Earlier this week Major League Baseball passed a rule limiting home plate collisions, effective immediately.
A runner can no longer change his path to home plate in order to charge into a catcher to knock the ball loose, nor can a catcher block home plate unless he has possession of the ball. This is a big step in the right direction for baseball, as the sport tries to make the game safer and prevent career ending injuries.
The merit of home plate collisions has been hotly debated ever since Pete Rose ran over Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game. Fosse was later diagnosed with a fractured and separated shoulder because of that collision, and never again performed at an All-Star level.
Calls for the rule change stem primarily from a play on May 25th, 2011 where San Francisco Giants star catcher Buster Poesy was run over by Florida Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins in the 12th inning. Cousins scored the winning run, while Posey left hobbling.
Posey broke his leg and tore ligaments in his ankle, which required season ending surgery. Posey did recover from his injury and went on to win the 2012 National League MVP and helped the Giants win the World Series that same season.
The home plate collision is similar to a big hit in football or hockey, it’s shocking when it happens and provides a big jolt of energy and excitement to the crowd.
The league, however, needs to protect its stars. The diagnosis of concussions has been on the rise in baseball, especially with catchers, which undoubtedly played a role in this decision. Just last August there were six catchers who were on the Disabled List with concussion like symptoms.
Not all players are thrilled by the new rule. Toronto Blue Jays backup catcher's Dionner Navarro and Erik Kratz have both spoken out against the change. “If you’re a guy who wants to stay there and save a run why can’t you?” said Kratz. “Why would they want to take that advantage away from somebody who is willing to get hurt?”
Navarro was involved in a collision last season when he was with the Chicago Cubs. In a game last August Navarro blocked Philadelphia Phillies star second baseman Chase Utley from scoring by blocking the plate before the ball arrived. Navarro was taken out on a stretcher due to the hit. Under the new rule Utley would be ruled safe because Navarrro can’t block the plate without the ball.
This new rule is a big step in the right direction for baseball, protecting players from concussions is a good move for all of sports. It also protects MLB from future litigation for damages incurred while playing. It is getting out in front of a problem.
Will this rule end injuries to catchers at the plate? No. But, this is a good step to enhance player safety.
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