The New MLB Home-Plate Collision Rule: A Former Catcher’s Perspective
The new MLB Home-Plate Collision rule was released yesterday to much discussion. As a former college catcher who has been concussed on multiple occasions, the ruling is long past due. Back in 1970, Pete Rose mauling Ray Fosse during the All-Star game should have been the bellwether for change.
Back in December, my personal Facebook page blew up with comments from former teammates and friends blasting the original MLB home-plate collision vote to eliminate the play after writing a piece commending the effort. A few of the juiciest ones are below.
This is a horrible ruling – its part of the game. No more high hits in the NFL, now this – sports are being pussified because of the fear of being sued. if you don’t like the risks associated with certain sports or positions then don’t play.
I’ve blocked the plate several times on bang bang plays. It was a risk I was willing to take…..I don’t like players to get injured but I also don’t like this rule.
it is part of the game and it happens and I’m afraid to see what the game will look like when they’re done with this.
This rule will suck when it’s game 7 of the World Series or ALCS/NLCS and there is a play at the plate that forces the runner to slide when he should be able to do what he needs to do to score – if that means plowing the catcher than so be it if he’s blocking the plate. Many times running into the catcher gives the runner a better chance of scoring.
For the record, I should acknowledge three of the four comments were made by former PITCHERS, although one did play in the Major Leagues. Yesterday’s release of the MLB home-plate collision rule doesn’t “eliminate” them entirely. See for yourself per 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.
The individuals who commented above can rest easy. Catchers can too to some extent. Here’s why.
New MLB Home-Plate Collision Rule Eliminates A Catcher Being Blindsided
Whittle away at the wording of the new MLB home-plate collision rule and one is left with two things.
1. The catcher can’t block the plate without a baseball.
2. The runner can’t maul a catcher by purposefully running outside the baseline.
If these regulations are followed on a consistent basis, then concussions will drop significantly even if clean collisions are still a part of the game. Of course years of baseball training to do just the opposite will be an issue, at least initially, but that’s for another piece. In discussing the MLB home-plate collision rule, let’s stick to plays within the scope of the new guidelines.
As a catcher through college, I’ve been involved in a number of home-plate collisions and have been concussed twice. both concussions came with ruptured ear drums and headaches in the days afterward. For more than a week, I walked around in a haze. Unfortunately, this was the 1990’s and a coach’s idea of appropriate recovery time was as soon as possible. While at the University of Kentucky, I’m convinced the injury negatively affected my play to the point where it influenced the coaching staff’s decision to send me to play at a community college for additional seasoning. For better or worse, a single play during a meaningless intrasquad scrimmage greatly altered my life.
In both instances, I never saw the runner coming. The hits came as a surprise because I wasn’t in possession of the baseball. The result was an impact many times worse because there was no brace for impact. I was a sitting duck and the base runner took the offensive when each could have avoided contact. What the new MLB home-plate collision rule does is rid the game of cheap shots. Not every home-plate collision is warranted. To this day, I’m convinced both of my concussions could have been avoided considering the first resulted in a bench clearing altercation and the second was followed up with the senior commenting he wanted to teach me, the freshman, a lesson.
One thing I can say with certainty is I always set up to block the plate with my left foot at a 45-degree angle off the left-front corner of home-plate. Ironically, Buster Posey set up in the same position when his major injury occurred. Unless the basics of coaching the way catchers cover the plate has changed in the last 15-years, this positioning is still commonplace. The purpose of setting up this way is two-fold.
1. It gives the runner a clear path to home-plate, while being able to sweep one’s right leg through the runner once the ball is received.
2. The 45-degree angle allows the knee to move naturally should a runner purposefully slide into one’s left leg.
In this image, you can see Posey leaving a path for the runner who is aggressively seeking contact. These are the collisions MLB home-plate collision rule eliminates. Give any catcher a ball and opportunity to brace himself, and I suspect few will shy away from a chance to legally mix it up. After all, catchers are the most physical players on the field.
25 Feb 2014 / Mike Newman / 2
Categories: MLB Analysis
Tags: MLB Opinion
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