Less than one season into Major League Baseball dabbling with the new rule pertaining to catchers blocking home plate, the policy has been shown to be a mistake and it should be repealed, shelved, and forgotten. Return baseball to baseball the way it has always been played.
MLB administration and the Players Association negotiated something called Rule 7.13 and introduced it on an experimental basis this season. The two main aspects of the rule are that a runner cannot swerve to clobber the catcher and the catcher cannot block home plate without having the ball.
Didn’t umpires have discretion before to penalize a runner for going out of the baseline? Couldn’t they count a run if a catcher interfered with a runner? Tools were on the books to deal with situations already. But now the situation has become farcical. It is clear that the rule deserves an “F” because it has been a failure.
Baseball players compete on instinct when the ball is in play, their running, throwing, and catching ingrained from years of practice. The base runner’s goal is to make it safely home to score a run. The stalwart, warrior catcher has been taught to block the plate and give the runner no room to sneak a sliding foot in to steal a touch.
Well, these days neither the catcher nor the runner truly knows where the defensive man is allowed to stand, or what he is allowed to do. Umpires enforcing the new rule have called players safe who never touched the plate because a catcher was a foot too close to the base path or put a foot in front of the plate “too soon.” What was an out in the past may be a run today.
Catchers and runners have expressed befuddlement about what is legal and what is not. More frequently the catcher pays a price just for playing his position.
The purpose of the rule made sense since it is for player safety. The plan was to legislate the prevention of football-like collisions at the plate that can cause serious injuries. The genesis of the idea has been blamed on a serious home-plate crash between young San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey and Marlins runner Scott Cousins. In May of 2011 Posey suffered a broken leg and torn ankle ligaments and missed the rest of the season. The new rule has been termed “The Buster Posey Rule.”
There is no magic formula to prevent injury. A player can tear knee ligaments stepping over the white line in order to get to his position, or he can be thrown out trying to steal second, or by trying to stretch a double into a triple. You can’t control flukes or fate.
Also, for decades fans have known the most exciting occurrence in baseball is the play at the plate. By instituting this vague rule they have been deprived of that in many instances. Catchers are paid to safegaurd the plate and they wear armor on their bodies from helmets to chest protectors to shin guards. A base runner wears no such equipment to protect his body. Yes, the catcher is standing still, but the runner is usually trying to elude the catcher, not run him over. And if he is, so be it. The catcher tries to hold onto the ball after the tag and the runner tries to jostle it free. It’s part of the game.
The worst element of the home-plate collision rule is that practically nobody understands it or how it is enforced. Just a few nights ago the Chicago White Sox were playing (coincidentally) against the Giants and a hugely controversial play broke out. San Francisco’s Joe Panik hit a grounder to Chicago first baseman Jose Abreu, who scooped it up and threw home. Catcher Tyler Flowers tagged runner Gregor Blanco with ease when he arrived about a week later.
Seriously, Blanco was at least 15 feet away when Flowers caught the ball. Flowers had enough time to cook a frozen dinner in the microwave before Blanco got there. Then Blanco was called safe because Flowers had put down a foot in front of home plate before catching the ball.
Flowers went into shock. White Sox manager Robin Venture went ballistic. He kicked dirt on home plate. By the time he finished burying it there were enough particles on top to build a sand castle. At times he looked like a place kicker trying out for an NFL job. Ventura definitely raised a dust storm. He also screamed until his vocal chords faded. The run stood, Ventura was ejected.
Wrong. It is the rule that should be ejected.