MLB finally unveiled its amended rules on home plate collisions Monday afternoon. It’s being labeled as an “experimental” rule in place for the 2014. Crew chiefs will be allowed to review collisions.
Read the full rule explanation yourself:
Players are required to slide at the plate rather than smashing into the catcher at full speed, while catchers can’t block the dish unless they already have the ball. This should cut down on injuries — especially concussions — while not radically altering the fabric of the game. What happens when both the ball and runner arrive at the same time will be what still causes issues.
Could this cut down on what we like to call “hard-nosed” baseball plays? Perhaps, although lowering your shoulder to collide into a catcher is unlike everything else you tend to do while playing baseball. There really is no need for catchers, be they Buster Posey or whomever, to get trucked by players running down the thirdbase line like madmen at full speed. If you want to say this is the further “wussification” of sports, so be it. Taking measures to prevent head injuries or other injuries that otherwise probably wouldn’t occur on a baseball diamond is okay in my book.
If there’s one quibble here it’s the wording of “egregious collisions” which is up to the umpire’s discretion. It sounds like it could be up to the umpires to decide if the player is going out of his way to collide with the catcher or if the catcher is blocking the plate in an extreme manner.
This is a bit coincidental since earlier in the year baseball finally adopted expanded replay via managerial challenges. Almost all other umpire calls are straightforward, ie safe/out; catch/no-catch; fair/foul. Judging contact and what constitutes an “egregious” level of contact might take some time to work out.
Even with that small issue, this appears to be a smart decision by baseball. Let’s see how it works out in practice.