Powell: ‘Weird” Home Plate Rule Highlights Cubs 5-2 Loss in Game 1 of NLCS

Game 1 of the NLCS. Oct. 14, 2017. (WGN/Kevin Powell)

By Kevin Powell

LOS ANGELES — For a while, the main story line from the Cubs Game 1, 5-2, loss to the Dodgers was Jose Quintana out-pitching Clayton Kershaw. But Quintana was pulled after the fifth with the score tied 2-2. And then seventh inning arrived.

“That was a beautifully done Major League Baseball play all the way around,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the controversial home plate ruling that didn’t go his club’s way. “That gets interpreted kind of like tantamount to the soda tax in Chicago, for me.”

Only Joe Maddon can find a way to bring up a soda tax in a postgame interview.

“The soda tax, where are the Chicagoan’s in here? Suddenly we’re taxing soda back there all of a sudden. My point is all rules that are created or laws aren’t necessarily good ones. That’s my point.”

I could listen to Maddon talk, about anything, for hours. Anyways, I see where he’s coming from. The home plate collision rule is vague and puts umpires in very tough positions.

The controversy arrived in the seventh when Kyle Schwarber threw an absolute dart to home plate from left field. Willson Contreras caught it and tagged out a sliding Charlie Culberson. But the Dodgers challenged it, and won, when it was ruled that Contreras illegally blocked the plate.

“I think it was a heck of a throw by Kyle out there in left field,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Contreras made a great play, athletic play. But as the rule states, he was in violation. I looked at it just like everyone looked at it, and as the rule states, he was in violation.”

I agree with Roberts. I hate the rule.

“It was a basic play. The ball drove me to that position,” Contreras said, “but sadly the rule is that I supposedly blocked the plate.”

Here is the full MLB ruling on the play:

Rule 7.13

  • A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate). If, in the judgment of the Umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the Umpire shall declare the runner out (even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball).
  • Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the Umpire, the catcher, without possession of the ball, blocks the pathway of the runner, the Umpire shall call or signal the runner safe.

So, yes, what Contreras did was absolutely in violation of the rule. It’s designed to make the game safer and to protect catchers. But clearly, it is despised by many.

“You don’t know what the rule is,” Anthony Rizzo said. “What was Wilson supposed to do? He was going towards the ball, he stepped towards the ball….it’s just a weird rule.”

So, maybe Maddon is right. Maybe not all laws or rules are necessarily good ones. And as much as Maddon says he’s sticking up for his guys and others who play the game, Major League Baseball will likely dismiss the noise and point to the fact that it makes the game safer.

But maybe if Maddon tries hard enough, and continues to fight and make his voice heard, he can get the rule repealed – just like the soda tax.

NEWS and NOTES

  • The Cubs are 2-4 all-time in Game 1 of the NLCS; they are 0-3 in the series when losing Game 1.
  • Since the League Championship Series expanded to seven games 31 years ago, the team to win Game 1 of the NLCS has a 22-9 (.710) series record. The last team to lose Game 1 and go on to win the NLCS was the San Francisco Giants in 2012.
  • Javier Baez is 0-for-17 this postseason.

Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7p. Follow on twitter @kpowell720