The Phillies finally caught a break on Tuesday night and took advantage of the overtime problem. Edmundo Sosa was hitting on a fly ball from third base and was hit at home plate, or so we thought. After a review, it was deemed safe. The umpires ruled that the catcher violated the home plate rule. After watching the play, one could argue that they made the correct call based on the rule.

One problem (and we all know it) is that the rule is terrible. I advocate for all players, especially those in vulnerable positions. However, just because a player is injured does not mean that a rule change is necessary. The Buster Posey game was the catalyst for the rule change. Posey put himself in a bad position. I don’t think anything with the previous rule meant it was damaged. Unfortunately, he suffered a serious injury, but it did not warrant a major rule change.


Let’s take a look at the rule and where the most important issues are. The rule, via, states: “a catcher is not permitted to block a runner’s path to the plate unless he is in possession of the ball, but is not considered to block the runner in a legal attempt to take a throw. violation. If the umpire determines that the catcher violated this rule, the runner may be considered safe.”

There are many problems with the wording of this rule. The main problem is that this rule is 100% a judgment call. Neither language defines exactly what the runner’s path is, what the plate actually blocks, or what an attempt to catch the throw is.

To break it down further, what exactly is a runner’s way? A runner can set up his base path and deviate from the path while sliding to the plate. If the runner changes path, which causes the catcher to run into an already established position, is the catcher still blocking the plate? Ultimately, it’s up to the judges, but there’s a lot of room for judgment.

As I dive deeper into the rule, I find problem after problem. While it’s hard to decide, my biggest problem is the phrase “blocking a running back in a legitimate attempt to get a shot is not a violation.” Under the rule, the catcher can physically block the plate to catch the ball in his glove. If the ball makes it into the path of the runner, the umpires consider the play legal. My problem with this is that the catcher can judge the flight of the ball the moment it is in the air. Therefore, the catcher can change position while the ball is in the air, causing him to block the plate. In this case, the judges decided in favor of the run.
Yes, as a rule, the catcher is not sent directly by the ball, but the throw causes him to adjust his position. How can a referee decipher all this in one game? It all comes back to the statement of the rule, which makes zero sense.

The rule clearly needs to be revised or redrafted. They should create a definition for all terms within the rule. You need to give the handle some room to adjust its position. “Blocking the plate” is such a broad term, and there are so many ways a catcher can block a plate, and who knows when it’s “legal” or not? The plate game has always been one of the most exciting plays in baseball, and this rule is starting to strain the game. It’s only a matter of time before this rule dramatically affects playoff play. It will eventually blow up in front of Major League Baseball, and it needs to be addressed before then. Who knows when or if they will change this rule? But it needs to happen, and it needs to happen quickly.

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

By philcp

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