Collisions at Home Plate – Rule 6.01 (i)
Play No. 1
The Blue Jays and Twins met at Target Field on Aug. 7, 2022. In the top of the tenth, with the score tied 2-2, the Jays had Whit Merrifield on third base and one out when Cavan Biggio hit a fly ball to left fielder Tim Beckham who threw home to catcher Gary Sanchez in an attempt to retire Merrifield who had tagged-up from third. Merrifield was ruled out by plate umpire Marty Foster. The call was overturned in NYC after Jays skipper John Schneider challenged that Sanchez had illegally blocked the plate.
Twins’ manager Rocco Baldelli was furious with the call being overturned and was subsequently ejected by first base umpire Alan Porter because it is automatic ejection to argue with a field umpire in reaction to a decision made by the Replay Official.
The overturned call proved critical as the Jays won the game, 3-2.
- The explanation given by the Replay Official was as follows: “The catcher’s movements into foul territory were not in reaction to the trajectory of the throw and he did not have to be in that position to receive the ball.”
- The catcher can legally block the plate if he has possession of the ball or if the throw takes him into the path of the runner, or if the catcher is receiving a throw from a drawn-in infielder or the pitcher.
- If you freeze the video at the 10 sec. mark you will see where Sanchez set-up. There is no doubt that he was in foul territory. But by the video, it’s difficult to determine if the throw took Sanchez into foul territory and into the runner’s path, or if he illegally set-up there for the purpose of obstructing Merrifield’s path to the plate?
- If a catcher is legally or illegally blocking the plate, it is permissible for the runner to barrel the catcher over provided he does not deviate his path and target the catcher. Also, if a runner chooses to run on the fair side of the foul line when racing a throw to the plate, he can do so to disrupt the throw. But obviously, that has its dangers.
- If the replay does not conclusively indicate that Sanchez illegally blocked the plate, then the Replay Official should have gone with the call on the field. But this is a subjective decision, and the Replay Official firmly judged that Sanchez had illegally blocked the plate because the throw did not take him into the path of the runner.
- Keep in mind that the Replay Official was able to view the play from different angles and it’s possible he was able to judge the trajectory of the throw to the plate. From the video I was supplied, I could not make that determination.
- In conclusion, Baldelli had a good argument if the throw took Sanchez into the runner’s path on the foul side of the line. If Sanchez, however, could have handled the throw by remaining in front of the plate in fair territory, then the Replay Official’s decision was correct.
Play No. 2
On the same day, the Pirates provided the opposition for the Orioles at Camden Yards when 6.01 (i) reared its ugly head. In the top of the seventh, the Pirates had Greg Allen on second and one out when Kevin Newman hit a 1-2 pitch from Orioles pitcher Keegan Akin on the ground that bounced off shortstop Jorge Mateo. After recovering the ball in fair territory behind third base, Mateo threw to catcher Robinson Chirinos. Allen was called out by plate umpire Carlos Torres. But the call was overturned to safe in NYC after a challenge by Pirates’ manager Derek Shelton who claimed that Chirinos illegally blocked the plate. The reversed call gave the Pirates a 5-1 lead in a game they won, 8-1.
Like Baldelli in the above play, O’s manager Brandon Hyde was banished by umpire Ron Kulpa for arguing the replay decision.
- The Replay Official ruled, “The catcher’s initial setup completely in foul territory was illegal and he maintained that position without possession of the ball. The call is overturned, the runner is safe.”
- In my opinion it appeared that Chirinos set on the foul side very early in the play and the Replay Official properly overturned the call.
- Hyde’s only argument could have been that the throw took Chirinos into the path of the runner. From the video I have, I was unable see the trajectory of Mateo’s throw and the moment of his release of the ball in relation to the runner who is approaching the plate.
Play No. 3
Some catchers after legally blocking the plate with possession of the ball will test the rule by extending their left leg into the runner’s path. In this technique, the catcher initially gives the runner advancing home the appearance he is giving the runner a path to the plate before extending his foot to block the path. Sometimes the Replay Official will rule obstruction on the catcher in violation of 6.01 (i), other times it is ignored. In the following two plays you will see catchers who have extended their leg to block the plate, but only one was called for a violation of the rule.
The Rangers and A’s played in Oakland on May 29, 2022. In the top of the seventh inning, the Rangers had Andy Ibanez on third and Charlie Culberson on first with no outs when Eli White hit a tapper to first baseman Seth Brown who fired home to catcher Sean Murphy. Ibanez was called out at the plate by umpire Tom Hallion.
Rangers’ manager Chris Woodward challenged the out call at the plate and the illegal blocking of the plate claiming that Murphy had illegally blocked the plate. Woodward struck out on both calls by the Replay Official.
- In my opinion Murphy illegally blocked the plate by extending his left foot into the running path of Ibanez. One of the broadcasters wisely raised that issue.
- The out call proved costly for the Rangers, as the A’s won the game, 6-5.
Play No. 4
The Marlins hosted the Nationals on June 8, 2022. The Marlins trailed 1-0 in the bottom of the tenth. Willians Astudillo was at bat with Jazz Chisholm Jr. on second base. Astudillo dropped a hit into right field. Chisholm raced home to beat Juan Soto’s throw, and in an attempt to avoid catcher Keibert Ruiz’s tag, Chisholm Jr. missed the plate, but Ruiz missed the tag. Plate umpire Nestor Ceja properly made no call, because there was no tag and no touch of the plate.
Chisholm attempted to return to the plate and was tagged-out by Ruiz.
Astudillo went to second on the throw.
There was a crew chief review as to whether or not Ruiz illegally blocked the plate and tagged the runner. The Replay Official ruled Ruiz violated the home plate collision rule and Ceja’s call was overturned to “safe.”
With the score tied 1-1, Jesús Aguilar singled to center to drove in Astudillo with the winning run.
- In my opinion the Replay Official made the proper decision per rule 6.01 (i) (2).
- Ruiz, it appears, extended his left leg into the runner’s path.
- I agree with the broadcaster who said, “The runner really doesn’t have a lane.”
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.