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  • Play at the plate angers Twins manager

    The cause of an injury to one of his hottest hitters in June, from what was an avoidable play by Indians’ catcher Yan Gomes, is not ignored by manager Ron Gardenhire.

    Ryan Doumit had been hitting .278/.345/.481 with three home runs, five doubles and a triple in June prior to suffering a sprained ankle in Cleveland on June 23. Since the incident, Doumit has sat out three games and has gone 5-for-20 (.250) without any extra base hits in his 21 plate appearances.

    Doumit, who was coming in to score on Oswaldo Arcia’s double, was forced to stutter-step around home as Gomes swung his left leg across the plate area for a brief moment. From his vantage point, Gardenhire contends that this move was an intentional attempt to divert Doumit’s path.

    "We had a great view from the dugout and the catcher didn't have the ball and at the last second he stuck his foot back on top of home plate," Gardenhire said on his 1500ESPN radio show. "Just kind of reached out behind him and stuck his foot there before the ball got home. That's kind of one of those not good plays in baseball. (Doumit) ends up spraining his ankle and we were pretty upset about that.”

    Here is a clip of the offending play:


    With the advantage of the replay, we can see that the play was all but over when Doumit arrive to the plate. The ball was both late and offline.

    Ignore Gomes for a moment. The interesting thing here is that Doumit does not slide. Certainly this does not change the fact that Gomes was in a place he shouldn’t be, but a slide would have made for a safe and injury-free arrival to home plate. Just three days earlier, when the Twins were taking on the White Sox, Doumit was thrown out at the plate on a close play (video here). Notice that Doumit does not slide on this play either – despite the fact that Justin Morneau was clearly waving for him to hit the deck. This play had just as much likelihood of Doumit injuring himself as did the Gomes play. Someone teach this man to slide.

    Attachment 4675

    For a split second Gomes could have been thinking that he might have an opportunity to block a slide (which Doumit should have been doing) and apply a quick tag. That notion likely disappeared quickly as the chances of the ball beating Doumit to the plate vanished. Also, judging from the flight of the ball, he may initially have had thoughts of trying to reposition himself to receive it, but thought better of it as Doumit approached. The fact is it is hard to say if Gomes did have malicious intent.

    Going by the book, Gomes had no right to be positioned in the place that he was. In fact, simply being there is against the rules. According to the MLB rulebook, Rule 7.06 states that:

    The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score. The base line belongs to the runner and the catcher should be there only when he is fielding a ball or when he already has the ball in his hand.
    This rule has rarely, if ever, been enforced by umpires. On the other hand, baseball’s unwritten rules state that Gomes’ behavior was a huge no-no and could, ultimately, warrant retaliation.

    "In that play, the plate was open, the ball wasn't going to be there and the next thing you know the guy sticks his leg out," Gardenhire said on his show. "(That) is not a good thing in baseball. It's kind of one of those unwritten rules that blocking the plate without the ball or trying to trip somebody ... (you look for) payback."

    Eye for an eye. Tooth for a tooth. Catcher for a catcher.

    Mostly due to the injuries during collisions at home plate to San Francisco’s Buster Posey and St. Louis’s Yadier Molina, MLB’s rule has been debated at length over the past several years. It could prove to be a difficult rule to completely abolish, mostly because it (home plate collision) is an event that takes two to tango: one, the runner barreling in and two, the catcher walling off home plate. In most cases catchers are portrayed as innocent victims. But catchers have their own methods which can force the runner into a full-out offensive – be it a hard slide or a lowered shoulder.

    While MLB could suspend those runners who turn their bodies into projectiles, there still exists the practice of teaching catchers how to block home plate from the incoming runner which exposes the catchers to a variety of injuries. Ryan Doumit is no stranger to this education process: in 2008 while he was in camp with the Pittsburgh Pirates, then-manager John Russell, a former catcher himself, gave Doumit additional attention showing him techniques to “blocking home plate”. These lessons obviously were handy and useful when Doumit suffered an ankle sprain in 2011 after the Cubs’ Carlos Pena wiped out his left ankle in a slide at home plate (which Doumit was blocking like a solar eclipse). Had Doumit remained inside the baseline and not attempted to block Pena with his leg, he would have had an easy sweep tag and a healthy ankle.

    The Oakland Athletics -- those damn nerdy book-types -- took note of what happened to the franchise backstop across the Bay in 2011 and issued an edict from the top to keep their catchers out of harm’s way. Then-A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki said that Billy Beane told him specifically to give the runner the right-of-way to avoid contact at the plate.

    Likewise, the New York Mets had this topic broached in spring training when manager Terry Collins ordered catcher Travis d’Arnaud to avoid blocking the plate with his left leg because of prior knee injuries. Mets GM Sandy Alderson – and chairman of the rules committee, by the way – responded to Collins’ request to his catcher shortly after, suggesting that the organization needed to look at its policy on the subject of plate-blocking.

    “Whether that will be permanent with him or permanent with all of our catching prospects of something [Mets catcher] John Buck will adopt, or the spike tag will becomes standard for catchers in the big leagues- I don’t know,” Alderson told a group of Mets bloggers. “But I think it’s an issue we have to address globally, rather than just in the case of Travis d’Arnaud. And to some extent we have an obligation to treat everyone the same way.”

    Then there are instances that make you wonder whether certain teams are going the extra mile to instill in their catchers the principle of protecting the plate at all costs, that they are the last line of defense against one more run. As mentioned above, Pittsburgh took time to instill plate-blocking techniques. While it could be coincidental, Cleveland recently has had a string of catchers take some beatings at home plate. In 2010, rookie catcher Carlos Santana had his knee ligaments rearranged while Boston’s Ryan Kalish bulled into his lower half that was straddling the baseline before the ball’s arrival. That was not even Santana’s first run-in at the dish that year. In the third game of his career, the White Sox’s Adam Dunn tried to separate Santana from his equipment for standing directly in front of home (and the throw was cut off by the first baseman).

    Meanwhile, this April, Indians catcher Lou Marson was blown up at the plate by the Rays’ Desmond Jennings after a bang-bang play when Jennings tried to score from third on an infield grounder to the third baseman. Marson was up the line and blocking the entire route home. Afterwards, Marson provided insight on his technique in that situation, which is to get the runner to hesitate before the collision. "I'm trying to block the plate and make you make a decision,” said the catcher. “Are you going to slide, or are you going to try to blow me up? I feel like that split second they have to decide kind of slows them down, at least a little bit."

    Gomes, who is new to the Indians organization in 2013, may have been preparing to do something similar to what Marson described on the play. Block the plate and brace for contact. From Gomes’ perspective, there could have been a play at the plate forthcoming. It was not as if the ball was heading for a cut-off man. And it was not as if Ryan Doumit was running like a bat out of hell either. Plus there was the added factor of the throw being outside the third base line while Gomes was set up inside the line. With a runner coming home from third, Gomes may have been beginning to maneuver to corral the throw which was then heading behind the on-rushing Doumit.

    Of course, superseding what was going on inside Gomes’ head is the fact that both MLB’s rules and baseball’s code – the unwritten rules of the game – both explicitly say that the catcher shouldn’t be anywhere near the base without the ball. Had Doumit been a different kind of individual, he may have leveled Gomes like Dunn did to Santana and in the baseball world would have been completely vindicated. Doumit didn’t and suffered a sprained ankle for his troubles. Even Gomes’ own manager, Terry Francona, would have likely condoned Doumit running into Gomes as a “baseball play”.

    "If you don't want to have a collision, instruct your catcher to move. That's really easy, but you can't make a rule,” Francona said not long after his catcher Lou Marson was removed from his spikes. “The rule is the catcher can't block the plate until he has the ball. For the very most part, that's when you see guys get hit. They're the gritty guys, but they try to block the plate before they have the ball, and there's a bobble, or they get in late, and they can't brace themselves. That's where you see the problems.”

    Will the Twins retaliate when the Indians come to town in a little over a week? The fireworks will be on display on July 4 but if Ron Gardenhire makes good on his promises, there may be a second show later this month.
    This article was originally published in blog: Play at the plate angers Twins’ manager started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 30 Comments
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      It's a pretty big stretch to say this injury really affected Doumit (so far). 5-20 with no XBH since? Heck, just before the White Sox series, Doumit had a 5-32 stretch with no XBH. He was 2-13 with no XBH in the Cleveland series before this injury.

      Also, I am far from an expert on such matters, but I don't see much egregious there in Gomes' play. It looks like he was set up for the ball in front of the plate, and moved over to foul territory when the throw came in offline. The most notable thing about his play is definitely Doumit's lack of a slide, which is just weird considering his other recent no-slide play at the plate.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      This argument is nonsense. Baseball is not football, where collisions are the coin of the realm. If a fielder is not in the act of fielding or does not have the ball, by rule he must give up the basepath to the runner. Think about it not just from an injury standpoint, but from the basic fairness that is supposed to be the nature of this game. When a runner comes home, he has earned that run. You're supposed to respect what others have earned. Blocking the plate not only risks injury, it's the wrong lesson to be teaching kids.
    1. Steve Penz's Avatar
      Steve Penz -
      My apologies because my comment is off the topic right away but this play is hot button for me. Doumit should have been sliding into home and this would not be an issue. He would not be hurt, he would not have barely made it back to the plate to get called safe, it would not be an issue. To make it worse he was called out on play a few games prior when he did not slide and the catcher tricked him. Whether it was him or whether there was poor communication with the on deck batter who should be protecting him, I don't care. Figure it out and slide please. This play is in the same category as "hit the cut off man", "don't miss signs", and "the pitcher needs to remember to cover first." It is basic fundamentals.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      I was a catcher for most of my youth and see nothing wrong with what Gomes did. He was giving Doumit half the plate to slide into and trying to catch the ball. If Doumit slides, like he should, there is nothing to even consider here.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      It's a pretty big stretch to say this injury really affected Doumit (so far). 5-20 with no XBH since? Heck, just before the White Sox series, Doumit had a 5-32 stretch with no XBH. He was 2-13 with no XBH in the Cleveland series before this injury.
      I agree with your basic premise but I will respond thusly: Yes. The 21 plate appearances sample size is far too small to simply say he is injured and it is effecting his hitting. Like you pointed out, there are plenty of instances in which a stretch of baseball could have similar results - healthy or not. HOWEVER, he sprained his ankle on June 23 and we have watched him hobble up and down the baselines so of course the injury is directly influencing his current numbers. The question is how long will this injury influence his performance? Sprains can be minor but they can be finicky.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post
      I was a catcher for most of my youth and see nothing wrong with what Gomes did. He was giving Doumit half the plate to slide into and trying to catch the ball. If Doumit slides, like he should, there is nothing to even consider here.
      This. Plus, he was going to have to cutoff Doumit either way to get to the throw which was up the line. Doumit slides and its a non-issue.

      one of the things I really dislike about most of these unwritten rules is they seem largely like excuses for stupidity or bad fundamentals.
    1. Jon Marthaler's Avatar
      Jon Marthaler -
      I have two entirely contradictory thoughts, and I am having trouble reconciling them.

      Thought 1: You don't like the catcher blocking the plate without the ball? He'll have a harder time doing that if you knock him into the first-base dugout.

      Thought 2: Geez, Jennings just goes shoulder-first into Marson's head. That's a potential career-ender right there, and on a play that the ball beats Jennings to the plate. That isn't right.

      I suppose the solution is to have the umpires enforce the "no blocking the plate without the ball" rule, but equally, I suppose that's impossible.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      I don't know. The Twins did not retaliate for Swisher's dirty slide that broke their starting SS's leg. That play was way dirtier. I just don't think they have it in them...
    1. BabyJesusBuxton's Avatar
      BabyJesusBuxton -
      I was at this game and Doumit is not to blame for not sliding in the case where he sprained his ankle. Justin Morneau did not get in position to signal him to slide. After Doumit dove back into home to score he got up and gave Morneau a puzzled look on why he didn't tell him to get dirty.
    1. BabyJesusBuxton's Avatar
      BabyJesusBuxton -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      I don't know. The Twins did not retaliate for Swisher's dirty slide that broke their starting SS's leg. That play was way dirtier. I just don't think they have it in them...
      Nishioka could have prevented that injury. Swisher made a good hard slide into second to break up a double play. If Florimon, Dozier, Plouffe or anyone else was playing SS they move to avoid the contact as best they can. Nishioka wasn't accustomed to that sort of slide coming from Japan and just stood in there and took the contact.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Justin Morneau did not get in position to signal him to slide. After Doumit dove back into home to score he got up and gave Morneau a puzzled look on why he didn't tell him to get dirty.
      If you are referring to the Gomes play, it was actually Plouffe who was on the on deck circle that should have been flagging Doumit down. Still, three games prior, in almost the same condition, Morneau was waving for Doumit to get down and he simply did not. Not sure if Doumit would have slid even if Plouffe was right next to the plate waving like a mad-man.
    1. BabyJesusBuxton's Avatar
      BabyJesusBuxton -
      Quote Originally Posted by Parker Hageman View Post
      If you are referring to the Gomes play, it was actually Plouffe who was on the on deck circle that should have been flagging Doumit down. Still, three games prior, in almost the same condition, Morneau was waving for Doumit to get down and he simply did not. Not sure if Doumit would have slid even if Plouffe was right next to the plate waving like a mad-man.
      My bad on the name. I didn't go back to check the box score. And I agree that there was no guarantee that Doumit would have slid but Plouffe still needs to be there. It is baseball fundamentals and I am sure it was talked about in the dugout/club house afterwards.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      By the way, Terry Steinbach will be on with Judd Zulgad at 11:35 today. I'm sure the topic will come up and we will hear the Twins' catcher emeritus discuss the play and probably what the team's instructions on blocking the plate are: 1500 ESPN Twin Cities ? Minnesota Sports News & Opinion (Twins, Vikings, Wolves, Wild, Gophers)
    1. Vervehound's Avatar
      Vervehound -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      This. Plus, he was going to have to cutoff Doumit either way to get to the throw which was up the line. Doumit slides and its a non-issue.

      one of the things I really dislike about most of these unwritten rules is they seem largely like excuses for stupidity or bad fundamentals.
      ding ding ding. gardenhire vents about a play and he chooses this one? the throw was up the line and the catch was reacting to it. what a stupid thing to be upset about.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Terry Steinbach on 1500: "It was not a clean play...it was a crappy play."
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Steinbach on 1500: "He tried to trip him up."
    1. LewFordLives's Avatar
      LewFordLives -
      That happened over a week ago. Why is Gardenhire complaining about it now? Stop looking for scapegoats. A bruised Ryan Doumit does not fully account for the extremely poor quality baseball we've been seeing over the last couple weeks.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Steinbach: "I think catchers need to hold their ground...if there is a play, they need to block the plate...if there is not a play, you have got to get out of the way."
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      So the catcher shouldve let it go the the backup and risk Arcia advancing to third? That seems really odd.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      So the catcher shouldve let it go the the backup and risk Arcia advancing to third? That seems really odd.
      No, he could have simply taken a step in front of the plate.

      It was dirty, plain and simple. Doumit needs to learn how to freaking slide though.
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