Sunday, August 10, 2014

Is the MLB Blocking the Plate Rule Change Necessary?

    This year baseball has instituted a rule change basically requiring the catcher to provide a lane for baserunners attempting to score.  It's no longer legal to block the plate without the ball.  Specifically, new rule 7.13 states:  
Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the Umpire, the catcher, without possession of the ball, blocks the pathway of the runner, the Umpire shall call or signal the runner safe.

  Now of course many people question the new rule and are demanding that the rule be rescinded.  However, the Village Elliot asks a different question:  When was it ever legal to block the plate at all?  I think this has always been illegal, but MLB has chosen to ignore it.  Spefically, Rule 2.00 covers obstruction:

OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.

So, for example if there is a play at second base you can not block the runner and then catch the ball and tag him out.  Why then was it legal to block home plate, then get the ball and tag the runner out?  

This should be simply called obstruction, and the runner is safe and the other runners are allowed to move up.   

Baseball, however, has chosen to convince itself that blocking the plate has been (up until 2014) a legal play.  

"The act of fielding the ball"  suggests that if the throw is off line, the catcher might be entitled to venture in front of the baserunner in order to catch it.  But definitely the catcher should not be permitted to camp up the third base line and let the runner smash into him before catching the ball.  That is completely bogus and is the result of umpires and players conspiring to read the rules differently than they are actually written.  

Rule 7.13, to my thinking, simply adds details about the home plate situation.  But blocking the plate is already illegal per Rule 2.00.  

Blocking the plate is dangerous and can get somebody killed or maimed.  MLB is right to try to make the game safer, or in my opinion, was incorrect to not enforce the existing rules.  


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