OAKLAND -- An ordinary play at the plate in Monday's season opener between the A's and Indians quickly brought to life the two biggest rule changes set forth by the league in the offseason. On Tuesday, it was still a popular topic.
It was the sixth inning when righty Sonny Gray took a liner off his right ankle before picking it up and throwing it to catcher John Jaso, who caught the ball, turned and tagged out a sliding Michael Brantley.
The everyday play is no longer, though -- not with the no-collision rule and replay rule in effect. So because the catcher cannot block the plate without the ball in hand, forcing him to clear a sliding lane for the runner, Indians manager Terry Francona suggested to home-plate umpire Mike Winters that Jaso was in Brantley's lane. Therefore, was Brantley safe?
To make sure he got the ruling correct, Winters made the decision to contact the Replay Operations Center in New York. Winters' initial out call was confirmed after multiple angles were reviewed.
"The way I saw it was, there was a lane on either side for him to potentially slide to, and I think the fact that he was more toward the inside made it look more so like he was potentially blocking the plate," manager Bob Melvin said Tuesday. "But for me, there was definitely a lane for him to slide to. And the way we're teaching it, you don't catch the ball, you don't block the plate. You get the ball, then take it away. Pretty similar to the way we've always taught it here."
"I think the way I was taught to receive balls from the outfield and apply a tag," added Jaso, "it works well with the new rule, so these rules shouldn't change much about the way I play.
"You give them a sliding lane, and then once you catch the ball you kind of take it away. That's how I've been taught, and I know there's crazy, big situations I want to sit on home plate waiting for the ball and just get crushed, but that can't happen anymore."
That these are instinctual plays brings much judgment into the picture, whereas catchers typically have more time to set up in alignment with the new rules with throws from the outfield.
"This was discussed in the replay meeting I was in," said Melvin. "When it's coming from the infield, especially from the pitcher, it's all instinctive. You really don't even know where you are at times. You see where the runner is and you're trying to get to the ball as quickly as you can."
"If the ball takes you into the sliding lane, you can't just let it go to the backstop," Jaso said. "So if it does take you into a potential collision, the umpire has to make that judgment call."
Jaso said he is in favor of the new rules, but also said, "I'll have to see how it plays out."