Twins manager Rocco Baldelli on call who helped Blue Jays win: ‘I think it’s pathetic’

The Blue Jays beat the Twins 3-2 in 10 innings on Sunday. The game, which became a game-winning RBI for Cavan Biggio – who met newly acquired Blue Jay Whit Merrifield – was the source of much controversy and prompted many choice words from the Twins’ dugout, particularly from manager Rocco Baldelli.

First, the play-by-play doesn’t do the game justice. It now simply reads “Biggio hits sacrificial fly to the left, Merrifield hits.” It was much more than that.

In fact, the decision on the field was initially an inning-ending doubles game. There was one with Merrifield in third place. Biggio was busted and Merrifield, after tagging himself, was shut out in a close play on home plate. It was close enough to get a review, and the league quashed the call, ruling that the Twins’ catcher Gary Sanchez had illegally spoiled Merrifield’s scoring chances.

Here is the best view:

The top view shows very clearly how Sanchez Merrifield applies the tag before touching home plate. We should all agree on that.

However, the call was overturned due to the plate-blocking rule. Keep in mind that the referees at Target Field here were merely following the decision of the league office’s replay center in New York. Thats how it works.

Here is the relevant part of the rule:

The catcher is not allowed to block the runner’s path to the plate unless he has possession of the ball, although blocking the runner in a legitimate attempt at a shot is not considered a violation. The runner can be safely scored if the umpire determines that the catcher has broken this rule. But according to a September 2014 memorandum to the rule, the runner can still be called out if the throw clearly hits them. Backstops are not subject to this forced play rule.

When catchers receive a throw, they often provide the runner with a slide onto home plate to reduce the likelihood of being called for a rule violation.

Major League Baseball offered an explanation for that particular call out after the game Sunday:

The catcher’s movements into foul territory were not in response to the trajectory of the throw, and he did not need to be in that position to receive the ball.

The catcher’s actions while not in possession of the ball handicapped and handicapped the runner.

Baldelli immediately challenged the referees on the field and, frankly, got his money’s worth when he was kicked out. He wasn’t done yet. After the game, he made some scathing words about the call (via Bally Sports North).

“This game hasn’t been called more than a few times since the replay started. Throughout baseball, there are thousands and thousands of games and plays at home where the catcher actually blocks the plate — over and over again — that piece was practically never called,” Baldelli said. “If someone intervenes in this situation and ultimately makes the decision that this blocks the plate, it is beyond embarrassing for our game, for all the players out there on both sides of the field who are working their ass off for the entire game, it’s totally unacceptable.

“I can’t even believe I’m sitting here talking to you guys about this. It’s arguably one of the worst times we’ve umpired any game I’ve ever been in baseball. I find it pathetic what just happened. I could go on and on about this. The referees on the field have nothing to do with it. They made a play on the field that was the right call, which every person in all of baseball, including the umpires, know is the right call, and someone in New York decided it was worth it, on the field to be knocked over.

The loss puts the Twins up 57-51 for the season, which is still good enough for first place in the AL Central. Both the Guardians and White Sox won on Sunday, meaning the Twins’ lead over the Guardians has fallen to one game, while the White Sox are just two games behind.

The Blue Jays’ win moves them to 60-48, giving them the top AL wildcard finish. They’ve also moved into single digits behind the Yankees in the AL East and are now 9 1/2 games behind.

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