CHICAGO - So this is what baseball has come to.
The "blocking the plate" rule instituted in 2014 was designed to keep catchers healthier and eliminate home-plate collisions. It was a response to the gruesome injury Buster Posey suffered in 2011 when Scott Cousins slid into his left leg and broke it.
It's similar to the NFL rules which prevent almost all contact on the quarterback. It makes sense from a safety standpoint, but in real time it is so harmful and frustrating to the other team.
Thursday at Wrigley Field, Dylan Cozens made a tremendous throw from deep left field to nail Albert Almora Jr. at the plate. Catcher Andrew Knapp initially gave Almora a sliding lane between his legs, but as the throw arrived, Knapp moved his leg in an attempt catch it in good position. Almora slid into his leg and didn't contact the plate. Knapp applied the tag and Almora was ruled out (see the play here).
Then the play was overturned after a replay review deemed the plate blocked. The Cubs got a run out of it, and instead of the inning ending with the Cubs up 3-1, it ended with them up 4-1.
"Baseball's changed," a frustrated Nick Pivetta said in the visiting clubhouse after the game. He didn't feel much like expanding, but those two words said it all.
The play proved costly as the Phillies scored a pair of runs the next half-inning but still trailed and ended up losing by one run.
"It was kind of just a reaction play. Reaching up for the ball, foot going back to make a tag," Knapp said. "I don't think I would've done anything differently.
"For me, it's trying to make a tag, make a play. It's a play that's kind of up to the people in New York. I thought it was maybe too close to call but it's not up to me."
Though it won't officially go down as an outfield assist, what an impressive throw it was from Cozens from 278 feet away. According to Statcast, the throw was 93.2 mph.
"It's obviously upsetting because they're scoring a run and we're not out of the inning," Cozens said. "It's disappointing. I thought he was out."
If the shoe was on the other foot, perhaps the reaction would have been in reverse, with Phillies fans happy the rule was interpreted correctly. But it's just another example of the sport being watered down.
"Watched the replay several times and thought the ball took Knappy towards the plate," Gabe Kapler said. "It's a judgment call. I understand it's a very difficult call to make, and I understand why it took them some time to reach their decision."
From an early age, baseball players are taught to go hard into second base to break up a double play. For generations, catchers were taught to block the plate. Players are trained differently these days, but the issue is it's so hard with the speed of the game for a catcher to think about positioning himself perfectly, fielding the throw, applying the tag and doing it all while giving the runner enough room. Same concept as a defensive end having trouble holding up on a sack attempt when a quarterback throws the ball a millisecond before contact is made.
On this day, it hurt the Phillies. Long term, it was an eye-opening sign of what Cozens is capable of in the outfield.