Plate discipline: MLB umps crack down on blocking home

Long gone are the rough days when Pete Rose bowled Ray Fosse at home plate in the 1970 All-Star Game.

PHOENIX (AP) – Long gone are the rough days of Pete Rose bowling over Ray Fosse at home plate of the 1970 All-Star Game.

Most believe this is a change for the better.

“This is not a football game,” said Torey Lovullo, manager of the D-Backs. “We have to make sure the boys stay safe.”

But the drama — and sometimes controversy — surrounding the pieces on the plate still lingers more than 50 years later.

Two MLB games in the last 10 days were partially decided after video replay knocked over games on the plate, favoring baserunner over catcher. The first was Washington’s 4-3 win over the San Diego Padres and the other was Detroit’s 4-3 win over the Cleveland Guardians.

The plays were strikingly similar: Cleveland’s Austin Hedges and San Diego’s Austin Nola each marked a runner on the plate, but on review it was decided that the catchers could not give the runner a clear path to goal and the call was overturned.

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

“I thought I’d do everything the way we practice: step back, give him a lane, don’t throw the knee forward,” Nola said.

So are the catchers right? As with many things, it’s complicated.

MLB rules state, “If the catcher does not have possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the runner’s path when attempting to score.”

Sounds easy enough. The problem is that the catcher is trying to put himself in a good position to catch the ball and match the trajectory of the throw. Often this means that the catcher puts a foot in front of or onto the plate. Even if the plate isn’t completely blocked, it’s a more difficult slide target for the baserunner.

At this point it becomes a verdict.

The rule has been around for several years: it was changed in 2014 and is colloquially known as the “Buster-Posey Rule” after the All-Star catcher fractured his ankle playing at the plate. But the willingness of umpires to rule in favor of baserunners is arguably a recent development.

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

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

Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo agreed that the rule is simple, even if the interpretation isn’t. He added that board games happen in a hurry and there are many moving parts in a few seconds.

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

If that’s all for Albert Pujols, the 11-time All-Star is ending his career on a grand scale.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit two more home runs on Saturday, taking his career streak to 692. He is now just four home runs behind Alex Rodriguez for fourth place in MLB history.

Now the question is: Can the three-time MVP get to 700?

That seemed like an extreme long shot just a few weeks ago, but the way it’s hitting these days, nothing seems impossible. About 40 games remain in the regular season, which Pujols says will be his last.

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

Yadier Molina of St. Louis has played 2,159 career games with Catcher, who ranks fourth in MLB history. Who are the top 3?

Ivan Rodriguez (2,427), Carlton Fisk (2,226) and Bob Boone (2,225). Plate discipline: MLB umps crack down on blocking home

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