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Marisnick Lucroy Brutal Collision Legal or Not?

Marisnick/Lucroy Collision at the Plate

Perhaps the most egregious runner/catcher collision of the 2019 season occurred in the Angels-Astros game on July 7, in Houston, when the Astros’ Jake Marisnick ran over Angels’ catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

With the game tied at 10-10 and one out in the bottom of the eighth, Angels’ reliever Hansel Robles got George Springer to lift a fly ball to right field with the bases loaded. Marisnick tagged-up from third and headed home. Kole Calhoun made a strong throw to the plate but as the ball neared the plate, Marisnick collided with Lucroy at full speed and the ball got past the Angels’ catcher. Plate umpire Mike Estabrook allowed the run to score. Immediately following the collision, it appeared to be a no touch, no tag play before Marisnick scrambled to the plate and touched it.

You can view the play by going to the link below:
https://www.mlb.com/video/marisnick-and-lucroy-collide

But following an umpires meeting on the field, the umps ruled that Marisnick was out for interference at home for his illegal collision with Lucroy giving the Angels a much-needed double play to end the inning. Astros’ Manager A.J. Hinch challenged the ruling in NYC but it was upheld. The Replay Official definitively determined Marisnick was in violation of the Collisions at Home Plate rule. The Replay Official declared that Marisnick deviated from his direct path and initiated an avoidable collision.

Angels’ manager Brad Ausmus called for Marisnick’s suspension. The Astros’ outfielder was given a two-game suspension that is being appealed at this writing.

Marisnick explained to MLB.com, that he was taking an inside path to the plate and took a quick step to his left once he saw Lucroy in front of the plate.

“Through my eyes I thought the play was going to end up on the outside of the plate,” said Marisnick. “I made a split-second decision at full speed to slide head-first on the inside part of the plate. That decision got another player hurt and I feel awful. I hope nothing but the best.”

Lucroy sustained a concussion and a fractured nose, and was scheduled to see an ear, nose and throat doctor after the swelling subsided.

The Astros won the game, 11-10 in 10 innings.

Rich Marazzi Expert Interpretation

Marisnick’s comments appear to be genuinely sincere, but I would think he would notice that Lucroy was giving him a path to the plate to the outside which is the common positioning for a catcher in such plays. Marisnick’s actions were careless and indefensible. He clearly DEVIATED his path to the plate and collided with Lucroy. He apparently lacks understanding of the rule.

Lucroy, in my opinion, had clearly positioned himself to field the throw and had the right to be where he was. Marisnick had a pathway and his actions initiated an avoidable collision.

The ball was not controlled and caught by Lucroy prior to the collision but that is not a relevant point when ruling on the Collisions at Home Plate rule. Rule 6.01 (i) focuses on the runner’s actions on a play at the plate and does not take into consideration the status of the ball.

Rules Desk Comments

The home plate umpire has dual responsibilities in plays at the plate that include Collisions at Home Plate Rule (6.01(i). The home plate umpire first focuses on the play itself and positions himself to get the best angle to make a safe/out call. Many times these are close swipe tag plays and are difficult to judge even with good positioning. How many times have we seen a play go to Replay Review only to have an out call overturned because super slo-mo showed the runner’s hands an inch above the plate instead of touching the surface?

Home plate umpire, Mike Estabrook, did not initially make the call to declare Marisnik out for deviating from his path and making contact with Lucroy. The umpires on the field huddled  to discuss and then called Marisnik out. Upon official review, the Replay Officials upheld the Marisnik out call. This is the first case of a runner being called out for deviating his path to collide with the catcher since the rule was instated several years ago. So, it is easy to understand why Replay Officials called it but the Estabrook did not.

More From Marazzi

From this corner it was a classic violation of the rule and he had the best seat in the house. How did he miss Marisnick changing his path to initiate contact and at the same time lowering his shoulders and pushing with his hands?

There is a seldom discussed section of the rule that is important to understand. When a runner is called out for interference as Marisnick was, “all other base runners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision.” Was anyone in the dugout or the broadcast booth watching that aspect of the play? I doubt it. In the above play, it’s a moot point because the interference created the third out of the inning. But someone needs to be watching the progress of the trail runner/s in such plays to argue, if necessary, the placement of the runner/s.

Coaching Point: On runner interference plays at the plate, trail runners need to hustle hard if they are attempting to reach the next base since they will be placed at the last base touched at the time of the collision.

I find it ironic that MLB will rightfully suspend a pitcher 10 days for defacing a baseball under rules 3.01 and 6.02 (c) (2) through (6) and will aggressively suspend a player for altering his bat under rule 6.03 (a) (5) yet, will only give a two-day suspension to a player who recklessly caused serious injuries to an opponent in violation of a rule that was designed for player safety.

Rich Marazzi is rules consultant for: Blue Jays, Brewers, Cardinals, D’backs, Dodgers, Mariners, Orioles, Phillies, Pirates, Rangers, Rays, Red Sox, Royals, Tigers, Twins, Yankees, the FOX Regional Sports Networks, ESPN, the White Sox TV announcers and WFAN radio.

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