Yesterday afternoon, the Phillies found themselves trailing the Reds 6-3 with Marlon Byrd on first base and two outs. Domonic Brown ripped the first pitch from Alfredo Simon into the gap in right-center field. Speedy center fielder Billy Hamilton corralled the ball and fired a perfect relay throw to second baseman Brandon Phillips, who then made a perfect one-hop throw to catcher Devin Mesoraco with Byrd still several feet from home plate. Byrd and Mesoraco collided, and Byrd was ruled out.
Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg had the umpires review the play, suggesting that Mesoraco had not provided an adequate lane to home plate for Byrd. However, the umpires upheld the ruling and Byrd was out. Sandberg strongly disagreed, so he came back out to make his case to home plate umpire Tom Hallion. He was immediately ejected. The Phillies went on to lose by one run, 6-5. Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, an MLB spokesman said the play was upheld because replay officials felt that Byrd did indeed have a sufficient lane to the plate. You can watch the play here and decide for yourself.
Sandberg was still unhappy with it after the game and says the interpretations of the rules have been inconsistent. Via Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“He put his shin guard down and blocked the plate without the ball,” Sandberg said. “I think that’s gone against us three times on different interpretations on different scenarios. Everyone just wants to know what the rule is. What is it? It can’t be just whoever is there [in New York] has their opinion, because we’re teaching the catchers one thing. We’re telling baserunners another thing.
“They want to eliminate a collision with the catcher, well, the catcher instigated the collision by blocking home plate without the ball.”
Even Mesoraco said he isn’t sure if he broke the rules:
“It’s such a hard rule to decipher, and it’s such a tough thing to really – it’s not black and white,” Mesoraco said. “My first goal is to catch the ball and tag the guy from there. If they want to call him out, they’ll call him out.”
Phillies have yet to receive an explanation from MLB regarding Saturday’s replay call. They are, um, not pleased.
— Matt Gelb (@magelb) June 8, 2014
This will certainly not be the first nor the last time that the murky rules surrounding home plate collisions leads to a misunderstanding.