The plate blocking rule is well-intentioned, but something has to be changed. To see why, look no further than last night’s Reds-Marlins game in which the go-ahead run was scored on a sac fly even though the ball beat the runner home by a country mile.
The situation: The Marlins had a 1-0 lead in the top of the eighth. Zack Cozart was on third with one out. Todd Frazier hit a fly ball which was caught by Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton throws home as Cozart tags and tries to score. Catcher Jeff Mathis fields the ball way, way before Cozart is close to home. Watch the play unfold:
Yes, Mathis is blocking the plate without the ball for a brief moment. But then he has the ball, well before Cozart is there, and there’s no way in heck that a collision is going to happen here. And preventing such collisions is the purpose of the rule.
Major League Baseball apparently realizes this got messed up, because after the game they released this statement:
“We have begun to examine the Crew Chief Review in tonight’s Reds-Marlins game, which resulted in a violation of Rule 7.13, the call being overturned and a run scoring on the play,” the statement said. “We plan to discuss this situation further with the appropriate parties tomorrow, and we will communicate with the clubs after our discussion about this play.”
Fact of the matter is that the rule needs to be changed. Or, at the very least, some umpire judgment needs to be allowed here. Allow them to determine whether or not the catcher’s block actually, you know, made a difference. Whether it put the runner in the position of having to run into the catcher or not. Because as it is now, a rule that was designed to help protect catchers is being used against them.
Bobby Jenks was a key part of the 2005 world champion White Sox. By 2010, his effectiveness as a closer fell off and he signed with the Boston Red Sox for the 2011 season. He’d pitch in only 19 games that year, suffer a back injury and would never pitch again.
In the year or so after that, we heard that Jenks was arrested for driving under the influence. And then we heard that his back surgery was botched, and his baseball career was over. Then, after years of silence, we learned last spring that Jenks won $5.1 million in a medical malpractice suit against the doctor who performed his surgery.
We did not, however, know all the details until Bobby Jenks wrote about them at the Players’ Tribune this morning. This is must-click link stuff, folks.
Jenks talks about how a seemingly innocuous pitch to Jorge Posada in an early-season Red Sox-Yankees game in 2011 was the last pitch he’d ever throw. He talks about the presumably simple surgery that would supposedly get him back on the field. And then the scary complications in which he almost died due to leaking spinal fluid resulting from the botched surgery. Then, after using painkillers to deal with back pain, Jenks’ fell into drug addiction, all of which culminated in him finding himself half-naked and crazed in a car that didn’t belong to him with police and rescue workers surrounding him.
Jenks got clean but his wife left him. And then he mounted a multi-year lawsuit during which he learned that the reason his back surgery was screwed up was because the surgeon was performing two surgeries at one time, which is an apparently common practice called “concurrent surgery,” that sounds like it totally should NOT be a common practice.
Yet Jenks has survived. He’s been sober for over seven years and he seems to be in a good place. But boy did he have to go through something harrowing to get there. Definitely take the time to read it.