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Laws vs. legislation in baseball

The legislation (the formal rule) in baseball is that you have to tag a runner with either the ball or the ball inside the glove when there isn’t a force play. Yesterday, Mark Ellis of the Dodgers tried to score from third on a sacrifice fly. Carlos Beltran made a perfect throw from right and Yadier Molina, the Cardinals catcher appeared to tag him out and the umpire called him out.

But did Molina tag him? See the GIF here.

The Washington Post’s David Sheinin and Barry Sverluga note

A year from now, the pivotal defensive play of Game 1 of the National League Championship Series — the throw made by St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran to nail Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis in the 10th inning — likely would be reviewed by the umpires under the new, expanded instant replay “challenge” system that will go into effect in 2014.

And the call very well could be reversed. Replays on Friday night suggested Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina never actually tagged Ellis with his glove in the collision at the plate. But players on both teams were stunned by questions from media after the game about the play, and the consensus — supported by even Dodgers players — was that no such play should ever be reversed when the ball clearly beats the runner to the plate and the catcher holds on to it following a collision.

“In the history of baseball, no one has ever been called safe on that play [just] because [the catcher] didn’t tag them,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. “That would be a shame for a great defensive play like that — the great throw by Carlos and great play by Yadier at the plate to be overturned because of a technicality that he didn’t graze [the runner] with his glove. I hope that’s something that doesn’t change, because that’s an important part of the game. . . .

“There’s no umpire alive that I think would call Mark safe there because he didn’t get tagged.”

So according to the legislation, Mark Ellis may have been safe, but according to the law, he was out. Some might think that instant replay will lead to better outcomes. But a lot of behavior has evolved in baseball in response to the unwritten rules. It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out next year.