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Umpires rebel at home-plate collision critics

8: 50 PM ET

  • Jesse RogersESPN Staff Writer

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      Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers MLB for ESPN.com.

CHICAGO — The Major League Baseball Umpires Association released a tersely worded statement Wednesday concerning the criticism umpires are receiving because of the home-plate collision rule.

The rule is a topic round the game after multiple video reviews have led to overturned out calls in the home plate recently, including in Tuesday’s game between your Cleveland Guardians and Detroit Tigers.

The statement, obtained by ESPN on Wednesday, said that “it’s the catcher’s responsibility never to position himself in order to block home plate minus the ball.

“This rule change was adopted after Buster Posey was involved with a house plate collision and suffered a severe leg injury. The Players Association and the owners made a decision to protect their key assets (players) and adopted the house plate collision rule that players are actually complaining about.”

The umpires contend they’re simply upholding the rule that’s on the books, one which the league sent a memo to teams about earlier this month. The memo was included with illustrations and reminders about how exactly and in which a catcher can and cannot setup as he receives the ball from the fielder.

“It’s simple: don’t block home plate without possession of the baseball or change the rule,” the umpire’s statement said.

The most recent on-field controversy occurred in the very best of the initial inning on Tuesday in Cleveland. Guardians catcher Austin Hedges caught a throw from shortstop Tyler Freeman as Javier Baez slid home. Baez was called out, but video review overturned the decision, indicating the “catcher didn’t supply the runner a lane.” The Tigers scored three runs in the inning, going to beat the initial place Guardians, 4-3.

“To begin with, it cost the overall game,” Hedges said following the loss. “It is a play which has been called several times now recently that basically hasn’t been called before. … There’s plays in the home which are beating the runners and for 150 years you’re out. And today, we’re calling some form of rule that’s really tricky to define.”

Video review has overturned eight calls in the home this season, probably the most since 2014, the initial year teams could challenge the decision. The newest ones prompted teams to ask the league for clarification, which it provided.

“Recently we’ve seen catchers benefiting from runners they expect will slide by getting into the running lane without possession of the ball in violation of Rule 6.01(i)(2),” the league memo said. “Such conduct only invites runners to collide with catchers, causing potential problems for players in a fashion that the rule was made to prevent. Catchers might not block the pathway of runners unless they’re in possession of the ball, or in the act of fielding the ball.”

Umpires say they feel caught in the centre, claiming it isn’t their job to call the blocking rule live but to let video review in NY — that is manned by current umpires — handle it.

Their statement then extended beyond the house plate collision rule.

“Additionally it is inaccurate to state that Major League Baseball umpires aren’t held accountable. It is said of our profession that ‘umpires are anticipated to be perfect right away and to progress from there.’

“Like players, our mistakes are at the mercy of intense public scrutiny and we have been also held accountable by our employer in performance evaluations. Although we don’t always know instantly if our calls are correct, we review them closely following game and make an effort to study from any mistakes.”

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