Rule Book 101: Body Block to the Catcher

Baseball has been America’s national pastime for well over a century and a half. Yet it still provides long-time spectators with events that they have never seen before – or will again. And some teams long for the “good ol’ days.”

In the sixth inning at Wrigley Field on Monday June 19th, Anthony Rizzo was on third base as Kris Bryant strode to the plate with the Cubs down 2-1 against the San Diego Padres. Bryant lined a shot to centerfielder Matt Szczur, who threw a laser beam to catcher Austin Hedges. Hedges corralled the ball and was crushed by Rizzo:

Hedges hung onto the ball despite being clobbered, but the discussion after the game was all about the so-called “Posey Rule.” The 2017 Major League Rule Book has the “Posey Rule” as 6.01(i) with subsection (1) stating:

A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate), or otherwise initiate an avoidable collision. If, in the judgement of the umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the umpire shall declare the runner out (regardless of whether the player covering home plate maintains possession of the ball). In such circumstances, the umpire shall declare the ball dead, and all other base runners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision.

Let’s take a look from another angle:

As the ball reaches Hedges, Rizzo moves from outside the baseline to inside the baseline despite having a clear path to home plate.

Manager Joe Maddon, not surprisingly, thought the play was perfectly legal, stating to the Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan:

You don’t see it anymore because the runner thinks he has to avoid the catcher. He doesn’t. If the guy is in the way you’re still able to hit him. We’ve just retrained the mind so much right there that they look to miss him.

I much prefer what Riz did there, and what he did was right. Absolutely right…. Nobody could tell me differently. It was a good play.

The catcher is in the way. You don’t try to avoid him in an effort to score and hurt yourself. You hit him, just like Riz did.

Just like the slide by Ian Happ last month, Joe Maddon is, quite simply, wrong. In fact, MLB has announced that he is wrong and Rizzo’s deviation from his path was, in fact, illegal. Unfortunately, there was no further punishment for the offending parties.

However, while people like Maddon continue to look to the so-called new rules that have changed the nature of the game, the “Posey Rule” is actually a clarification of a specific situation that is actually managed by Rule 6.01(a)(10) which says:

It is interference by a batter or a runner when he fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball, provided that if two or more fielders attempt to field a batted ball, and the runner comes in contact with one or more of them, the umpire shall determine which fielder is entitled to the benefit of this rule, and shall not declare the runner out for coming in contact with a fielder other than the one the umpire determines to be entitled to field such a ball. The umpire shall declare the runner out in accordance with Rule 5.09(b)(3).

Self-referentially, 5.09(b)(3) states:

A runner is out when he intentionally interferes with a thrown ball; or hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball (See Rule 6.01(j)).

Like with the Happ play, these rules are contained in the 2012 Rule Book, before the clarifications came into the Rule book in 2014. [6.01(a)(10) was listed as 7.09(j). 5.09(b)(3) was listed as 7.08(b)]

For the second time in a month, the Chicago Cubs have been guilty of violating clarifications to existing rules intended for player safety. The first time, it was called on the field. The second time, the rule did not need to be enforced as the catcher hung onto the ball. However, the collision did cause actual harm to the catcher. In both cases, the manager of the Chicago nine has revelled in his men’s ability to play in a style which has caused serious injury in the past. It is high time that MLB starts enforcing their player safety rules with actual discipline, taking the manager and/or player off the field. Because the next time a Cub flaunts these rules – and given Maddon’s statements, there will be a next time – it may cause a career altering injury.


Follow Brandon on Twitter @cuzittt

Featured image courtesy of the Sporting News.

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