When Caleb Joseph received a throw as Chicago White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez headed toward him in the top of the eighth, the Orioles catcher said he had two things on his mind: tag Ramirez out, and don't break baseball's new home-plate collision rules.
Instead, Ramirez dodged Joseph’s tentative effort at a tag, scoring safely as the White Sox took a three-run lead and held on to win, 4-2, on Tuesday night at Camden Yards.
Rule 7.13, implemented by Major League Baseball before the season, forbids catchers from blocking the path of the runner until he has possession of the ball. It’s an attempt to eliminate extraneous collisions from the game, but it has also caused some second-guessing.
On Tuesday, Joseph had the ball in his glove, but he allowed Ramirez the space to tag home plate.
“The rule states that when I do get the ball, I’m able to be aggressive at that play, and I was just very passive at it,” Joseph said. “I’ll learn from it, and next time I’ll be more aggressive in tagging him.
“[Ramirez] made a really ridiculous slide to get that foot in there. But if I’m aggressive and drop my knee down for my usual tag, there’s no question he doesn't get in there, which is what I’ll do next time.”
Hours before Tuesday’s game, MLB adjusted the rule to permit catchers to block the plate on force plays. But because Ramirez was the White Sox’s only base runner, Joseph had to maintain his position outside of the base path until he received the ball.
Joseph admitted he was at fault for not properly executing the tag, but he explained that the new rules were a hard deviation from the positioning he learned in previous years.
“I kind of got caught between the ball and my natural tendency,” Joseph said. “Next time, I’m going to go with my natural tendency and not screw it up.”