Baseball's new home-plate collision rule has made another enemy.
The Miami Marlins were livid Thursday night after an application of Rule 7.13, often called the Buster Posey rule, overturned a play at the plate and gave the opposing Cincinnati Reds a run in the eighth inning of a 1-0 game. Not only that, but the overturned play at the plate, which would have been the third out, extended the Reds' inning. They went on to score two more runs and win the game 3-1.
We've seen Rule 7.13 cause controversy this season — mostly because no one seems to know how to apply it — but we haven't seen it alter a game as much as it did for the Marlins in this case. There was one out in the eighth when Todd Frazier hit a fly ball to right field, where Giancarlo Stanton caught it and threw home. His throw beat a tagging-up Zack Cozart pretty easily, and Cosart was called out on the field. It was an inning-ending double play.
The play was reviewed by the umpires in New York and, after six minutes and 10 seconds, the call was overturned and Cosart was safe. The inning continued. The scored was tied. And Marlins manager Mike Redmond, an ex-catcher, fumed.
Rule 7.13 is worded in a way that essentially says this: If the catcher blocks the plate without the ball, the runner is awarded home plate. That's why Cozart was allowed to score. The intention of the rule is to reduce the possibility of crashing into the catcher and having an injury happen but — and here's the funny part — the rule itself doesn't actually say the runner isn't allowed to run over the catcher. Only if the runner *deviates* from his path and bowls over the catcher— and if the catcher isn't blocking the plate — is the runner in the wrong. Cozart would have been in his right to bowl over the catcher because Mathis was blocking the plate and, naturally, in his path. That wouldn't have been safe, of course, from a health standpoint.
Actually, it was quite clever of Cozart to stay out of the way, avoid any contact, and let Mathis blocking the plate flip the odds of his run couting. That's not what MLB intended, of course.
Technically, the replay review was right. The Marlins are right to be angry, but it's because of the rule — not because of the interpretation.
Redmond was ejected for arguing, and he definitely hadn't cooled down by the time the game ended. His postgame comments were something else. Via C. Trent Rosecrans at the Cincinnati Enquirer:
"To lose a ballgame tonight on that play is a joke. It's an absolute joke. I don't think anybody who plays this game should feel good about winning that game. And I would say that if had been reversed. That guy was out by 15 feet. It was a great baseball play. G threw a strike to Matty. He was out by 15 feet. He didn't slide because he couldn't slide because he was out by so far. And yet those guys in New York decided the outcome of that game ...
"No doubt we have some grinders out there in this clubhouse. To look at them in the face and say we lost the game on a technicality is [B.S.]. Absolutely [B.S.]. I'm so [upset]. Like I said I played this game for so long. I've given this game everything I've had as a player and a manager. What a joke. What a [freaking] joke. That's ridiculous."
The angry Marlins didn't stop there. Team president David Samson was firing shots too:
"The home umpire here said it was a mistake. He said to Bryan Morris. And it is a travesty of this game that a game turns around because of a call no one in baseball thinks should have been made except for four guys in New York."
"You go around to any single umpire he is absolutely out. The ball beat him by 10 feet. And there is absolutely zero excuse. That is not the reason this rule was put into play under any scenario. Not one scenario that was discussed had the scenario of a catcher getting the ball 10 feet from right field where you cannot block the plate. The umpire here knew it. It took 6 minutes for four umpires in New York to get it wrong and it cost us a game and it's complete [freaking B.S.].
The home-plate collision rule, it should be noted, has roots with the Marlins. It was Marlins runner Scott Cousins who injured Buster Posey on a collision in 2011. This point did not escape both Clark Spencer, the Marlins writer for the Miami Herald and Marlins first-base coach Perry Hill, who tweeted the following:
Basically, the #Marlins got hosed on a confusing rule which had as its genesis the Cousins/Posey collision and the cry-babying that ensued.
— clarkspencer (@clarkspencer) August 1, 2014
.@mlb he was out by 15 feet!! cousins/posey was 3 years ago-- get over it-- let us play baseball
— perry hill (@PHill_bone) August 1, 2014
MLB heard the outrage, because it then released a statement saying it would examine the call:
The statement from Major League Baseball: pic.twitter.com/nVuwhxlVqf
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) August 1, 2014
MLB has already tweaked Rule 7.13 once this season, saying it shouldn't apply to force plays at the plate. Now it sounds like a change might be coming because of this play.
Where might this be going? Creating a scenario where the runner is out at home on a force play if the ball beats him there, at least on plays like this.
While some clarity on Rule 7.13 would make plenty of people in baseball happy, it won't give the Marlins the win they feel was stolen from them Thursday night.
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