Conflict Avoidance

One has to wonder if umpires have just decided to stop enforcing Japan’s home plate collision rule, which clarifies existing obstruction rules, and prohibits fielders from being in the basepath even with the ball in hand where a runner is trying to score.

On Tuesday, Tatsuhiro Tamura was blocking home plate with his foot and did so without the ball in hand, which is pretty clearly obstruction.

Lotte catcher Tatsuhiro Tamura blocks off the third-base corner of home plate in the third inning on Tuesday.

There is no reason Tamura couldn’t have left a lane to home plate open and made the tag the way fielders at every other base. He had time, and this may have been the reason for the dumb-ass decision–that Tamura didn’t need to obstruct the runner in order to make the tag.

The play was reviewed on video at the request of Orix skipper Satoshi Nakajima, a former catcher, and crew chief Tetsuya Shimada ruled there was no violation of the collision rule. What’s needed in such a case, to be fair, is the reason why the umps believe there was no infraction, because if they see it, they presumably have a better reason than, “we don’t agree with the rule.”

Do they think the runner has a direct path to the base? Did catching the ball require his foot to be blocking off the plate? I’d love to hear what they have to say about it.

Tatsuhiro Tamura gets the ball, while according to the umpires leaves a lane open for the runner to touch the base.

By doing this, the umpires are reducing the burden on catchers to make tags, which is why the collision rules were needed in the first place.

Ten years ago, umpires allowed catchers to forgo tags. Catchers were allowed to cover the base, catch the ball before or after the runner slid into his shin guard — or lowered a shoulder — and as long as the catcher held on to the ball, no tag was necessary.

I suspect the only way to get the umpires to actually rule that a catcher is blocking the plate is for a runner to throw an elbow in an effort to touch the base. Until that happens, the umps appear happy just to ignore what’s in front of their faces.

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