MLB Insider: On a collision course with Rule 7.13

  • Updated: August 30, 2014 - 8:31 PM

Protecting catchers has been achieved, but many are protesting the vagueness around the plate.


Kurt Suzuki struck a now-familiar pose, reaching to his left to tag Cleveland’s Chris Dickerson during a July game. A new rule requires catchers to leave a sliding lane for runners.

Photo: JIM MONE • Associated Press,

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When a runner rounds third and an outfielder throws the baseball home, Ron Gardenhire’s reaction is different than it used to be. No longer is he focused on the ball, or calculating how long it will take the baserunner to reach the plate. No, he’s watching the catcher’s feet.

“You have to really stare at every one,” Gardenhire said. “The biggest thing for me to remember is, ‘Where did the catcher set up?’ ”

That’s an adjustment caused by MLB Rule 7.13, a new policy intended to eliminate collisions at home plate. The new rule has worked in the most basic way — there have been no major collisions at the plate this season — but it has had additional consequences that make managers and players uncomfortable.

The rule has two parts: prohibiting a runner from going out of his way to knock over a catcher, a guideline that has been generally accepted; and prohibiting a catcher from blocking the plate before he receives the ball, a stipulation that has created huge controversy, some notable replay reversals and plenty of uncertainty.

“It’s just tough to know what they’re going to call from play to play,” said Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki. “Sometimes you see a play that’s called one way, and the next time it goes the other way. It’s weird that we don’t really know.”

That’s the part that bothers managers and players around the game. A survey of managers of playoff-contending teams by USA Today this week found at least four who want the rule scrapped before the postseason, just to avoid a game-changing decision. “It would be a travesty if it decides the seventh game of the World Series,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told the newspaper. Added Tampa Bay’s Joe Maddon: “It’s so unclear, you can’t ask it to be umpired consistently. It’s impossible. So I would go back to the old rule, ASAP.”

Some umpires even told USA Today that they intend not to enforce the rule during the playoffs, and let replay officials in New York sort it out, case by case.

Gardenhire’s suggestion is one that the NFL adopted several years ago: Just make a review on a scoring play automatic. “You need to go look at it every time. The catcher is supposed to be in fair territory — sometimes the play happens so quick, he never clears home plate,” Gardenhire said. “You almost should check it every time.”

In fact, that’s become his policy in the Minnesota dugout. Several outs that weren’t even close have been overturned by replay review umpires because catchers weren’t giving a “sliding lane” before they had the ball, and Gardenhire believes he missed chances to have similar plays nullified because he wasn’t focused on the catcher’s feet.

“I tell Steiny [bench coach Terry Steinbach, the dugout liaison with video coordinator Sean Harlin] every time now — get on the phone and see where [the catcher] is at,” Gardenhire said. “Now, you just don’t know.”

And not knowing is a big problem.

Statistically speaking

The Twins’ four-year run of losing seasons has coincided with the four worst seasons of hitting with runners in scoring position during manager Ron Gardenhire’s tenure. The trend bottomed out last year, but 2014 is the second-worst such season; still, the Twins have raised their average by 11 points in August. Here are the Twins’ batting averages with runners in scoring position and their team leaders (minimum of 100 plate appearances) in that category since 2002:

Year Team BA Twins leader Leader’s BA

2014 .242 Kurt Suzuki .326

2013 .225 Brian Dozier .307

2012 .252 Joe Mauer .372

2011 .248 Jason Kubel .324

2010 .285 Delmon Young .355

2009 .278 Joe Mauer .367

2008 .305 Joe Mauer .362

2007 .275 Torii Hunter .341

2006 .296 Joe Mauer .360

2005 .271 Joe Mauer .331

2004 .277 Shannon Stewart .359

2003 .268 A.J. Pierzynski .324

2002 .269 Jacque Jones .352

The problem is exacerbated with two outs; the Twins are hitting just .215 with runners in scoring position and two outs, after batting .216 last year.

Central Intelligence

As August turns to September, the pressure on AL Central teams grows. Here’s how each team dealt with the atmosphere last week:

Indians: As they try to catch the front-runners, Cleveland third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall has challenged each of his teammates to grow a “Rally Mustache” during September.

“If somebody wears one that probably shouldn’t have a mustache, it really helps,” Chisenhall said. Jason Kipnis, for instance, “has the whole, like, ‘I drive a Harley’ look going on.”

Royals: Manager Ned Yost didn’t mean to pick a fight. He just wanted more fans to enjoy a rare winner in Kansas City.

But his comments after only 13,847 attended KC’s walk-off win over the Twins on Tuesday, that “I was kind of hoping we’d have another great crowd tonight, and we really didn’t,” whipped up a controversy. “I wasn’t criticizing the fans,” Yost said the next day. “I want them to enjoy this as much as we’re enjoying it.”

Tigers: His first season in Detroit hasn’t gone as planned for former Twins closer Joe Nathan, who has blown six saves and owns a 5.25 ERA. So he decided to handle the growing criticism with humor. Nathan taped a video last week of him reading Twitter posts from some of his harshest critics, showing he’s keeping his sense of humor.

“You’ve heard of ‘Shoeless Joe’?” read one tweet from a Tigers fan. “Nathan is ‘Useless Joe.’ ”

White Sox: While not involved in a pennant race, Chicago’s players took a break from their season on Wednesday to mingle with the players of Jackie Robinson West, the group of south side ballplayers who won the U.S. Little League championship.

The team’s victory parade stopped at U.S. Cellular Field, where the big-leaguers paid tribute to the youngsters. “Maybe this pushes kids into our game, instead of something else,” first baseman Paul Konerko said.

  • related content

  • Statistically speaking

    Sunday August 31, 2014

    The Twins’ four-year run of losing seasons has coincided with the four worst seasons of hitting with runners in scoring...

  • Central Intelligence

    Saturday August 30, 2014

    As August turns to September, the pressure on AL Central teams grows. Here’s how each team dealt with the atmosphere...

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San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 8 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: E. Volquez 0
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
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Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
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San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington 1 FINAL
Buffalo 6
Carolina 3 FINAL
Columbus 6
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL
Detroit 0
Montreal 3 FINAL
Chicago 1
Arizona 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton 10/10/14 6:00 PM
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