Confusing plate-blocking rule has Montero longing for collision days

Philadelphia's Ryan Howard (6) rounds third and scores as Arizona's Miguel Montero (26) is called for blocking the plate.

Given his druthers, Miguel Montero says he’d rather be run over by 250-pound Ryan Howard than try to figure out exactly how the heck he’s supposed to position himself on a throw to home plate.

Montero’s frustration with a new rule designed to minimize home-plate collisions boiled over following a play in the Diamondbacks’ 4-2 loss to the Phillies on Sunday in Philadelphia.

Here’s how it unfolded:

With two outs and Howard on first base in a 2-2 game, Philadelphia’s Marlon Byrd hit a towering, routine popup into short right-center field. Byrd spiked his bat in disgust, but second baseman Didi Gregorius dropped the ball for an error, starting a chain of events that led to a run scoring and a 4-2 loss.

Howard, running on the play, attempted to score, but center fielder Ender Inciarte’s throw on the fly to Montero standing at home was there in plenty of time. Howard did not attempt to slide, instead skirting to the first base side before being tagged out for the apparent last out of the inning. 

That’s where it got hinky.

Howard and Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg complained, and the umpires initiated a review of the play with an eye on the new rule regarding plays at the plate. After a two-minute, 55-second review, home plate umpire and crew chief Dale Scott ruled that Montero had illegally placed himself in the path of the runner and called Howard safe. 

Howard scored without touching the plate. Gibson argued, but the call stood. 

"What am I supposed to do?’" Montero said he told the umpires. "Just stand there where I needed to be and let the ball go, or should I go and get it?

"The throw took me there. I went and got the ball. I have no clue where to go on this kind of a play. I’d much rather be killed. I’d much rather be run over. It’s an awkward rule. Let the game alone. It’s been this way for 100 years. It’s kind of not fun anymore."

Sandberg: "This year that’s a run. In the last 100 years, it’s not a run."

Gibson famously shown running over Toronto catcher Pat Borders on play at the plate years ago, also believed the call was in error.

"I didn’t think they got the play right," he said.

The new rule, implemented this year in an attempt to avoid collisions such as the one that cost San Francisco catcher Buster Posey most of the 2011 season, has four basic components. It states:

–A runner may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate to initiate contact.

–If the umpire decides runner initiated contact, the runner is out, the ball is dead, and any other other base runners must return to the last base touched at the time of collision.

 –The catcher must have possession of the ball to block the pathway of runner trying to score.

–If the umpire decides that the catcher, without the ball, blocked the pathway of the runner, then the runner is safe.

Montero appeared to have possession of the ball a few steps before Howard approached to the plate.

As former catcher Bob Brenly said on the telecast, "It is one of those rules that may need some tweaking as we move forward."

Montero admitted he was affected by the ruling on a subsequent play at the plate in the seventh inning, when he set up on the first base side of the plate and mishandled a throw from David Peralta as the Phillies scored an insurance run with two out.

"I thought, ‘What should I do?’ They make it very hard," Montero said.

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