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The MLB Created A Monster

Major League Baseball needs to put a stop to the monster they created. This monster in question is Rule 7.13, better known as the Buster Posey Rule. The ruling came about after a collision at home plate involving Scott Cousins and, All Star catcher, Buster Posey. In the twelfth inning of a tie game on May 25, 2011, Cousins tug up on a fly ball to, right fielder, Nate Schierholtz. Schierholtz fired the ball into Posey who was positioned just in front of home plate. Cousins took an inside path to home plate and lowered his shoulder into Posey, who never fully had possession of the baseball. Posey was clearly not expecting the contact and Cousins had obviously gone out of his way to initiate contact, effectively creating the controversy. Posey’s left ankle was caught underneath him as he was bowled over by the baserunner. The catcher appeared to be in immense pain as he lay face down near home plate. The final diagnosis was that the backstop had suffered a fractured left fibula and severe sprains of multiple ligaments.

Major League Baseball decided that it was time to implement a rule for safety purposes. This was the birth of Rule 7.13. Rule 7.13 is a dual part rule. An MLB press release first states that Rule 7.13 is:

“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). If, in the judgment 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 (even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball)”

The rule continues to add that:

“Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the Umpire, the catcher, without possession of the ball, blocks the pathway of the runner, the Umpire shall call or signal the runner safe. ”

It would be misguided to say that this rule was not implemented with the best of intentions. It just turns out that one key word in both parts of the rule have turned Rule 7.13 into one of the most confusing and controversial rules in baseball. That word is “judgment”. That is what this rule is. Rule 7.13 is a judgment call. The problem is that what one umpire may judge to be a legal play, another may not. It is an objective decision that has caused many coaches, broadcasters and fans to scratch their heads.

Baseball’s main event is a judgement call. Balls and strikes are part of what makes baseball so exciting and infuriating to watch.  The biggest difference between judgment calls on balls and strikes and Rule 7.13 is that one has very direct influence on the score of the game. Baseball once accepted and even reveled in human error that brought out such high emotion from fans. But with the increased use of instant replay in baseball, the reliance on human judgment in rule 7.13 must be altered.