Marlins question 'gray area' of collision ruling
MIAMI -- A day after a disputed play at the plate went in the Marlins' favor, Major League Baseball contacted the Phillies to say the call was actually wrong.
Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, informed the Phillies that Miami catcher Jeff Mathis didn't provide a lane for Tony Gwynn Jr., and therefore the outcome of the ruling was incorrect.
At the time, the play was a big one, because Gwynn was tagged out. Had he scored, the Phillies would have taken a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning.
Ultimately, the Phillies won 4-3, completing a three-game sweep at Citizens Bank Park.
"What we've seen is how these rules are interpreted, that's where the problem is coming," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "That's the unfortunate thing. We're trying to get the calls right, but there is still that gray area in exactly what is out or safe. That seems to be the problem."
The play in question occurred on Chase Utley's double to left. Gwynn, on first base, was racing toward third, and initially appeared to be holding up. But left fielder Christian Yelich bobbled the ball before he threw to shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria.
Hechavarria's throw was coming from the third-base line, and Mathis angled toward him, which moved him in front of the plate. Gwynn was initially turning wide, but halted, and his redirection took him directly toward Mathis.
Hechavarria made a perfect throw, and Mathis had the ball in time to tag Gwynn out.
On Sunday, the play was reviewed, and the outcome was, "No violation was observed."
Catchers and baserunners are still trying to figure out how to handle close plays at the plate. Many catchers are positioning slightly different than before, and most runners are encouraged to slide.
But on this play, Mathis went with his instincts, and pretty much placed himself where he always would before.
"From what I hear, as long as you've got the ball first, you can take that contact in front of the plate," Mathis said. "If it's a bang-bang play, and the runner beats you, and the contact is before you get the ball, and somehow you do get the runner out, that's what they're trying to get away from."
Redmond also questioned which lane did Gwynn establish? At first, he was going wide, and ended up going straight toward Mathis.
"The way I understand it is the runner picks his path," the Miami manager said. "From what I saw, he was [running] out, and then his path came in toward the contact. Had he stayed on his original path, which was outside or wide, that would have never had been an issue. For me, that was a lane. I'm not sure. I'd love an explanation of what they saw that was different than what I saw. [Mathis] had the ball way before he even slid. He had the ball way before he slid into him.
"The guess, that's the gray area: the discrepancy of what's considered a lane. It looked to me like there was plenty of room for him to slide in."