June 24, 2023

Catcher Overturned for Illegally Blocking the Plate

Gary Sánchez charged with illegally blocking the plate after MLB Replay Review

Catcher Overturned for Illegally Blocking the Plate

The Giants hosted the Padres on June 21, 2023. In the bottom of the fifth, Yu Darvish gave up a two-out single to Joc Pederson. Padres’ right fielder Fernando Tatis Jr. fired home to apparently nail Blake Sabol for third out of the inning after plate umpire Quinn Wolcott called Sabol out.

But the Giants challenged that Padres catcher Gary Sánchez had illegally blocked the plate and the call was OVERTURNED in NYC and Sabol was allowed to score making the score, 2-0.  This was in the middle of a 4-run inning. The Giants would win the game 4-2, so the OVERTURN was critical.

This led to the ejection of Padres’ manager Bob Melvin by umpire Manny Gonzalez.

Ruleball Comments

  1. The Replay Official said Sánchez’s positioning was illegal and his subsequent actions while not in possession of the ball hindered and impeded Sabol’s path to home plate. I would disagree with that, and I think Melvin had a good argument.
  2. Sánchez initially set-up properly in front of the plate. The overhead view shows that the throw took Sánchez into Sabol’s path.
  3. Would Sabol have been out regardless of Sánchez’s positioning? The rule reads, “A catcher shall not be deemed to have hindered or impeded the progress of the runner if, in the judgment of the umpire, the runner would have been called out notwithstanding the catcher having blocked the plate.”
  4. This is another layer of judgment that umpires can use when making blocking the plate decisions, but it seems like it is seldom exercised.
  5. Again, it would have been helpful if Gonzalez explained to the teams, fans and media why Sánchez’s position was illegal.
  6. And again, the Replay Official made the call that was in conflict with the plate umpire’s call.
  7. Also, it would be legal for the runner to barrel over Sánchez in that situation, even if he was legally blocking the plate as long as the runner did not deviate his path to the plate and target the catcher.

Rich Marazzi

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

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