With an endorsement from the Major League Baseball players' union, the MLB instituted a new rule on Monday regarding collisions at home plate.
"There is nothing more sacred in the game than home plate, and base runners want to do all they can to score a run, while catchers want to do their best to defend the plate — in many cases, at all costs," said Tony Clark, executive director of the MLBPA. "Therefore, as one might imagine, the issue of home plate collisions is one that generates spirited debate among the players. Because of this, coming up with a rule change that allows both the runner and catcher a fair and equal opportunity to score and defend was our mandate.”
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According to MLB.com, highlights of the experimental collision rule
adopted in December include not allowing a runner to “run out of a direct line to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher, or any player, covering the plate. If he does, the umpire can call him out even if the player taking the throw loses possession of the ball.”
Another aspect of the rule is “the catcher may not block the pathway of a runner attempting to score unless he has possession of the ball. If the catcher blocks the runner before he has the ball, the umpire may call the runner safe.”
"We believe the new experimental rule allows for the play at the plate to retain its place as one of the most exciting plays in the game while providing an increased level of protection to both the runner and the catcher,” Clark said. ”We will monitor the rule closely this season before discussing with the Commissioner's Office whether the rule should become permanent."
Several MLB teams have reportedly been incorporating the new rule into their spring workouts and scrutinized plays during the season will be subject to instant replay review.
The new rule was created after Buster Posey, catcher for the San Francisco Giants, broke his leg during a violent home plate collision in May 2011 with Scott Cousins, an outfielder for the Florida Marlins.
"I think those are positive changes. I don't think they'll change the game, just some safety stuff that will keep guys on the field a lot longer," said Jason Castro, a catcher for the Houston Astros, said on MLB.com.
“I think it makes a lot of sense,” Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco added. "It takes away those unnecessary collisions. [But] I think nothing really gets a team going like a play at the plate. I didn't want them to take away any contact at all."
Veteran MLB catcher A.J. P Pierznyski, who now plays for the Boston Red Sox, told USA TODAY Sports over the weekend that he understands why the rule
was made but doesn’t agree with it, saying there will be “plays at the plate, late in games.”
"It's one of those things, as a big-league catcher, I signed up for it,” he said. “You never want to see guys get hurt, and you never want to see guys go down because of it, but it's part of the game you signed up for.”
John Gibbons, the Toronto Blue Jays’ manager and former catcher, said he’s not convinced that the new rule will change much of what happens at home plate.
“A lot of catchers don't hold their ground at the plate anymore anyway,” he told MLB.com. ”A lot of them leak out and use the swipe tag to begin with. It will be a small adjustment. I don't think it will be that big a deal."
A committee of players and managers will review how the rule is being applied during the 2014 baseball season and discussion will continue as to whether the rule will be made permanent.
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