Sometimes you can recognize history when you're in the middle of it. And this year, we may just be in the middle of the playoffs of the controversial home plate call. Just a few days ago, the Cubs advanced to the NLCS essentially thanks to a blown call at the plate. And on Saturday night, they got to experience the other side of a controversial home plate call that lost them a game.
In the seventh inning, which had already featured a Yasiel Puig solo home run to put the Dodgers up 4-2, Justin Turner hit a sharp grounder up the third base line, and Charlie Culberson tried to score from second base. Kyle Schwarber threw a bullet from shallow left field that was caught directly by catcher Willson Contreras. Culberson was coming into home plate just as the ball came in. And here's where we get the controversy: Just before Contreras received the ball, he put his left leg directly over the plate. Culberson no longer had a clear path to the bag. Luckily for Contreras, Culberson tried to tag with his hand and he didn't slide into home with his feet toward the bag, so his plate-blocking leg stayed intact.
The initial call was out, and technically, that's what happened. Contreras' leg was blocking the plate and Culberson couldn't tag. But the Dodgers challenged immediately — Dave Roberts was out of the dugout demanding a replay review before anyone on his coaching staff had even gotten off the phone. And it was a worthy challenge. The decision took a while to come in, but the call was safe. Writers at the game received an email explaining the genesis of the decision, which was indeed the home plate collision rule: Contreras didn't have possession of the ball when he blocked the plate.
Of course, this sparked more discussion about the home plate rule. The rule exists for a reason — to protect catchers from concussions and other collision related injuries — but the argument is that it's spottily enforced. Though some went farther than that. TBS color commentator Ron Darling spent a ridiculous amount of time complaining that it's a bad rule, and it dulls the athleticism of baseball. Of course, the "athleticism" he's talking about involves catchers getting the stuffing knocked out of them by runners. The rule definitely needs to exist, but it should absolutely be enforced more consistently. But in this case, it was pretty cut-and-dried: Willson Contreras blocked the plate and prevented Culberson from scoring. It was a clear case of obstruction, but maybe this time the protests of Joe Maddon (who was ejected for arguing the call) and scores of angry Cubs fans will inspire MLB and the umpires to clarify the rule a bit more.
- The Astros and Yankees played a wild one on Saturday. Justin Verlander pitched a gem, and it ended with an Astros walk-off aided by a bad catch from Gary Sanchez.
- Twenty-one years after Jeffrey Maier robbed Derek Jeter of a home run, a kid at the Astros game yesterday almost did the exact same thing.
- No, seriously, that Astros-Yankees game was crammed full of weird and wonderful baseball stuff. Including when a ball got stuck in the chain link wall of Minute Maid Park and George Springer didn’t know quite what he should do.
- The Dodgers are indeed without Corey Seager for the entire NLCS, who is sidelined with a back sprain, but it didn't seem to stop them from winning on Saturday night.
- It's hard to believe that The Bat Flip (flawlessly executed by Jose Bautista, of course) was two years ago, but it was. And it's a memory that should be savored like a fine wine.
- Maybe it's time for the Royals to start thinking about moving Salvador Perez to first base.
- The Braves are about to have a lot of problems, and among them is where the heck they go from here.
- MLB.TV is pretty great, but Ben Markham of Viva El Birdos has a few suggestions that would make it even better.