With Spring Training games starting this afternoon in Florida and Arizona, we have a couple of new rules coming in to play that we should be aware of. One being manager’s challenges, similar to that of the NFL coaches’ challenge, and a new rule regarding collisions at home plate between a catcher and baserunner.
The rule is as follows: If a baserunner goes out of his way to cause a collision with the catcher, the batter is called out, regardless of if the catcher maintained possession of the ball. Also, a catcher may only block the plate if he has the ball in his hands.
At first glance, it seemed like the league, led by Joe Torre’s recommendations, was trying to ban collisions at home plate altogether from the game. But looking at this rule from a logical perspective, it makes sense.
Collisions at home plate are part of some of the most exciting plays in baseball. The moment of suspense while the umpire is making his mind up whether the runner is safe or out leaves us in a state of suspense that seems like it lasts forever. But the idea behind this rule is not getting rid of all collisions, but the ones that don’t need to happen. If a runner is going for the plate, and the catcher has the ball and is blocking the plate, the runner has to try and knock the ball out. That’s fine. But if the baserunner is hitting the catcher just to hit the catcher, or the catcher is blocking the plate hoping the ball will get there soon, then we run into unnecessary violence.
We have had nasty collisions in the past, and the one that comes freshest in my mind is that of Buster Posey’s collision that broke his leg and caused him to miss an entire season, and consider leaving the game of baseball. Whether that collision with Marlins’ Scott Cousins would be deemed “egregious” by the standards of this rule is a bit fuzzy or not, this rule change is meant to help promote player safety. By eliminating these unnecessary collisions, players can be safer around the plate.
There always has been an unwritten rule, regarding these collisions, that if you know you’re out, to just give in and let it go. Also, by the catcher, they usually just wait for the ball to come in, because the other baserunners might advance if the ball gets by him. This rule just puts in guidelines of discipline and results of what an umpire might deem inappropriate. It makes sense to me.
People might be looking too much into this new rule, but it’s simply a good move to help player safety. Tip of the cap for that.