Umpires ruled Phillies center fielder Tony Gwynn Jr. out at the plate on April 13 at Citizens Bank Park, despite the fact Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis had blocked the plate. Joe Torre, Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball operations, called the Phillies later to tell them a mistake had been made. The umpires correctly ruled Carlos Ruiz blocked the plate on Saturday in a 3-1 loss to the Rockies at Coors Field.
It is quite confusing.
"The one yesterday was right," said Phillies catcher Wil Nieves, who started Sunday's series finale. "That's what they told us in Spring Training. You cannot block the plate without the ball even if there's no contact. We have to give them a lane. That's what happened with Mathis. He was blocking the plate. There was no lane for the runner. And they messed up. They admitted it. So right now we know to give them a lane."
Of course, catchers have been taught their entire life to block the plate one way. Now they must fight those instincts as a play develops.
"I was talking to Chooch [Ruiz] about it," Nieves said. "He's one of the best in the game at putting down the leg and blocking the plate. Trying to change that is going to be hard, so we've got to concentrate a lot. We just need to set up early in front of the plate and just try to stay there as long as we can without taking away that lane.
"If your left foot is on the line you still have a lane. If you go past that then you're blocking the plate. But if you have it on the line they still have a lot of room to slide. That's where you want to be. And then after we have the ball we can do whatever we want. And if the throw doesn't beat the runner he's safe."