The Phillies finally caught a break on Tuesday night and benefited from an overturned challenge. Edmundo Sosa was tagging from third base on a fly ball and was gunned down at home plate, or so we thought. After review, he was deemed safe. The umpires ruled the catcher violated the collisions at home plate rule. After looking at the play, you can argue that they made the right call based on the rule.

The one problem is (and we all know it) the rule is terrible. I am all for protecting players, especially players in vulnerable positions. But just because a player gets hurt does not mean a rule change is necessary. The Buster Posey play was the catalyst for the rule change. Posey put himself in a bad position. I don’t think anything with the previous rule involved him getting hurt. Unfortunately, he suffered a severe injury, but it did not warrant a profound rule change.

The Rule

Let’s take a look at the rule and where the most significant issues lie. Via MLB.com, the rule states, “the catcher is not permitted to block the runner’s path to the plate unless he is in possession of the ball, though blocking the path of the runner in a legitimate attempt to receive a throw is not considered a violation. The runner can be ruled safe if the umpire determines the catcher violated this rule.”

There are many issues with the wording of this rule. The overlying problem is that this rule is 100% a judgmental call. No language clearly defines the runner’s path, what blocking the plate actually is, or what attempting to receive a throw is.

To break this down further, what exactly is the runner’s path? A runner can establish his own base path, and he can deviate from the path when sliding into the plate. If the runner changes his path, which leads to him running into the catcher’s already established position, is the catcher still blocking the plate? Ultimately, it is up to the umpires, but there is way too much room to decide.

The more I dive into the rule I find problem after problem. Although it was hard to decide, my biggest issue is the wording “blocking the path of the runner in a legitimate attempt to receive a throw is not considered a violation.” As the rule has been judged, the catcher can physically block the plate to catch the ball in his glove. If the ball takes him into the runner’s path, the umps deem the play legal. My issue with this is that the catcher is able to judge the flight of the ball the second it is in the air. Therefore, a catcher can reposition himself while the ball is in mid-air, leading to him blocking the plate. In this case, the umpires have been ruling in favor of the runner.
Yes, by rule, the catcher isn’t being led into the path directly by the ball, but the throw is causing him to adjust his position. How can an umpire decipher all this going on in one play? It all leads back to the wording of the rule making zero sense.

The rule clearly needs to be reworked or re-worded. They need to establish a definition for all of the conditions within the rule. You need to allow the catcher some room to adjust his position. “Blocking the plate” is such a broad term, and there are multiple ways a catcher can block the plate, and who knows when it is “legal” or not? A play at the plate has always been one of the most exciting plays in baseball and this rule is starting to strain that play. It is only a matter of time until this rule drastically affects a playoff game. It will eventually blow up in the face of Major League Baseball, and it needs to be addressed before it does. If or when they will ever change this rule, who knows? But it needs to happen and it needs to happen fast.

 

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

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