MLB bans home plate collisions, players react
It was a foregone conclusion that Major League Baseball was going to implement a rule to reduce the violence of collisions at home plate, and that they did on Monday. It’s being called an “experimental rule”, which means that it’s not official yet, but if successful, will likely be adopted. Highlights of the experimental rule 7.13 (according to Paul Hagen of MLB.com):
- A runner may not run out of a direct line to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher, or any player, covering the plate. If he does, the umpire can call him out even if the player taking the throw loses possession of the ball.
- The catcher may not block the pathway of a runner attempting to score unless he has possession of the ball. If the catcher blocks the runner before he has the ball, the umpire may call the runner safe.
- All calls will be based on the umpire’s judgment. The umpire will consider such factors as whether the runner made an effort to touch the plate and whether he lowered his shoulder or used his hands, elbows or arms when approaching the catcher.
- Runners are not required to slide, and catchers in possession of the ball are allowed to block the plate. However, runners who do slide and catchers who provide the runner with a lane will never be found in violation of the rule.
- The expanded instant replay rules, which also go into effect this season, will be available to review potential violations of Rule 7.13.
So “natural” collisions still seem a part of the game, but any aggressive effort (lowering of shoulder, forearm shimmy, going out of way to level catcher) are out.
Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter likes that it protects one of his franchise players:
“The big thing we are trying to eliminate, and I wholeheartedly support it, is the cheap-shot collision,” said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. “[A] guy, completely exposed, doesn’t have the ball, and some guy hunts him. We’ve had it happen with Matt [Wieters] a few times; if you remember, we were real unhappy about it.”
New York Yankees manager (and former MLB catcher) Joe Girardi seemed in favor of the principle:
“The biggest thing is, if you have a place to slide, you really need to slide, we don’t want any of these unnecessary collisions, because we want our players on the field, and we don’t want the health issues to come back and haunt players 10, 20, 30 years from now. We just don’t. … I think it’s a good rule, and I think it’s a really good step in the right direction.”
From former catcher and Fox broadcaster Tim McCarver thinks it doesn’t go far enough:
“It’s a step forward, but I think it’s an incomplete rule, because it doesn’t protect the catcher above the shoulders, that is what needs to be addressed, to protect the catcher so he doesn’t get his head [injured]. Like a lot of rules, you’re going to have to see how it’s enforced. But the key thing for me is that it prevents concussion.”
Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy struggled to understand how it worked and fundamentally isn’t for changing anything:
“I’m a conservative-type guy. I like keeping things the way they are, although I do understand where they’re coming from. I understand the owners who voted on it want to maintain their investments, and catchers are investments. So are the players who hit catchers. I understand the importance of [avoiding] concussions. I get it. It’s just really hard to break old habits. Yesterday, we were thoroughly confused, trying to figure out ways to do it. There were so many issues as far as, ‘Will this be legal? Would that be legal?'”
More player reactions here.
I’d give the odds of it being repealed somewhere between “slim” and “none”. Think of the legal ramifications if it were repealed, then a player was hurt (or career ended). In general, I think these collisions aren’t necessary (unlike hockey fighting, which totally is). Players will adjust and in a few years, we won’t even miss the collisions.
– David Whitlock