MLB Umpires Association, adamant that crews are simply upholding rule, address home-plate collision rule in statement

CHICAGO — The Major League Baseball Umpires Association released a succinct statement Wednesday regarding criticism umpires are receiving due to the home plate collision rule.

The rule was an issue throughout the game after multiple video reviews recently resulted in overturned calls at home plate, including in Tuesday’s game between the Cleveland Guardians and Detroit Tigers.

The statement obtained by ESPN on Wednesday said: “It is the catcher’s responsibility not to position himself to block home plate without the ball.

“This rule change was passed after Buster Posey was involved in a collision with home plate and suffered a serious leg injury. The Players Association and owners decided to protect their most important assets (players) and passed the home plate collision rule, which players are now complaining about.”

The umpires claim they are simply complying with the rule that’s on the books, one the league sent a memo to teams about earlier this month. The memo included illustrations and reminders of how and where a catcher can and cannot line up when receiving the ball from a fielder.

“It’s simple, don’t block home plate without owning the baseball or change the rule,” the umpire’s statement said.

The latest on-field controversy came on Tuesday in Cleveland in the top of the first inning. Guardians catcher Austin Hedges caught a throw from shortstop Tyler Freeman as Javier Baez slid home. Baez was called out, but video verification canceled the call, indicating “the catcher didn’t give the runner a lane.” The Tigers scored three runs in the innings, beating the Guardians 4-3 in first place.

“First of all, it cost the game,” Hedges said after the loss. “It’s a game that has been called a few times lately and has never been called before. … There are games at home that beat the runners and you’ve been out there for 150 years. And now we’re calling a guy on a rule that’s really hard to define.”

Video review has given up eight home calls this season, the most since 2014, when first-year teams were able to contest the call. The recent prompted teams to ask the league for clarification, which it provided.

“Recently we have seen catchers take advantage of runners they expect to slide by moving into the lane without possession of the ball, which violates Rule 6.01(i)(2),” the league memo said . “Such behavior only invites runners to collide with catchers, causing potential injury to players in a way the rule should prevent. Catchers may not block the path of runners unless they are in possession of the ball or are in the field of the ball.”

Referees say they feel caught in the middle, claiming it’s not their job to call out the lockdown rule live but to let video review in New York – staffed by current referees – handle it.

Her testimony then went beyond home plate’s collision rule.

“It’s also inaccurate to say that Major League Baseball umpires aren’t held accountable. It’s often said about our profession that ‘umpires are expected to be perfect from the start and improve from there.’

“Like players, our mistakes are subject to intense public scrutiny and we are also held accountable by our employer in performance appraisals. Although we don’t always know in real time if our decisions are right, we check them closely after the game and try to learn from our mistakes.”

https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/34415630/mlb-umpires-association-adamant-crews-simply-upholding-rule-address-home-plate-collision-rule-statement MLB Umpires Association, adamant that crews are simply upholding rule, address home-plate collision rule in statement

Emma Bowman

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