Major League Baseball has acknowledged that it incorrectly interpreted the new home-plate collision rules when it overturned an "out" call at the plate on a controversial play in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
The play took place in the third inning of the Pirates' 11-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds had the bases loaded with one out. Umpires on the field originally ruled that Pittsburgh pitcher Stolmy Pimentel's throw to catcher Russell Martin was in time to force out Cincinnati's Devin Mesoraco at home.
However, that call was overturned after the play was reviewed by officials in the replay command center in New York, and Mesoraco was ruled safe because Martin was deemed to have illegally blocked the plate with his foot.
After the game, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle phoned MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations Joe Torre to discuss the play. And on Thursday, Torre issued a statement saying replay officials hadn't properly applied the rule to the circumstances that govern a force play at the plate.
Torre said the play "was one of the most difficult calls that our umpires have faced this season, given that the positioning of the catcher at home plate was necessary to record the force out. After evaluating the play and the details of the review, we recognize that this play was not the type that should have resulted in a violation of Rule 7.13."
"The goal of Rule 7.13," Torre's statement went on, "is to prevent egregious home-plate collisions, and despite how challenging these situations can be, we have made important progress in accomplishing that goal."
Managers, catchers and baserunners have all expressed confusion this season about differing interpretations of the new rule. But until this week, forceouts at the plate hadn't been part of that confusion. Hurdle continued to maintain Thursday that Martin did nothing wrong.
"It's a force play, so his foot has to be on the plate," the Pirates' manager told reporters in Pittsburgh. "It's not the same as creating a lane for a runner sliding. Once the ball's in his glove and his foot's on the plate, he's out. Wherever the runner is, he's out. And [Martin] did everything humanly possible to get out of the way to clear the lane with a back roll, and the runner slid completely across the plate with no obstruction. He made the play he was supposed to make."