August 18, 2022

Bob Melvin Ejected After Call Overturned to Illegally Blocking the Plate

Replay Official placed emphasis on the positioning of the catcher prior to having possession of the ball

Bob Melvin Ejected After Call Overturned to Illegally Blocking the Plate

The Nationals hosted the Padres on Aug. 13, 2022. In the bottom of seventh with the score tied 3-3,  the Nats had Cesar Hernandez on second base and one out when Victor Robles hit safely to right field. Juan Soto fired to catcher Austin Nola and plate umpire Paul Emmel called Hernandez out.

Nats’ skipper Dave Garcia challenged the blocking the plate under rule 6.01 (i) (2). The Replay Official agreed that Nola improperly blocked the plate. The call was overturned which proved critical as the Nats won the game, 4-3. The Replay Official determined that Nola had illegally blocked the plate explaining, “The runner had no pathway to home plate and was hindered and impeded by the actions of the catcher while not in possession of the ball.”  The call was OVERTURNED to safe.

This led to the automatic ejection of Padres’ manager Bob Melvin, who out of frustration, argued the Replay Official’s call with Emmel.

Ruleball Comment

  1. In my opinion, the Replay Official placed emphasis on the positioning of the catcher (Nola) prior to having possession of the ball. It appeared Nola moved into thepath of the runner well in advance of the ball’s arrival.
  2. The throw did not take the catcher into the runner’s (Hernandez) path.
  3. You can argue that the catcher gave partial pathway to the plate. Is that good enough by rule? I think it might be for some umpires, but not by others.
  4. Rule 6.01 (i) reads, “Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score.”  But how much of a pathway is the catcher required to give the runner? This is not defined and from my perspective it is a gray area of the rule that needs to be cleaned-up.
  5. Notice Nola pulls his left leg back to the plate just prior to gaining possession of the ball. At that point the runner has access to the plate, but does he have by rule, a pathway to the plate?
  6. In my opinion, this type of play is inconsistently called because umpires are handicapped by the vague “pathway” language in the rule that needs to be tightened.
  7. If your assessment is that Nola did not violate the rule, it’s probable that many umpires would agree with you. Bob Melvin certainly would.
  8. The word on the street is that umpire would just as soon have the Replay Official make the call.

Rich Marazzi

Rules consultant/analyst:  D’backs, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Rays, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Twins, Yankees, Bally Sports, ESPN, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago.  

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