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Bogaerts out at home? MLB's confusing Rule 7.13 is back

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Bogaerts out at home? MLB's confusing Rule 7.13 is back

BOSTON - Xander Bogaerts sprinted home in hopes of scoring the Red Sox' fifth run of the game in the seventh inning. Meanwhile, Blue Jays catcher Josh Thole positioned himself next to home plate, blocking it with his left leg and at one point even stepping on it while waiting for the baseball to arrive from right field.

The ball made it in time, and when Bogaerts got to the plate, there was no plate available to touch. He avoided Thole and was ruled out.

Watch the whole thing right here.

Red Sox manager John Farrell saw Thole blocking the plate and challenged the call. After six minutes and 20 seconds of who-knows-what, the ruling was confirmed that Bogaerts was out.

Huh?

Major League Baseball's Rule 7.13 was put in place last season to limit collisions at the plate. In it, it states that the catcher cannot block the plate without the ball in his hand. Thole did that. So what's the issue?

Though it wasn't explained, the assumption is that the "Torre clarification" (we'll call it that here) went into effect. In September of last season, MLB executive VP Joe Torre sent a memo to all the teams clarifying the rule. ESPN's Jayson Stark got a copy of it and reported that it "firmly instructs umpires not to call a runner safe, even if the catcher has blocked the plate without the ball, if there is no evidence that the catcher has 'hindered or impeded' the runner's path to home plate."

Regardless of the clarification, Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan saw the replay and is not happy with the ruling.

"I don't understand the rule if that's not going to be a [safe] call," Hanigan told CSNNE.com after the game. "That's the epitome of standing before the plate before you have the ball. It's interesting that that wasn't called in terms of our favor, because if that's not, then what is? That's my opinion. I don't know what else you can do in terms of standing in front of the plate before you have the ball and not giving the guy the opportunity to slide. Is my interpretation of the rule wrong? I'm not sure, that's what I understand the rule to be. That's what I saw. It wasn't called. So, I'm confused about the rule. I don't understand."

If it was up to Hanigan, the rule would be thrown out completely.

"I liked it better before," he said. "Take the hit. Expect the hit. Get ready to play."

When told that Bogaerts may have been ruled out due to clarification of the rule that Torre sent out, Hanigan still didn't agree with the call.

"In my opinion, in that play, that's the epitome of why the rule's there," Hanigan said. "[Bogaerts] didn't have a place to slide, [Thole] didn't have the ball, he caught the ball while he was standing there already. You tell me. If there was ever one to call safe, that was it."

The call didn't come back to bite the Red Sox, as they still won the game, 4-1. But it's certainly something that will pop up around the league in the future, and you can bet at some point it'll have a major effect on a game.

"We challenged it because Thole was standing in that path," John Farrell said. "It was pretty clear to the replay on the big screen that Bogey never had a path to the plate to slide. Unfortunately not seen that way in New York."

Judge tosses suit against MLB for sign-stealing scheme, but rips Red Sox and Astros

Judge tosses suit against MLB for sign-stealing scheme, but rips Red Sox and Astros

The lawsuit against Major League Baseball filed by daily fantasy game players, who claimed to be defrauded by the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal, has been dismissed, but not without harsh criticism of the teams by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in his ruling blasted the Red Sox and Astros for "shamelessly" breaking both baseball's rules and "the hearts of all true baseball fans."

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

In throwing out the suit brought by five daily fantasy players, Rakoff invoked the New England Patriots "Spygate" scandal from 2007, agreeing with MLB lawyers' contention that rulings in similar suits brought by fans against the NFL after the Patriots were caught illegally taping opponents' defensive signals had set a legal precedent for this suit to be dismissed. 

While the suit charged that the Red Sox and Astros had engaged in consumer fraud that created "corrupt" and "dishonest" fantasy contest for companies such as Draft Kings, Rakoff agreed with previous decisions in the NFL cases that ruled fans should know teams will look for any advantage - even "foul deeds" - to try and win.

From Rakoff's ruling: 

[D]id the initial efforts of those teams, and supposedly of Major League Baseball itself, to conceal these foul deeds from the simple sports bettors who wagered on fantasy baseball create a cognizable legal claim? On the allegations here made, the answer is no.

The Astros' sign-stealing scheme led MLB to fine the team $5 million and the one-year suspensions and subsequent firings of manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. The Red Sox then parted ways with manager Alex Cora, who, according to MLB's findings, was the mastermind of the scheme as Houston's bench coach in 2017. 

That team won the World Series, as did the 2018 Red Sox, who are accused of using a similar system to steal signs under Cora.

MLB has yet to release a report on the Red Sox allegations. Commissioner Rob Manfred said it has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic but will be released before MLB begins its 2020 season. In comments last month in court an MLB lawyer seem to imply the Red Sox are aware of Manfred's findings and that they disagree with them.

 


 

Say hello to Arizona Red Sox? How MLB's Cactus League could save 2020 season

Say hello to Arizona Red Sox? How MLB's Cactus League could save 2020 season

Nothing says Red Sox home game like iguanas, scorpions, and cacti, but these are desperate times.

Barring millions of instant tests or a miracle cure, COVID-19 will just be a fact of our pent-up, penned-in lives for the foreseeable future.

This makes embarking on the baseball season problematic, since one infection would theoretically sideline an entire team for two weeks, and good luck staying virus-free while flying all over the country. Visiting hot spots would not only increase a player's risk of illness, it would also up the odds of one becoming a vector himself, which is bad for the brand, not to mention public health.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

But what if baseball could maintain some control over its players' whereabouts while limiting travel to a fleet of buses? Could a season happen under these tightly managed circumstances? And if so, where?

It may be a long shot, but the more one considers the alternatives, the more it sounds like the best hope we've got is for MLB to hold its entire season in Arizona.

The logistics are nightmarish regardless, but in a situation this unprecedented, the fewer variables the better. And MLB won't find a higher concentration of acceptable facilities than in the 48th state.

The Cactus League features 10 ballparks that host 15 teams in two months of spring training. Unlike the far-flung Grapefruit League, with teams scattered across Florida's east and west coasts, the Arizona sites are compact.

Tomase: Hindsight 2020 - remember when the Red Sox built around the wrong All-Star?

Parks stretch from Mesa in the southeast to Surprise in the northwest, a drive of only 45 minutes. Everything else lies in between, a constellation of moons tightly orbiting Phoenix.

Decamping to the desert for the duration would eliminate air travel and give the league a chance to closely monitor its players. The challenge is Herculean: hosting roughly 800 players, plus at least that many coaches, staff, families, umpires, and broadcasters without anyone contracting the world's most contagious virus, against which we possess zero natural immunity.

Players would need to be quarantined in league-controlled hotels, tested constantly, and shuttled to and from the park. For such a plan to work, they'd have to sacrifice their most basic freedoms of movement, because a single failed test would grind the season to a halt while at least one team spends two weeks in isolation, potentially triggering a cascade of shutdowns, too (the mere possibility of which prompted the NBA to suspend its season, after all).

Convincing the union to sign off on such draconian restrictions won't be easy, but the alternative may very well be no baseball.

The games would be made-for-TV events without fans. If each ballpark hosted one or two games a day, a regular schedule could be played.

The challenges would be enormous. Do three teams share one clubhouse? Could ballpark and hotel staff be expected to live in isolation as well to avoid infection? How long could players live like prisoners? Will testing capacity ramp up enough to accommodate an entire league? Are the results even reliable? And how would teams keep their facilities germ-free if they're in use all day?

Politics matter, too. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey only belatedly ordered a stay-at-home order on Monday, and it has drawn criticism from the state's mayors as one of America's weakest, with exceptions for "essential" services like golf courses, nail salons, and hotels. If Arizona experiences an outbreak, then this little thought experiment dies on the vine. The same goes for extending the order past its current April 30 expiration and into the summer.

But we're here to ponder best-case scenarios, not fill your heads with more unrelenting negativity. And though the task would be monumental, if there's to be a baseball season, our best bet might be to play it in the desert.