MLB clarifies new rules on home plate collisions
MLB is doing its best to prevent little bits of catchers from spewing all over the home plate area this season.
There will always be a "BUT THAT'S THE WAY THE GAME IS PLAYED," crowd that lacks the perspective and intelligence to understand what it feels like when one's leg fractures and an entire season of a young career is lost, a la Buster Posey in 2011.
But to them, MLB now has a response: That's not the way the game is played anymore.
But how, exactly, would this instantaneous, second-by-second occurence in a baseball game be monitored? Slow motion isn't available during the play, unfortunately, so baseball had to get creative, or at least, clearer. Today, it seems that they did.
MLB & union announce new collision rule. Says catchers can block plate if they catch ball before runner arrives— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) February 24, 2014
Unless catcher has ball, he cannot block path of runner trying to score. If catcher blocks in such fashion, runner shall be called safe.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 24, 2014
Wording of rule also says if catcher allows lane to plate & runner doesn't alter path home to hit catcher, they can "never" be in violation— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) February 24, 2014
Collisions, which are not entirely banned it seems, are dictated by the timing of the ball reaching the plate, and will be subject to review as home runs were in previous years. The way the system is set up, unless somebody is really, really trying to hit a catcher, they won't have any reason to collide with him, since he can't block home plate without the ball. If he does, though, in that moment, collisions are legal.
"...the failure by the runner to make an effort to touch the plate, the runner's lowering of the shoulder, or the runner's pushing through with his hands, elbows or arms, would support a determination that the runner deviated from the pathway in order to initiate contact with the catcher in violation."
Hopefully, 2014 will see the highest number of recorded runs scored by these potential violations, as players - namely catchers - adjust to this rule. From there, the number will presumably shrink.
It will be going against what catchers have been trained to do for some time, so a trial period will be necessary and undoubtedly lead to a key loss for someone here and there. Suppressing their instincts will be tough, and a catcher who is in a hurry to lay down a tag on an advancing runner may not be acting with the new rule in mind as he stands helplessly at the plate, awaiting a throw. But in the long term, the ruling will keep the players a lot safer and cut down on the number of total collisions.