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Replay review: Sean Murphy called for blocking plate, Mark Kotsay earns first ejection

Another weird day in MLB replay review

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Add another chapter to the weird saga of MLB replay review.

The Oakland A’s were involved in a close play at the plate on Saturday, and the initial call was that they tagged out the Texas Rangers runner. Upon further inspection, the call was overturned, not because the runner was determined to be safe but because of a technical rules violation. Though the runner really was probably safe anyway.

Here’s what happened.

In the 8th inning of a scoreless game, with runners on second and third, the Rangers hit a single to left field. The first runner scored easily. The second runner, former A’s prospect Eli White, rounded third and headed for home, while Oakland left fielder Tony Kemp threw the ball to the plate.

Kemp’s throw was on target, taking one hop and arriving just in time for catcher Sean Murphy to grab it and tag White.

The ump called White out, but the replay told a different story. White appeared to sneak his hand onto the plate before Murphy tagged him, and even the A’s broadcasters agreed it would probably be overturned.

Indeed the call was overturned, but not because White was obviously safe. Instead, Murphy was called for a violation due to blocking the plate.

That was a surprise, so let’s take a closer look.

On one hand, Murphy objectively didn’t block White off the plate. Want to know how I know? Because White touched the plate. He ran/slid straight forward and touched the plate without going around anybody or knocking anybody over, ergo he wasn’t blocked. Furthermore, Murphy had the ball before White got there, so he’s entitled to some level of going after the runner, whereas it would definitely be a violation if the catcher were in the running lane without the ball.

On the other hand, there is also a spirit to this rule, and that’s to avoid collisions and injuries. Murphy didn’t fully block the plate but he was all over it, with his left leg sticking out across it, and there was nowhere for Miller to slide without getting tangled up in a pile of limbs. It’s exactly the kind of ligament-wrenching contact they’re trying to reduce.

Under that latter consideration, I could possibly see a justification for this call. It’s not that Murphy blocked Miller from touching the plate, it’s that he blocked the overall lane for Miller to make a safe slide, because Murphy took away both sides of the plate by sticking his leg out. That’s not an official statement, just my speculation, but it could be the beginning of a sensible case.

Even still, though, I disagree with this call. Murphy made a good faith effort to give Miller a bit of space, and at some point the catcher does have to stand somewhere on these plays, and it can’t be three feet away out of reach of a tag. Most of all, I just don’t remember seeing this call before on such a tame bump, as opposed to a more full-body collision or a time when the catcher simply doesn’t have the ball yet.

All that said, it doesn’t matter that much. White was clearly safe. Which makes it even weirder that the umps would choose this moment to cite the plate-blocking violation, instead of just saying what everybody saw, which was White’s hand touching the plate in plenty of time. Replay review is bonkers.

A’s manager Mark Kotsay wasn’t stoked on the call either. He came out of the dugout hot and the umps let him say his piece, but he kept chirping about it before the next inning and was ejected by home plate ump Brian Knight.

That’s the first ejection for Kotsay as an MLB manager! And a well-earned one, at exactly the moment when a skipper needs to go out and get tossed to rally the troops. They’d just been hosed by a controversial call in a tight game, and he rose to the occasion and stood up for them.

If anything I was surprised he didn’t get run immediately after the call, though it wasn’t for lack of effort on his part. He went out to loudly argue the result of the replay review, and there’s supposed to be zero tolerance for that, so he should have been booted right away. Kotsay didn’t let that oversight stand for more than a few minutes, taking his next available opportunity to continue the debate until it finished with him heading back to the clubhouse. Like a boss.

Coming off his 2021 Gold Glove award, Murphy has been playing phenomenal defense so far this season, including a bunch of great tags at the plate. This wasn’t quite one of them, but that’s because he didn’t tag the runner in time, not because the umps didn’t like how he had his legs set up.

MLB replay review continues to be the strangest thing ever.

Poll

You make the call: Did Murphy block home plate?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Yes, the violation was correctly called
    (36 votes)
  • 81%
    No, he was in legal position to make a tag
    (159 votes)
195 votes total Vote Now