The MLB is set to ban home plate collisions as early as 2014 and no later than 2015. Going with the trend in professional sports to increase safety and decrease not only head trauma but also injury in general, the new rule will eliminate one of the oldest plays in baseball and perhaps one of the most exciting.
All sports have an element of danger inherent to them. It would be virtually impossible to abolish every baseball play which could lead to injury since we have seen many times in the past that sometimes the most gruesome of injuries are the most freakish. I’m all for protecting the players from harm, but I feel that banning home plate collisions will only take away a thrilling moment from the game when runner and catcher find themselves in a one-on-one moment within the context of the larger framework of the inning and game. Often times a play at home is the pivotal and deciding moment in the game, and by taking away that critical act it will make close games less about sport and more about instant replay.
With expanded replay set to launch next season, the home plate collision rule will only add to the increasing list of possible plays which may be contested and reviewed. The play at home is often fast paced and almost spontaneous, yet with instant replay in the mix it will only drown out the excitement with pause and delay.
What plays will be next on the chopping block? Will the MLB then ban take out slides which break up double plays? We saw Mark Ellis almost lose his leg after such a slide. Will outfielders be forced to stop long before they hit the outfield walls when attempting to make a catch? Matt Kemp’s injury at Coor’s Field comes to mind. How about protecting pitchers who I’ve unfortunately witnessed take line drives off the head and face many times. Why not have pitchers wear protective helmets like those worn by softball players?
Enforcing this new rule will also be tricky. Runners will most likely have to slow down while coming home before a collision at home is imminent.
• Catchers will not be allowed to block home plate.
• Runners will not be permitted to target the catchers.
• The question of whether or not the plate was blocked or the runner targeted the catcher will be reviewable, with an immediate remedy available to the umpires.
• Catchers or runners who violate the new rules will be subject to disciplinary action.
The catcher is my favorite position, and this new rule decidedly strips the catcher of one of his main duties: to block home plate. Growing up I watched Mike Scioscia brilliantly block home plate, and he even was knocked unconscious in a collision but still managed to hold on to the ball. Now we will be forced to watch the catcher stand there as the runner comes home without any sort of way for him to prevent the runner from coming in to score.
A better rule would be to disallow runners from targeting catchers in a unnecessary collision. If the catcher has the ball and is standing at home while the runner is far from the plate, and the runner still proceeds to crash into the catcher on purpose, then sure that is uncalled for. Even though in the back of my mind I still think a runner should have the right to try to dislodge the ball from the catcher by running into him, but perhaps I’m far too traditional and a bit of a sadist. I don’t like to see players hurt, but I also find the home plate collision a pretty exciting play in a sport that has been primarily described as non-contact.
How will this new rule affect the Dodgers? A.J. Ellis, the Dodgers primary catcher, is admittedly not the best plate
blocker. I find that he often sets himself off line in an attempt to perhaps avoid the collision at times. It’s inevitable that if this new rule goes into effect, then it will come up at some point in the season when a game is on the line for the Dodgers.
New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson is the chairman of the rules committee, and he made the announcement of the proposed rule during the GM Winter Meetings in Florida last week. The wording of the rules change will be presented to the owners for approval during a meeting on January 16th in Arizona. From there, the players’ union must approve the rule in order for it to become effective for the 2014 season.
Many MLB catchers, both former and present, seem to be for the rule change. Buster Posey’s 2011 collision with Scott Cousins which caused him to sustain season-ending injuries have intensified the outcry to ban home plate collisions. Recent findings into the detriment of concussions in not only professional sports but also grade school and college sports have been spotlighted as resulting in long-term health problems.
Mike Matheny has publically spoke about his health issues stemming from concussions, and Johnny Bench is also a supporter of the new rule to ban home plate collisions. The MLB estimates that about 50% of concussions are related to collisions.
How do you feel about the proposed ban on home plate collisions? Let us know in the comments section.
Perhaps the decision should be up to the MLB catchers themselves.