There's a world of confusion and different interpretations about baseball's new rule concerning plays at the plate, but unlike in the majors, the minors don't have the luxury of replay to figure out what happened.
Still, there has to be a better, more efficient way for all parties involved to come to some kind of conclusion than the drawn-out delay that occurred during Friday night's game between the Curve and New Hampshire at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
The game was held up for about 10 minutes in the seventh inning after a controversial play. The 4,884 fans on hand probably had no idea what was taking so long, but there was little doubt the whole scenario did indeed take way too long.
The play in question went the Curve's way, but the game did not as Altoona lost, 1-0, in 12 innings. The Curve's freefall continues as they've dropped seven in a row and are now 14 games below .500.
Adrian Sampson pitched eight shutout innings for Altoona, but the Fisher Cats finally broke up the scoreless game on Jorge Flores' RBI single in the 12th.
New Hampshire thought it had a run in the seventh when Andy Burns slid into home plate and was tagged out by Curve catcher Elias Diaz. Fisher Cats manager Bobby Meacham came out and argued that his runner didn't have a clear path to the plate because Diaz's foot was blocking it before he caught the ball.
Tonight: New Hampshire at Altoona, 6 p.m.
Pitchers: Curve RHP Nick Kingham (1-5, 3.00) vs. Fisher Cats RHP Scott Copeland (3-5, 4.69)
Under baseball's new rule, the runner is supposed to be called safe if the catcher blocks the plate with any part of his body before receiving the ball.
Where things turned bizarre is in how the discussion played out after the play.
The umpires talked with Meacham for about five minutes, way, way longer than you'll almost ever see in a baseball argument.
"Are you kidding me?" Curve manager Carlos Garcia said of the length of the discussion.
"Yeah, it kind of bothers me," Garcia added. "If you know the rule, what else are you going to talk about? If the rule is black and white, you know what, you want to protest the game, go ahead and do it."
After the five-minute discussion with Meacham, crew chief Jansen Visconti disappeared into the visitors' dugout. Some may have thought he was going to check a replay, but that is not allowed in the minor leagues.
Visconti said it's protocol in that situation to check the rule book when a manager wants to protest the game, which Meacham did. The delay continued when Visconti came back out, and the signal came that the game would be protested.
Had the umpires applied the rule incorrectly, New Hampshire's protest could have been upheld. Visconti said the ruling was a judgment call and that the rule was applied correctly.
The game continued, and the Fisher Cats won. Had they lost and it came to be that the rule was applied or interpreted incorrectly, Visconti said everything that happened after the protested call would have been null and void and that the game would have resumed at that exact point.
"He wasn't blocking the plate," Garcia said of his catcher. "He was in good position to come and go make the tag like a position player."
The rule does seem to be murky, which is why many around the game have expressed concerns about it.
"[The umpire's] explanation was that it's an interpretation of the rule, that [the catcher] gave [the runner] part of the plate," Meacham said. "I said, well, he has to give him THE PLATE. That's what the rule says, the whole plate. If [the umpire] thought [the catcher's] foot was in the path of the plate, any portion of that plate, before he caught the ball, then by rule he should be safe."
Meacham admitted he doesn't like the new rule.
"I was telling [the umpire] at home plate, I said, 'I hate the rule. I absolutely hate it. It's just too much wiggle room,'" Meacham said.
Curve DH Matt Curry struck out a team-record five times, and the club fanned 16 times in getting shut out. 2010 Curve MVP Hector Gimenez went 1-for-4 in his first game back in Altoona for the Fisher Cats. Dustin Antolin (1-3) won, Ryan Beckman (1-3) lost and Randy Boone (4) got the save. The Pirates released 30-year-old Curve LHP Brandon Mann (1-4, 2.91), despite the fact that he had been effective and versatile in a struggling bullpen.
Key player: Curve RHP Adrian Sampson pitched eight shutout innings, giving up six hits with five strikeouts.
Key play: The game included a controversial play at the plate that delayed things for about 10 minutes.
Key stat: The Curve have lost seven in a row.
SUBHD: How they scored
Top 12th: Burns singled, scored on Flores single (0-1).