FanDuel - WFBC

April 15, 2014

MLB Admits Error in Calling Gwynn Out at Home: A play at the plate in Sunday's Philadelphia Phillies-Miami Marlins game was decided incorrectly, Major League Baseball officials said. Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis illegally blocked the plate before he had the ball on a Tony Gwynn Jr. slide home Sunday (see the video). Gwynn was called out and it was upheld by replay. The Phillies won 4-3. The new rule states, "unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score."

posted by rcade to baseball at 10:12 AM - 9 comments

Yup, he's blocking it all right.

posted by grum@work at 10:46 AM on April 15

I don't remember a season having this many rules changes to absorb in a while. The replay system, home plate rules and transfer-to-hand rule for fielders are all a challenge to get right.

That last one seems particularly capricious. A player catches the ball, takes a step or two, fumbles the ball and it's no longer a force out?

posted by rcade at 10:52 AM on April 15

If this is a violation, that just reinforces how insane the rule is. Part of the problem is how you define "as he is attempting to score". Gwynn does not alter his path as he heads into home plate ... plus the ball beats him there. Yes, Mathis' leg is in the baseline before the ball gets to him, but it's while he's in the process of making the catch. What is the expectation of the catcher in this situation, especially on an excellent throw that is heading directly at the plate? You want the catcher standing upright in the grass, be out of position to take the throw, then make a falling catch and try to apply the tag. To me, the rule is ridiculous, as written, regardless. But it's slightly better if the definition of "score" is "touch home plate". If that's the case, then I don't give a crud where the catcher is while the runner is rounding third (nice little non-chalant dance there, btw, Gwynn), as long as the runner isn't yet upon the catcher, then the catcher should be able to be whereever he needs to be, in order to make the catch.

posted by littleLebowski at 01:36 PM on April 15

Yes, Mathis' leg is in the baseline before the ball gets to him, but it's while he's in the process of making the catch.

Mathis' left leg is clearly in the base line before the catch.

The new rules for home plate plays bring two obligations: The runner must not leave a direct line towards home to collide with the catcher and the catcher must not block the plate before the ball arrives.

I think this is fair, given the need to reduce concussions and injuries on these plays. A catcher is supposed to catch and sweep tag and a runner is supposed to stop impersonating Brian Urlacher.

nice little non-chalant dance there, btw, Gwynn

That seemed like a third base coach screwup to me.

posted by rcade at 02:10 PM on April 15

Yes, Mathis' leg is in the baseline before the ball gets to him, but it's while he's in the process of making the catch.

The basic mantra always has been "the runner has the right to the baseline, but he must not interfere with a fielder in the act of making a play on the ball". Take the example of a runner going from second to third as the shortstop settles under a pop-up. The runner, to avoid contact, must deviate from his direct line, even though the shortstop has not yet caught the ball, and indeed might be a second or two from actually making the catch. Why should there be a difference for a play at the plate? If the catcher puts himself into a blocking position, but such a position is not necessary to making a clean catch of a throw, then the runner should be called safe. For example, putting one's leg out into the baseline when one could remain upright should be called obstruction. On the other hand, a catcher forced to the third base side of the plate and into the runner's line by an errant throw should not be considered as obstructing a runner. The rule is an attempt to codify what should happen on plays at the plate in order to minimize injuries. As such, like most well-meaning attempts to legislate things, it takes a lot of time and experience for all to understand how to interpret it.

By the way, the "baseline" with respect to the runner is not the direct line between the bases. Rather, it is the direct line from the runner to the base he is trying to reach as the play is made.

posted by Howard_T at 03:04 PM on April 15

Mathis' left leg is clearly in the base line before the catch.

There's just too much gray area for this. How long before "true interference" must the catcher vacate that area of the plate/baseline? The catcher is standing in order to get a good view of the developing play - does he have to be concerned about the runner just starting to approach/round 3rd base? If the goal is truly reduce injuries, then why isn't this rule applied to 2nd and 3rd bases? To my knowledge, there's no rule that says if a shortstop's body part ever enters the plane between 1st and 2nd, then the runner is safe. But, I admittedly might be wrong.

The point, to me, is that Mathis' leg being where it was had no role in the development or outcome of the play. Now, had Gwynn come into contact with the leg before Mathis had the ball, then yes, he should be safe, no matter whether the leg blocked him from the plate before being tagged. But, Mathis was in a reasonable position to complete the play and his body position before the ball arriving didn't impact anything. That said, I didn't say you (rcade) or grum or MLB was wrong in how you're saying the rule, as written, should've been applied. Nor do I have a problem with the ultimate intent. But, this situation is just the poster child for why this rule, as is, is just dumb.

posted by littleLebowski at 03:38 PM on April 15

I think in the long run catchers will adjust to the rule and stand in the field of play directly in front of home plate, as some have been doing thus far this season.

The point, to me, is that Mathis' leg being where it was had no role in the development or outcome of the play.

I think it plays a definite role in the outcome. Mathis is able to plant and ready himself in a plate-blocking position before the ball arrives. Gwynn slides into his leg instead of the plate. If Mathis couldn't put the leg there until the ball was caught, Gwynn likely reaches home before it could block him, or lacks the leverage to block him.

posted by rcade at 03:53 PM on April 15

I agree. The left leg blocks the plate and prevents Gwynn from touching the plate before he is tagged. There's a debate to be had of whether or not we like the new rule, but as it's written, Gwynn should have been awarded the run.

posted by bender at 09:08 AM on April 16

Replay is working well, says Bud Selig.

posted by rcade at 09:33 AM on April 16

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