According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Major League Baseball will be proactive in making adjustments to the new rules involving collisions at home plate as well as transfer rules on defense. Both have been the source of controversy early in the season as players and umpires struggle to figure out where a catcher needs to be on plays at home and what exactly constitutes a clean catch.
In particular, the rule on when a catch is a catch and when the player loses the handle on the transfer has shown up repeatedly. In fact, the challenging and overruling of a clean catch even played a key role in setting up Giancarlo Stanton’s walk-off grand slam on Friday night.
As Yahoo’s Tim Brown recently pointed out, the rule has become complicated enough that defining a catch in baseball has become as difficult as defining a catch in football. When it reaches that point, it’s time for some reevaluation, which according to Rosenthal should include a return to a more common-sense approach to what constitutes a catch instead of looking for reasons to not rule it a catch.
Here’s more from Rosenthal‘s report:
Both sides agreed that certain plays are being called incorrectly, and MLB officials will seek to clarify what constitutes a catch in a conference call with members of the umpires union early next week, sources said.
In the first three weeks of the season, umpires and replay officials occasionally called "no catch" on balls that once were considered outs, ruling that the fielder must transfer the ball to his throwing hand cleanly.
The rulebook states that a player must have "secure possession" of the ball in his glove or hand, but the interpretation of the rule changed to include a clean transfer with the inception of expanded replay.
"To say it has been a hot topic with the players would be an understatement," one union official said.
Transfers and the neighborhood play, which typically involves umpires giving infielders leniency with their footwork around the bases so they don’t have to risk injury, were two plays we knew were going to be interesting to watch under expanded replay. The neighborhood play hasn’t really shown up yet, but transfers have dominated reviews right up there with bang-bang plays at first base.
By seeking a resolution now and perhaps tweaking the rule during the season, MLB will be doing a lot of people a big favor. For the umpires, it means they won’t have to overanalyze every catch. For managers, the same thing, because they’ve been ready to jump on every challenge. And for the players, it’s one less thing for them to think about when turning a double play or coming up firing on a throw from the outfield.
As Rosenthal indicates, it should be a quick and easy fix on transfers. Resetting the perimeters on blocking home plate may be a little more difficult, because there will always be multiple moving parts on those plays. That's probably going to be a situation where only repetition and experience can give us a better indication of what will work, but hats off to MLB for being willing to reexamine so quickly.
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