You may have noticed a recent uptick in home plate calls that have been overturned in review, with umpires with microphones talking about collision rules violations or home plate blocking. Well, teams and players took notice, too. Some of them were dismayed by what they saw as a new mid-season crackdown. The numbers show that these types of dramas were toppled more this year . Whether this is the result of a change in player behavior or a shift in the way referees enforce existing rules is more ambiguous.
The rule in question is Rules 6.01(i)(1) through 6.01(i)(2), which determine how a catcher catches the ball and how a runner hits home plate Hit close to home plate. Introduced in 2014 – colloquially known as the “Buster Posey Rule” after he fractured his ankle from a violent slide – the rule aims to ensure that runners and The catcher’s safety catcher and (this is the relevant part) the catcher must clear a lane for the board.
This year, we have seen a series of controversial instances where a runner was called at home plate, but upon review the call was overturned on the grounds that a catcher blocked plate. Last season, in 22 challenge games, such calls were overturned twice. There have been nine home overturns this season — ESPN reports the most since the rule was introduced in 2014 — and it appears to be the result of stricter enforcement.
The most notable was the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Minnesota Twins earlier this month. After the reversal of a collision call cost the Twins the game, manager Rocco Baldelli delivered a glowing post-game critique of what he believed to be a violation of the enforcement of the rules until then.
“The game hasn’t been called a few times since the replay started,” Baldley said. “In all baseball games — thousands of games and home games where the catcher actually blocks the plate again and again — the game is never actually called. In that case, It’s embarrassing for someone to step in and make the final decision, which is to block the plate…it’s totally unacceptable.”
Minnesota Twins wide receiver Gary Sanchez homered Toronto Blue Jays’ Whit Merrifield. On Aug. 7, the Blue Jays won 3-2 in Minneapolis when the game was overturned because the receiver blocked the plate. (AP Photo/Bruce Crookhorn)
It was one of two outs on the plate that was overturned on the same night when challenged for a collision. In the 10 days since, there have been two more calls, for a total of four calls in a week and a half. After a game against the San Diego Padres against the Washington Nationals, Padres manager Bob Melvin said MLB distributed a memo to the team explaining that “they’re starting to look at this a little bit harder.”
After overturning Game 3 with a 3-pointer in the first inning in a recent game against the Cleveland Guardians, Guardians wide receiver Austin Hedges said ( Among other things): “This play has been called a couple of times lately and has really never been called before. For some reason, [MLB] feels like they need to take over the game and change the way the game is played. Guys just came out. There are games where you beat runners at home, and for 150 years, you’ve been out. And now, we’re invoking some type of rule, and it’s really hard to define.”
Then ,what happened?
After years when these kinds of games were largely played under the radar, officials in the league office began to notice that players who looked like receivers were breaking through to be considered legal limit. Essentially, using the safety created by the collision rules, creep in the direction of the blocking plate. Some teams also noticed and called it to the commissioner’s office.
Since the game is somewhat subjective, there are guidelines, but in the end the referee has to make a judgment. Suffice it to say that one replay review panel might let a catcher go unpunished, while another would not.
At least one team suspected the referee had been instructed to hit and called
but in a statement to Yahoo Sports , MLB said: “There has been no change to the home plate collision rule or its interpretation, and we appreciate that it serves the goals of player health. Routine reminders about catchers and runners’ responsibilities are provided. The main message is that catchers must not block a runner’s path unless they have the ball or are catching it.”
For reference, here’s an example from a game last season where the outs were maintained – i.e. making sure the catcher didn’t block the plate – which seems borderline:
This is a twin Game-like game, overturned because of catcher tailgate:
After a particularly controversial call in Minnesota, after teams began seeking clarification, MLB did A memo was released ahead of the team and referees last week, including an introduction to the positioning of legal and illegal catchers, as well as detailed photo examples in various situations.
The intent is to create greater consistency – and strict adherence to rules designed with safety in mind – but it can be seen as another example of the league changing the enf to break mid-season Long term rule, like last year’s ban on sticky items.
The details of how the rules are enforced are esoteric in nature, but these particular games are always influential. The difference between a home out and a score has enormous power to affect the final outcome of a game. Teams that lose these challenges may continue to be incensed, but at least for now they can’t say they weren’t warned.