Collision rule creates dispute in Pittsburgh
Hurdle tossed after Martin deemed in violation of Rule 7.13 on forceout at home
PITTSBURGH -- Two plays at the plate on Wednesday night in the Reds' 11-4 win over the Pirates were reviewed for violations of the experimental Rule 7:13 regarding illegal obstruction.
Principals involved in the more controversial of the two verdicts felt there will be a third review -- of Rule 7:13 itself. And that it will lead to its revision -- much like the short-lived "transfer rule" that bit the dust after several unsatisfactory calls earlier this season.
"My immediate reaction was, 'What can I do? What adjustments do I make?'" said Pittsburgh catcher Russell Martin, who was called for obstruction after taking an upright throw for a force at the plate in the third inning, "But honestly, I don't think I need to make an adjustment -- there's an adjustment to make to the rule, when it's a force play."
"Time will tell, but I do think there will be some very intense discussions that need to be had about that play," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who was ejected from the game for requesting a more detailed explanation for the reversed call.
The review initiated by crew chief Jerry Layne overturned the safe call on runner Devin Mesoraco, who was trying to score from third on Alfredo Simon's bouncer to pitcher Stolmy Pimentel with one out and the bases loaded in the third inning.
Martin gloved Pimentel's throw, toed the plate and pulled back without he and Mesoraco ever making contact.
"Russell got into position to make a force play, received the ball, tagged the plate and got out or the way," said Hurdle. "The runner slid clearly across home plate. He wasn't obstructed."
Mesoraco, the Reds' catcher, couldn't find fault with the way Martin carried out the play.
"He just has to try to catch the ball and keep his foot on the base," Mesoraco said. "It's a force play, I don't know. I don't think that is the intention of the rule -- a force play like that and he's blocking the plate. I wouldn't have done anything different myself."
Martin and Hurdle both seemed to have the impression that when Rule 7:13 was compiled hastily shortly before the start of this season, no distinction was spelled out between tag and force plays -- on which the catcher must be on the plate.
Banished from the game, Hurdle used his free time to phone Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations.
"I can tell you we're still working our way through finding out what is and isn't obstruction," Hurdle said. "I don 't know how much experience they've had with this particular play in that room [the Replay Review Command Center]. Joe and I had specific conversations about a number of things; definition and interpretation of rules and common sense all need to play a part."
Two innings later, the Rule 7:13 shoe was on the other foot -- Mesoraco was credited with tagging out Pedro Alvarez after receiving the throw from center fielder Billy Hamilton on Gregory Polanco's single.
Acting Pittsburgh manager Jeff Banister this time initiated the crew chief review via challenge. Mesoraco was not found in violation of Rule 7:13, although a look at the play itself resulted in it being overturned and Alvarez being called safe.
"Mesoraco takes the throw with his foot planted firmly in front of the plate, without the ball," Hurdle said. "No obstruction is called."
The ejection was the third of the season for Hurdle, who last year tied for the Major League lead in that department with six.
"You want to know what the rule is, you want to know what to expect, you want to know what you can and can't do, and at this point I don't think any of the catchers know," Mesoraco said. "It's just going to be, 'Do what you can do to get the guy out and hope they don't overturn it.'"
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.