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New home plate rule becomes point of confusion

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We’ll get to Michael Pineda later, for now a quick explanation of what happened on the play at the plate in the third inning. Francisco Cervelli tried to score from second on a Jacoby Ellsbury single, the throw home clearly beat him to the plate, and Cervelli was called out. Joe Girardi protested, and the umpires reviewed with replay, ultimately sticking with their original call.

Girardi argued two points:

1. He thought catcher Josh Thole was blocking home plate according to the league’s new rule.

2. He thought Cervelli was safe regardless of any sort of catcher obstruction.

Girardi explained that he did not have to specifically challenge one or the other. The umpires reviewed the play on their own — the Yankees didn’t use their challenge on the play — and in doing so, the review umpires in New York are supposed to check everything. They checked blocking the plate and safe/out when they went to replay.

“This is going to be the toughest replay of all of them because it’s such a judgment,” Girardi said. “The way it was explained to us, if the catcher is in front of home plate toward third base, straddling the base, that is considered blocking home plate if you don’t have the ball. And I believe that’s how it was.”

That’s the way I saw it as well. I never saw a replay that made me think Cervelli beat the tag (there might be one, Cervelli certainly thought he got his foot in ahead of the tag, but I didn’t see it). Regardless, I thought the umpires were definitely going to overturn the decision because of the way Thole setup to receive the throw. It seemed to me that he was standing between Cervelli in the plate before he had the ball.

“That’s what we’ve been taught to do for years,” Girardi said. “But I think that’s what they’re trying to get away from.”

Girardi didn’t seem to think Thole was trying to cheat, only that he reacted in a way that violated the new rule. Cervelli felt the same way.

“Halfway, I saw part of the plate,” Cervelli said. “And then he blocked the plate a little bit, and then I had to go straight, but I couldn’t visualize home plate. … I was supposed to slide for the outside part (originally). That was my thought. But when he blocked the plate, I didn’t know what to do.”

As much as I felt certain blocked the plate, there were other writers who saw the same play and the same replays and came away thinking Thole left a lane. As much as I believed Cervelli had been tagged out, there were other writers who said they saw a replay that made them think Cervelli was safe regardless. Plenty of confusion on this one. Girardi said he was not allowed to play the game under protest.

“I believe this is going to be the toughest overall for them to get right all the time,” Girardi said. “To me it’s a vague interpretation of what blocking home plate is, and I think it needs to be in writing. The way it was explained to us, if you are straddling the base in front, towards third base, that is considered blocking home plate.”

Said Cervelli: “I was very sure what it was all about, but I’ve got to ask again what’s going on. … It’s a rule. You have to follow it.”

Associated Press photo