would have been most likely out with a knee issue. Rule worked.

      • pauleee - Aug 1, 2014 at 5:34 PM

        On this play, had the runner been further down the line, I would agree with you. In this particular case, Mathis does straddle the baseline before he has the ball (resulting in the outcome of the play), but when he catches the ball and the runner gets anywhere near him, he has moved to allow a path. The only way someone gets hurt in this play is if the runner decides to forego the plate and just run into the catcher. Had the runner been faster however, you might be right.

    • blacksables - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:53 PM

      How did the catcher not have the ball when he tagged the runner?

      • Steve A - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:01 PM

        The catcher did not leave a lane before catching the ball.

        Had there been a lane for the runner to the plate when Mathis originally set up, I think the call of out would have stood.

  4. serbingood - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:46 PM

    If the statement came from Torre, he has new HoF credentials, and therefore can never be wrong. Henceforth the statement stands as written.

    • Old Gator - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:55 PM

      If you’re talking about the incoherency HOF, yes.

      Bad call. Bad rule, badly applied. If the catcher’s got the ball, he should be able to block the plate. Period. If he blocks the plate before the runner is anywhere near it without the ball, but gets out of the way before the runner approaches the plate, no problem. Period.

      • APBA Guy - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:10 PM

        I agree, OG. The replay official determination lacked all common sense. And the statement from MLB about the runner being impeded is wrong on the facts, as the ball was received long before the runner was in a position to be impeded.

      • bhlobos - Aug 1, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        I just watched the reply and really couldn’t disagree more. When the catcher caught the ball, he was already blocking the plate although he slid further in front… and, he had to lunge to make the tag in time. That tells me that the ball was “on” time, not well ahead of the runner.

        A good indication to me is that the runner, while running straight, passed right by home without being able to touch the plate… he didn’t veer much if at all.

        Based on the new rule, I think this was applied properly. Last year, there would have been a collision and a possible injury.

  5. baberuthslegs - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:50 PM

    I heard just before the All Star Break that 43% of the challenges “so far” had resulted in the call being overturned. That was a stat on a Braves telecast, and did not provide a citation (with it had).

  6. jjdjrsf49 - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    Obstructing a runner is a JUDGEMENT call. Did the runner slow down as he was approaching the plate? (Not that I saw in camera.) Did the runner alter their path to the plate as a result of the catcher’s positioning? (Not that I saw in camera.) If the runner did neither of those things, there was no obstruction to be called and the runner is OUT!!!

    The failure of the replay “official” to take the field umpire’s JUDGEMENT into account is inexcusable.

    • sabatimus - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:26 PM

      No it is not. That’s why Rule 7.13 exists, ostensibly.

  7. chris3141084 - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:57 PM

    What happens if there is a run down between third and home? Runner automatically safe??

    • Damidwesterner - Aug 1, 2014 at 3:57 PM

      I saw the Not Top 10 list on ESPN today and they had that double play rundown on a walk against the Pirates. Can’t remember if the catcher had the ball, but either way, once the catcher got rid of it, does it apply to the pitcher or some other player blocking the plate as the runner starts back towards the plate?

  8. Bob Loblaw - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:57 PM

    Fact is that the “judgment call” made by the umpires was wrong. They didn’t apply the rule properly because the catcher was CLEARLY blocking the plate WELL BEFORE he received the ball. Automatic safe. That’s the rule. Period. Most of the time, catchers do not do this. 99.999% of the time the catchers do not do this. However, this was one of those .001% of the time when the catcher does the wrong thing and gets called on it.

    Good rule. Bad judgment by the umpire as well as many here at HBT.

    • bhlobos - Aug 1, 2014 at 3:15 PM

      Bob, I’m confused by what you’re trying to say… by the review umpire’s judgement, they DID get the call right based on the rule. The home plate umpire, watching live and at full speed, didn’t apply the rule correctly, but it happened so quick, I won’t begrudge that missed call.

      • Bob Loblaw - Aug 1, 2014 at 3:39 PM

        Umpire in my post is home plate umpire. I didn’t consider the replay official an “umpire” but I guess he/she technically is.

  9. geejon - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:59 PM

    Catchers were being run over because they were blocking the plate, but more and more often, runners were veering towards and running over catchers who WERE NOT blocking the plate but who’d been beaten by the throw and figured knocking the ball out was their only hope.

    I think a rule keeping it perfectly legal for a runner to run over the catcher who’s in his path but making it illegal for a runner to run over a catcher who’s not in the running/sliding lane would work just fine.

    In the play being discussed, the runner would have had every right to run over the Marlins catcher. If he chose not to, that’s his choice.

    On the other hand, on the play that the runner ran over Buster Posey and broke his leg, the runner would have been ruled out because Posey was nowhere near blocking the plate.

    This would accomplish the goal of practically eliminating catchers being run when there was no reason for it (which was the REAL ISSUE), while at the same time allowing the runner a fair chance if the catcher was indeed blocking his path whether purposefully or because the throw took him there.

    None of this “how early the catcher got there, did he have the ball, blahblahblah”. It’s simple .. you’re blocking the plate you’re fair game. You’re not blocking the plate, anyone running you is automatically out.

    • indyralph - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:50 PM

      “Catchers were being run over because they were blocking the plate.”

      I would submit that catchers were being run over because, 1) it was tolerated, and 2) baserunners knew they would be out unless they tried physical force.

      Your suggestion does nothing to eliminate #1. Besides that, how much of the plate needs to be blocked before it’s ok to bowl over a catcher? 100%, 50%, 2%? How do you define “blocked” – his foot is in the way, his leg from the knee down, his entire body? The purpose is to eliminate collisions, not allow them and then assign blame.

  10. mtr75 - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    Gee, who could have ever seen this coming, a team losing a game because of some contrived rule rather than what happened on the field? This rule has been a joke from day 1, and it will be a joke for as long as they keep this nonsense up. The guy was out by 10 feet.

  11. flamethrower101 - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    Seems to me both the replay officials and MLB are ignoring the discretion of whether or not a throw can take a catcher up the line. Looking back at the play, I can see how the replay officials would think the catcher was “blocking the plate” but it seems they totally ignored the throw part. I have no idea what to think of this rule but I do know MLB needs to look at this again. It fixed the transfer rule midseason, why can’t this rule be fixed?

    • bhlobos - Aug 1, 2014 at 3:10 PM

      You’re right, the throw did take him “up” the line, but he didn’t need to go “over” the line. The throw didn’t take him into the base path, he did that on his own.

  12. bestintheworld92 - Aug 1, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    The new rule stinks MLB needs to change it back like it was!!! Who cares what happened to Posey players get hurt all the time it happens

  13. padraighansen - Aug 1, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    Simply put, at any time in between a runner leaving third base and heading home, if the catcher is blocking the path to the plate without the ball – even if the catcher moves – the way the rule is written, the runner could be called safe. Is that unlikely? Yes. But I’d almost consider having a camera on the catcher at all times to determine if he ever was blocking the path to home plate, even if my runner was 89.5 feet away from the bag.

    And now, I’m sending every runner from third on a tag play at home. I don’t care if it’s Benji Molina running with Bartolo Colon on his back….I’m sending him. Because the onus is now on the catcher to never once block any part of the path without the ball, regardless of where the runner is in between third and home.

    If you think I’m being facetious, just google “pine tar”.

  14. professor59 - Aug 1, 2014 at 6:57 PM

    Got pretty much the same call for the Phillies last week. Ryan Howard came around third and was about to be out at the plate by a good 15 feet. Instead, he pulled up, pointed at the catcher and just waited for the call to go his way.
    Of course this way, the catcher lives. But yes, he set up blocking the whole plate, so the replay official had no choice.
    In the post game, Manager Sandberg was ridiculing the call, even in his favor. “This year, I guess that’s a run. Last 50 years years, he’s out by 15 feet.”

    Drop the Posey rule or seriously fix it.

  15. thehawg - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:18 PM

    The marlins catcher was reacting on the throw. He did set up off the baseline. Baseball should have must slide rule & that would eliminate a lot of home plate collisions. Worst call I seen in awhile, at least the home plate umpire got I right. The replay official should have backed him up the call. If you can’t make a decision in less than 2 minutes, the original call should stand.

  16. buckeye044 - Aug 2, 2014 at 8:35 AM

    Hate this rule. Before long they’ll have a 2nd plate for the runner and all plays at the plate will be force outs.

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