Here are a couple problems with the way Rule 7.13 was applied against the White Sox on Wednesday afternoon:
No. 1: It's hard to see what Tyler Flowers could have done differently.
The spirit of 7.13 is to untrain catchers who camp out in front of home plate waiting for the throw. Flowers didn't set up in front of the plate, because the combination of the backward-flying bat shard, the left-handed batter and the grounder to the right side caused him to lose sight of the ball.
When Flowers locates the ball and realizes the throw might be coming his way, he then heads to the plate to take the throw. He stops when Abreu releases the ball, which happens to be in front of home plate. He catches the ball, moves his leg out of the way to avoid contact and places the tag on Gregor Blanco.
It then comes down to trying to divine a motive from camera angles. When you look at the play in real time, you see Flowers doing what he can to get in position to take a throw as fast as possible.
But when you look at the slo-mo camera angle from the side, you may as well use scary shadowing and inverted-image effects. Who knows how long he's been waiting for that throw? Why, he probably had enough time to build a tollgate.
Flowers, who used measured words in the postgame media blitz, didn't deny that he caught the throw in front of the plate, but he said the speed of the play wasn't properly considered:
"If you go by the black and white rule, I guess they got it right. But you also have to put into context, I could go on for a while, I’m set up inside, jammed the crap out of this guy. It’s a dribbler to first. I’ve got a bat flying behind me. I realize where the ball is -- OK, Jose’s about to come home, and I just looked at it. So I had two seconds to get from behind home plate, catch a ball and make a tag, and I’m supposed to be able to make sure I don’t block the plate, catch a ball and make a tag, all within two seconds on an infield dribbler. It’s just not realistic. If it’s an outfield throw it’s one thing. I think most people are getting that. When you’re talking about such a short time period there, on a play like that, it just doesn’t make any sense. And that had no impact on Blanco being able to score. It’s one thing if he makes contact with me before I have the ball, but that wasn’t the case. He was still seven-plus feet away. It had no impact on him whatsoever."
No. 2: It took five minutes -- OK, four minutes and 55 seconds -- to review it, and they didn't even get all of the call right.
The "two-second" play Flowers had to make spiraled into a 10-minute saga -- the first five-plus minutes were spent on the review, followed by Robin Ventura's dirt-kicking tirade, and then another review when the umpires incorrectly awarded third base to Adam Duvall.
I think everybody appreciates instant replay when it reverses a wildly incorrect call in 60 seconds tops. But by the time it enters the second minute, it becomes something to endure -- a home repair job that you can't back out of after all the parts are scattered across the floor.
And when it enters the four-, five- or six-minute range, it inspires zero confidence in the proceedings. Mike Redmond knows how Robin Ventura feels, having been on the same end of a six-minute, 10-second review against the Reds two weeks ago. And that one appeared more clear-cut than the Sox-Giants play, since the throw came from the outfield and Zack Cozart didn't even have a way to slide, unlike Blanco.
That last part seems to be the biggest sticking point in all of this. On Tuesday night, Jordan Danks didn't have a direct line to the plate thanks to Buster Posey's foot, but he had a sliding route in, and Posey reached across to tag Danks before he got there. Blanco also had a sliding path, which he used to the best of his ability. The throw just beat him by too much. The timing of the throw and Flowers' tag are the only things that aren't up for interpretation, and they counted the least.