By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) Regardless if a Chicago team is impacted by the new home plate collision rules, Major League Baseball needs to recant this harmful rulebook change. The latest incidents that impacted the outcome of two ballgames occurred in San Francisco the past two evenings between the Giants and White Sox.
Both plays were similar, yet they were called the opposite way. The basic, common sense call was agreed with Tuesday and ignored Wednesday. Rule 7.13 states catchers must allow a clear path to the plate for baserunners, unless the catcher is in possession of the ball. Clearly on both nights, the catcher had time to check his cell phone for text messages before having to apply the tag.
The major problem with the rule is that no number of replays can recreate the real-time issue that the home plate umpire knows and sees as the play develops. That happened Wednesday afternoon in San Francisco in the seventh inning, when White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers caught the ball with Giants runner Gregor Blanco a good 15 feet away still. Blanco was easily tagged and called out, but upon video review, umpires in New York ruled Flowers had blocked the plate with his left leg.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura went nuts, getting tossed for arguing. The call opened the door for a game-altering seven-run inning for the Giants.
“In the spirit of playing baseball and what they are trying to do with the rule — it is not doing what it intended it to do, which is protecting the catcher,” Ventura said. “The guy is out. There was never a question. I don’t know what else you can do. We obviously disagreed with it. We got hosed.”
Up until Giants catcher Buster Posey was hurt in a home plate collision two years ago that dislocated his foot, home plate collisions were just another natural part of the 137-year history of the game. Once a $100 million asset was lost for a big-market team, the new rule all of a sudden became baseball law.
I agree — as should any sane baseball fan should — that colliding with a fielder in order to dislodge a ball must be policed. The attempt to score should have some reasonable applications that protect both the baserunner and catcher from harm.
Part of the beauty of the game has always been the play at the plate. A great throw, a great running play, a great block and tag are all a part of the most exciting sequence in baseball. Regardless of the risk of injury, the essence of this play shouldn’t be altered.
There are many moving parts as any play at the plate occurs. As Flowers said after the game, real time is ignored in this game-altering rule.
“I had two seconds to get out from behind home plate, catch a ball and make a tag,” he said. “This was all on an infield dribbler. It’s not realistic.”
Given the confusion, all we know is this: There’s little realistic application of baseball common sense when you look at the “Buster Posey rule.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.