‘It’s a disgrace’: Guardians catcher rails against collision rule after loss to Tigers

Detroit News

Cleveland — Cleveland Guardians catcher Austin Hedges probably spoke for every catcher in baseball, even Tigers catchers Tucker Barnhart and Eric Haase, when he emotionally decried how Major League Baseball is deploying the collision rule at home plate.

“It’s a play that’s been called a few times now recently that really has never been called before,” Hedges said after the Tigers’ 4-3 win over the Guardians Tuesday night at Progressive Field. “For some reason, New York feels like they need to take over the game and change the way the game’s played

“Guys are just out. There are plays at home that are beating the runners, and for 150 years you’re out. And now, we’re calling some type of rule that is really tricky to define. To be able to take the game into their own hands that way…honestly, it’s a disgrace. It’s embarrassing.”

The play in question this time happened in the first inning. Javier Báez, trying to score from second base on a ball that caromed off the bag at second, was thrown out, clearly, by shortstop Tyler Freeman.

The Tigers alertly challenged the collision rule, seeing that Hedges was, even if slightly, impeding Báez’s path to the plate before catching the throw.

The replay officials in New York overturned the out call and the Tigers ended up scoring three runs in the inning.

“I don’t need to get into the rest of the debacle with the umpires because it was a really, really poor executed job by them,” Hedges said. “It’s too bad. It’s too bad when we play a sport where we get held accountable. Where we say something, we get held accountable, we get mocked, we get shamed.

“There’s no accountability on their part right now. And that’s really, really sad.”

Teams across the league have been warned in recent weeks by Major League Baseball that there would be increased scrutiny on plays at the plate. Tigers manager AJ Hinch said he’d recently held a meeting with Haase, Barnhart and catching coach Josh Paul to review the rule.

“It’s a tough rule,” Hinch said. “I can see why their side would be frustrated. That’s not the play that rule was designed for. But when we saw he was in front of the plate, we were going to have them take a look at it. And we got the call.”

The rule was put in place in 2014 after Giants catcher Buster Posey seriously injured his shoulder in a collision at the plate. The intent of the rule is to eliminate violent collisions. It was intended to protect catcher’s safety.

Instead, as Hedges and catchers across the league have said, it is greatly favoring base runners’ ability to score.

Just this month, evidence of the league’s heightened scrutiny, there have been three challenge plays at home plate. In each an out call was reversed in New York.

Home plate umpire Lance Barksdale told the Cleveland media that New York has full authority over those calls.

“I feel for Austin, just catcher to catcher,” Barnhart said. “There is so much gray area in how that play is called. It’s a hard play because you have to be so aware of where you’re standing. That’s where the umpires will be looking initially — where you are standing and not where the ball or the play takes you.

“You have to be super aware of where you’re at and everything is happening so fast. Fortunately, it went our way.”

Hedges went as far as calling it a power play by the league.

“These guys are going out there with no responsibilities,” he said. “They say ‘OK, here’s a play where I can show my power. Here’s a play where I can take over the game.’ And that’s not the game that we play. That’s not the game that we’ve played for forever.

“They’re trying to take over the game and they’re trying to change the game. And it’s disappointing. For a team that goes out there and fights every single night to win every game, for it to cost us a game when we’re trying to win a division…for that to be taken out of our hands like that is a disgrace and it’s extremely disappointing.”

cmccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

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