LOS ANGELES — The Buster Posey Rule isn’t going away. Despite the constant grousing about its existence and its standing as the worst example of the sissification of sport, little chance exists that Rule 7.13 will ever be wiped from the books.
That didn’t stop Cubs manager Joe Maddon from launching into a spirited criticism of the rule, which cost the Cubs a run in a 5-2 loss to the Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday.
Maddon’s remarks came after he was ejected in the bottom of the seventh inning, shortly after a video review showed that Cubs catcher Willson Contreras did not properly grant a sliding lane to the Dodgers’ Charlie Culberson. Culberson never actually touched the plate, but the original “out’’ call was overturned.
“I said what I thought, and I’ll accept the consequences,” Maddon said a day after getting tossed for arguing after the video review. “You know what I believe. I’ve said it from the beginning. But I’m not going to walk away from what I believe in.”
Indeed, Maddon has been a steadfast critic of the rule, which was implemented before the 2014 season, both to protect catchers from being run over (the Giants’ Posey broke his left leg in a collision at the plate in 2011) and prevent them from blocking the plate without the ball. On Saturday, he likened it to the recently repealed Chicago soda tax as an example of unnecessary legislation.
To be clear, Maddon did not fault the overturned call for swaying the outcome of the game, but he blamed the rule for marring an otherwise technically brilliant baseball play. Indeed, while Cubs leftfielder Kyle Schwarber has been much maligned for his defense, he made a perfect throw home in an effort to nab Culberson.
Contreras showed remarkable balance to field the throw and make a tag, but his left leg was extended fully, thus taking away any view of the plate from Culberson. As he slid, Culberson tried to reach for the plate around Contreras’ leg but missed.
“If you’re concerned about Willson sticking his leg out, what else is he supposed to do right there?” Maddon said. “You have to keep your balance. You have to hold yourself in place. And, furthermore, you should block the plate once you’ve caught the ball, which he did.”
Of course, it didn’t matter. The umpires ruled that Contreras blocked the plate.
“I think it was a heck of a throw by Kyle out there in leftfield,” 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. So it was pretty clear to us, so that’s kind of pretty simple.”
Indeed, Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren immediately signaled for a review. A few years back, during his tenure as Mets bench coach, Geren spent a large portion of spring training dissecting the rule. It was Geren, a former big-league catcher, who instructed baserunners and catchers alike about its implementation.
After the game, Culberson defended the rule. A former member of the Giants — Posey’s organization — Culberson said he has long avoided “trucking” opposing catchers on plays at the plate.
From the other dugout, Maddon saw a slice of technically sound baseball ruined by a controversial rule. “I saw a great baseball play,” he said. “I saw Schwarber come in on a ground ball, use his feet perfectly, make a low, great throw to the plate that could have been cut off, had we needed it to be, but did not because we chose to have it go to home plate. Perfect skip-hop, great play by Contreras. The ball kind of taking Willson toward the line, toward foul territory. He catches the ball, and his technique was absolutely 100 percent.”