In baseball, Rule 7.13 dictates that a catcher without possession of the ball cannot obstruct a runner's lane as he attempts to score. Got that? Good. Because it turns out, the play meant to stop players from butting heads is causing some heads to butt.
"The way I hit him, there wasn't really a lane to slide," said Matt den Dekker after an ill-fated, ninth-inning attempt against the Nationals' Wilson Ramos, a missed opportunity that cost the Mets a chance to tie the score in the bottom of the ninth.
"I don't know what to say," said a demonstratively displeased Terry Collins after the 3-2 loss, the 10th straight against the Nationals at home. "Four hours ago, he's safe. We saw it on TV today. Four hours later, he's out."
In case there was any question: "He's out," said the umpires, after a crew chief-initiated, one minute, 33 second review.
Collins was referencing Wednesday's Giants-White Sox game, in which Gregor Blanco was thrown out at the plate as the potential tying run. Umpires reviewed the play and deemed that White Sox catcher Tyler Flores was in the baserunner's path before gaining possession of the ball. Video of the play showed Flores with his left foot crossing the baseline as he waited for the throw, and Blanco was ruled safe.
At first look, the play involving den Dekker was a good copycat. With runners at second and third and the infield in, pinch hitter Eric Campbell hit a chopper to the lip of the infield grass, which was fielded by shortstop Ian Desmond and thrown home on a ball that clearly beat den Dekker to the plate. Replay, though, showed Ramos' foot on the baseline, but his body leaning left into foul territory to accept the throw. Because of Rule 7.13, instituted this year in an experimental capacity, den Dekker was not allowed to deviate too much from his path or attempt to knock the ball loose.
"I tried to come in hard and straight to the plate and try to get there as quickly as possible," den Dekker said. "It's tough because your instincts, you want to go and jar the ball loose and make a play happen, but you can't, so you just have to try to slide into the plate."
Of course, it doesn't help that the rule has created a good bit of confusion and angst in its short life. White Sox manager Robin Ventura was ejected after disputing it Wednesday, and MLB executive Joe Torre said in a June statement that umpires misapplied the rule during a Pirates game. Players have gone on record saying they were confused about its application.
So the question Wednesday was: Did den Dekker even know how to interpret the rule?
"Umm . . . I'll have to go back and see if there was a lane anyway."