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MLB: Collision rule erupts in controversy again

Published: Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014 11:53 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Jeff Chiu)
AP White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers reaches to tag the Giants' Gregor Blanco, who was originally ruled out at home but then ruled safe after review, during the seventh inning of Wednesday's games.

SAN FRANCISCO – White Sox manager Robin Ventura was as charged up as he has been all season Wednesday at AT&T Park, kicking dirt over home plate, yelling in an umpire's face, and returning to the plate for more dirt kicking.

The source of his anger was experimental rule 7.13, implemented this year to help prevent dangerous collisions at home plate. The problem, Ventura and several players said in a similarly fired-up Sox locker room after a 7-1 loss to the Giants, is that most people don't exactly understand the rule and its nuances.

"It's awful. I still don't know what happened," Sox slugger Adam Dunn said. "They make these rules up and try to explain these rules, that if you ask 25 guys in here, [there would be] 25 different opinions. I don't know what the rule is."

Sox catcher Tyler Flowers, who estimated he knows the rule about as well as anyone, though not 100 percent, was at the center of the controversial play in the seventh inning with left-hander Jose Quintana pitching.

With runners on first and third, the Giants' Joe Panik hit a dribbler up the first-base line that Jose Abreu fielded well and threw to Flowers, who estimated he caught the ball with 7 feet to spare as pinch-runner Gregor Blanco slid into home and was tagged out easily.

The Giants, however, called for a review, and after 4 minutes, 55 seconds, the ruling came back that Blanco was safe because Flowers was blocking the plate before he had possession of the ball.

Catchers are allowed to block the plate only once they have control of the ball. What would have been the second out of the inning turned into the tying run in a 1-1 game, and the Giants went on to score six more runs in the frame.

The biggest issue Flowers and Ventura have with the ruling is that they don't believe the rule's intention, to protect a catcher and runner from nasty collisions, factors in when a runner is out by as much as Blanco would have been.

"There's no clarification on that – where do we draw the line?" Flowers said. "If a guy rounds third and he's out by 80 feet, and I'm standing in front of the plate, is he safe? It just doesn't make any sense.

"... If you ask the catchers in this league, first of all, no one has the comprehension of what the rule actually is, and secondly, the majority of us would rather get rid of it if this is how it's going to be applied."

For his part, Flowers doesn't think he would have had time to adjust accordingly, even if he did realize he was breaking the rule. The short infield hit, a broken bat flying behind him, and "2 seconds" to move into position to catch the ball and make a tag worked against him. He said the rule seems to be better suited for balls returning from the outfield.

Ventura, who received his 10th career ejection for his display, called the rule "a joke," and said, "We got hosed today." He had asked for a review on a similar play Tuesday night of Giants catcher Buster Posey's positioning in the 10th inning when Sox runner Jordan Danks was ruled out. The call on the field was upheld.

He bristled at the idea of having to instruct his catchers to do something other than what Flowers did.

"I'm done. It's too vague," Ventura said. "You can have him go stand on the grass and catch it and run over and jump on the guy when he's coming in."

Quintana, who had allowed four hits and no runs up until that point, still seemed a little shocked after the game.

"One play changed everything, and I got [charged] four runs. That's crazy," Quintana said. "... When the time takes 2, 3 minutes for the review, I'm scared because I say, 'Oh, my God, maybe he's safe right now.' It's crazy. I don't know what happened with the review, but it's really bad for me now."

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