As we mentioned in this morning’s recaps, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers got into a benches-clearing dust-up after Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp attempted to barrel over Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos at the plate in the bottom of the third inning of last night’s game in Los Angeles.
Kemp was attempting to score from second base on Kiké Hernandez’s two-out single, when the relay throw home to Chirinos went up the line, causing Chirinos to go after it and into Kemp’s path. Faced with a choice of sliding into home or barreling into Chirinos in an effort to dislodge the ball, Kemp chose the latter. They collided, Chirinos held on and when they got up, he shoved Kemp, Kemp shoved back and all hell broke loose:
As we discussed earlier this morning, this play is one of those which demonstrates the imperfections of the slide/plate-blocking rules. Imperfections which I do not believe Major League Baseball can really do much about, as not all baseball plays can be accounted for with pre-set rules. At least not to everyone’s satisfaction.
As umpire Bill Welke explained after the game, Kemp would’ve been safe if he had slid, even if he didn’t make it to the plate past Chirinos, because he would be (a) attempting a legal slide; while (b) a catcher illegally blocked his progress. However, as Kemp also noted after the game, sliding into a catcher blocking the plate is the sort of thing that can get a guy hurt, just as he was hurt back in 2013, requiring surgery on his ankle following an awkward slide. I am pretty certain two that option three — simply stop or run out of the base line to avoid a collision — would’ve resulted in him being out too, because the rule requires an attempted slide to trigger it. Obviously, of course, the entire set of rules surrounding such things are about protecting the catcher, so barreling into him like Kemp did is not great either.
So, no, not sure what everyone was supposed to do here. Maybe Kemp should’ve made the weakest sort of slide possible? One that was totally not calculated to contact Chirinos, but which would still satisfy the “make and effort to slide” thing? I dunno.
Either way, it’s a good illustration of how not all written rules are clear cut. I think it’s also an illustration of the need for umpires to have some judgment in such matters but which they no longer have on plays like this. Major League Baseball has been pretty adamant about removing judgment calls over the past several years, and here I think it cost the Dodgers a run.