MLB umpires crack down on home blocking


“It’s not a football game. We have to make sure the guys stay safe.

Detroit Tigers’ Javier Baez scores past Cleveland Guardians catcher Austin Hedges on a fly ball hit by Harold Castro, as home plate umpire Lance Barksdale looks on during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022 in Cleveland. AP Photo/Ron Schwane

PHOENIX (AP) — The tough days of Pete Rose bowling Ray Fosse at home plate in the 1970 All-Star Game are long gone.

Most believe it is a change for the better.

“It’s not a football game,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “We have to make sure the guys stay safe.”

But the drama — and sometimes controversy — surrounding on-set plays still resonates more than 50 years later.

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Two MLB games in the past 10 days were partially decided after the video replay nullified plays at home plate, favoring the baserunners over the catcher. The first was in Washington’s 4-3 win over the San Diego Padres and the other was in Detroit’s 4-3 victory over the Cleveland Guardians.

The plays were strikingly similar: Cleveland’s Austin Hedges and San Diego’s Austin Nola each scored a runner at the plate, but upon review it was ruled that the catchers had not given the runner a clear path to score and the call was overturned.

Hedges and Nola were both amazed. Hedges was particularly angry, calling the reversal “embarrassing”. The Padres and Guardians are both battling for playoff spots.

“I thought I did everything the way we train: step back, give it a way, don’t throw the knee in front,” Nola said.

So, are the Seekers right? Like many things, it’s complicated.

MLB rules state that “unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the path of the runner as he attempts to score.”

It seems simple enough. The problem is that the receiver is trying to get into a good position to field the ball, adapting to the trajectory of the throw. Many times this means the receiver moves one foot in front of or on top of the plate. Even if the plate is not completely blocked, it makes the slippery target more difficult for the baserunner.

At that point, it becomes a matter of judgment.

The rule has been around for several years: It was changed in 2014 and is colloquially referred to as the “Buster Posey Rule” after the All-Star catcher broke his ankle during a play at home plate. But the willingness of umpires to rule in favor of baserunners is arguably a new development.

Diamondbacks receiver Carson Kelly said he understands both sides of the debate.

“You have to be aware of what you’re doing, where you stand,” Kelly said. “But at the end of the day we have to be able to get the ball.”

Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo agreed that the rule is simple, even if the interpretation is not. He added that plays at home plate happen quickly and there are a lot of moving parts in seconds.

“The timing of sports in slow motion sometimes feels so different from what’s actually happening in front of you when you’re doing it,” Lovullo said. “I don’t think anyone is acting maliciously to break the rules.”

baton 700?

If that’s all for Albert Pujols, the 11-time All-Star ends his career in style.

Pujols, 42, hit two more homers on Saturday, bringing his career total to 692. He’s just four homers behind Alex Rodriguez for fourth in MLB history.

Now the question is, can the triple MVP reach 700?

It seemed like an extreme long shot just a few weeks ago, but the way he hits these days, nothing seems impossible. There are about 40 games left in the regular season, which Pujols says will be his last.

“It’s the hard work I put in day in and day out,” Pujols said. “Nothing surprises me.”

trivial matter

Yadier Molina of St. Louis played 2,159 career games as a catcher, which ranks fourth in MLB history. Who are the top three?

Dodging Domination

The Los Angeles Dodgers have played so well over the past two months that the regular season winning record is on the line.

The Dodgers are 39-8 since June 29, improving to 84-36 for the season. To tie the record of 116 wins, last achieved by the Seattle Mariners in 2001, the Dodgers must go 32-10.

Is it going to be hard? Absolutely.

Impossible? Not the way LA plays.

What’s even more remarkable is that mathematically the Dodgers could have an even better record.

Their Pythagorean win-loss record, which considers runs scored versus runs allowed and gives the record a team “should” have, is 87-33. The Dodgers scored 264 more runs than they allowed.

Trivial answer

Ivan Rodriguez (2,427), Carlton Fisk (2,226) and Bob Boone (2,225).

AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich in Washington contributed to this report.


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