Tuesday Major League Baseball took a formal step towards adjusting the new rule, Rule 7.13, regarding home plate collisions so that it better fits with the game. This is a good step in that it shows that the league is willing to be flexible about what is working when a new rule is put into action and what is not working. It is a similar move to when MLB made changes to the transfer rule back in April.
Rule 7.13 was put into effect this season to protect catchers from unnecessary collisions at the plate that could, and have, caused severe injuries. According to the rule a catcher may not block the plate unless he has possession of the baseball.
The baseball operations department sent out a statement to all 30 teams about the rule change. Now, if the play at the plate is a force play the catcher is allowed to block the plate to keep the run from scoring. The umpires are now instructed to not apply rule 7.13 when there is a force play at the plate.
This announcement comes days after MLB’s executive director of baseball operations, Joe Torre, determined that the rule had been interpreted incorrectly in a play during a game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 18.
Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco was called out on a force play at the plate. The call was then overturned by the umpires in New York who determined that Pirates’ catcher Russell Martin had illegally blocked the plate with his foot. Clint Hurdle, the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates was ejected from the game for arguing the call.
Later Torre made a statement, according to MLB.com, saying that rule 7.13 was designed only to stop “egregious home plate collisions.” The call really did not matter as the Reds routed the Pirates 11-4, however, the rule was incorrectly interpreted and enforced.
“A number of questions recently have arisen about the application of Official Playing Rule 7.13 to force plays at home plate. Rule 7.13 was adopted in order to prevent unnecessary collisions at home plate between a runner attempting to score and a catcher attempting to make a tag play on the runner. The Rule as intended has no function or purpose in the context of a force play (i.e., a runner attempting to score from third with the bases loaded). As a result, effective immediately, Umpires will be instructed not to apply Rule 7.13 to force plays at home plate.”
“Last night’s play at home plate was one of the most difficult calls that our umpires have faced this season, given that the positioning of the catcher at home plate was necessary to record the force out. After evaluating the play and the details of the review, we recognize that this play was not the type that should have resulted in a violation of Rule 7.13.”
Force plays at the plate, however, will still be reviewable. What will not be reviewable will be whether or not there was obstruction or interference by the catcher. This is the second time a new rule has been amended which shows that MLB is doing a good job of making sure that the new rules do not affect the traditional way the game has been played, while still protecting players from injury.