Twins manager Rocco Baldelli on call that helped Blue Jays win: ‘I think it was pathetic’

The Blue Jays beat the Twins, 3-2, in 10 innings on Sunday. The play that ended up being the game-winning RBI for Cavan Biggio — scoring newly acquired Blue Jay Whit Merrifield — was the source of much controversy, leading to plenty of choice words from the Twins dugout, especially manager Rocco Baldelli.

First, the play-by-play doesn’t do the game justice. Now it simply reads: “Biggio hit sacrifice fly to left, Merrifield scores.” It was much more than that.

In fact, the infield decision was originally a groundout double play. There was one out with Merrifield at third. Biggio flied out and Merrifield, after being tagged out, grounded out to home plate on a close play. It was close enough to garner a review, and the league overturned the call, ruling that Twins catcher Gary Sanchez illegally interfered with Merrifield’s scoring chances.

Here’s the best view:

The aerial view apparently shows Sanchez applying the tag to Merrifield before touching home plate. We must all agree on this.

However, the call was overturned based on the dish exclusion rule. Keep in mind that the umpires at Target Field here simply followed the ruling given by the league office’s replay center in New York. This is the way it works.

Here is the relevant part of the rule:

The catcher may not block the runner’s path to the plate unless in possession of the ball, although blocking the runner’s path in a legal attempt to catch a throw is not considered a foul. The runner may be ruled safe if the umpire determines that the catcher violated this rule. However, according to a September 2014 rule memo, the runner may still be called out if beaten by the throw. Backstops are not subject to this rule on power plays.

When receiving a pitch, catchers often provide a slide at home plate for the runner to reduce the chance of being called for a rule violation.

Major League Baseball provided an explanation for that particular call Sunday after the game:

The catcher’s movements in foul territory were not a reaction to the trajectory of the throw and he did not need to be in that position to catch the ball.

The catcher’s actions while not in possession of the ball obstructed and obstructed the runner.

Baldelli immediately challenged the referees on the field and, frankly, got his money’s worth in the sending off. It wasn’t over. After the game, he had some scathing words about the call (via Bally Sports North).

“This play has not been played since the beginning of the replay more than twice. In all of baseball, thousands and thousands of games and home runs where the catcher actually blocks the plate — over and over and over again — this play essentially has never been presented,” Baldelli said. “For someone to step in, in that situation, and ultimately decide that this was preventing fun, that’s beyond embarrassing for our game, for all the players out there on both sides of the field, for the entire game, is completely unacceptable.

“I can’t even believe I’m sitting here talking about this right now. It’s one of the worst moments I think we’ve seen officiating in any game I’ve ever been in baseball. I think it was pathetic, what just came out. I could go on and on about this. The umpires on the field have nothing to do with it. They made a play on the field, which was the right call, which every person in all of baseball, including the umpires, you know is the right call. call and somebody in New York decided that was worth getting knocked over on the field.”

The loss drops the Twins to 57-51 on the season, which is still good enough for first place in the AL Central. Both the Guardians and White Sox won on Sunday, however, meaning the Twins’ lead over the Guardians shrinks to one game with the White Sox just two games back.

The Blue Jays’ win moves them to 60-48, which holds the top wild card spot in the AL. They’ve also moved within single digits of the Yankees in the AL East, now 9 1/2 games back.

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