CHICAGO -- Sometimes a child-like temper tantrum is just what is needed to get your point heard.
Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura pulled off a dirt-kicking meltdown the past month that might have been extremely influential in a likely change to the interpretation of the home plate collision rule, a ruling of which went against his club Aug. 13 in San Francisco.
ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark has reported there soon could be clarity to Rule 7:13, which was originally intended to protect catchers from getting bowled over at the plate. What baseball seems intent on fixing is that runs won’t be able to score on a technicality when runners have been thrown out by a substantial margin.
During an interleague game the past month, the Giants’ Gregor Blanco was thrown out at the plate by at least 20 feet, but umpires ruled White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers impeded the direct path to the plate, and the run was allowed to score. A day earlier, the White Sox did not get a call overturned when a nearly identical play went against them.
After Blanco’s run was allowed to score, Venture blew up at the umpires and went as far as to kick dirt on the plate before he left the field.
“If you look at the spirit of the rule, of what they are trying to do and what it's actually doing, it's a joke,” Ventura said then. “They don't take into consideration that the guy was out by a long shot.”
Well, they are about to. Ventura, though, is modest about his impact on the changes.
“I don't think that has anything to do with it,” he said. “I think plays eventually, probably, bring that discussion up more than anything because there’s been enough of the plays where it seems like a guy would normally be out, and he's ruled safe. I think that's what happens when you don't really have a clear-cut rule that's pretty decisive and can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. It just needs to be to a point where, if a guy you can tell he's going to be out, he should be out.”
In fact, an unnamed source in Stark’s report referenced multiple similar plays that have led to the likely rule interpretation change. The most high-profile of those plays at the plate came July 31 in a game between the Cincinnati Reds and Miami Marlins, in which the Reds were given a run on the rule interpretation technicality.
Even before an official announcement is made, it seems the rule already is being interpreted differently.
On the White Sox’s latest homestand, Ventura tried to get a call overturned when a White Sox runner was thrown out at home by a large margin. Ventura asked for a replay to see if the path to the plate was blocked. The call was not overturned.
As long as the rule is now within the spirit of the game, Ventura seems fine if umpires don’t give him back the run he lost against the Giants.
“I understand protecting the catchers,” Ventura said. “I think most of their injuries and things like that probably come from foul tips instead of actual plays at the plate. You don't want guys targeting catchers coming into the plate -- [I] get that. But in the end, when you get a guy out and you make the play, and everything's done effectively, you want the guy to be out.