Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association implemented a new experimental rule regarding home plate collisions (Experimental Rule 7.13) on Monday in effort to stop malicious and unnecessary collisions. The official MLB Press Release outlines the pathway guidelines for runners and states when a catcher (or other player covering) can and cannot block home plate. Here are the TWO rules:
- A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate). If, in the judgment of the Umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the Umpire shall declare the runner out (EVEN IF THE PLAYER COVERING HOME PLATE LOSES POSSESSION OF THE BALL). In such circumstances, the Umpire shall call the ball dead, and all other base runners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision.
Rule 7.13 Comment: The failure by the runner to make an effort to touch the plate, the runner’s lowering of the shoulder, or the runner’s pushing through with his hands, elbows or arms, would support a determination that the runner deviated from the pathway in order to initiate contact with the catcher in violation of Rule 7.13. If the runner slides into the plate in an appropriate manner, he shall not be adjudged to have violated Rule 7.13. A slide shall be deemed appropriate, in the case of a feet first slide, if the runner’s buttocks and legs should hit the ground before contact with the catcher. In the case of a head first slide, a runner shall be deemed to have slid appropriately if his body should hit the ground before contact with the catcher.
- Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the Umpire, the catcher without possession of the ball blocks the pathway of the runner, the Umpire shall call or signal the runner safe. Notwithstanding the above, it shall not be considered a violation of this Rule 7.13 if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in order to field a throw, and the Umpire determines that the catcher could not have fielded the ball without blocking the pathway of the runner and that contact with the runner was unavoidable.
Also noted is how instant replay will be used to review a potential violation:
The Umpire Crew Chief will have discretion to invoke instant replay in order to determine whether Rule 7.13 was violated.”
To me, this implies that the only the Crew Chief can initiate the instant replay and not the manager, which does not seem logical. However, according to Drew Davison Ron Washington and J.P. Arencibia do like the new rule
— Drew Davison (@drewdavison) February 25, 2014
As I truly understand the need to protect players, I am not in agreement of adopting the new rule two days before Spring Training games begin. I know that this is “experimental” throughout the season, but I am still leery of changing both the runner and catcher’s frame of mind right before the start of the season without proper training.
I think everyone who watches (or plays) sports want to ensure the safety of the players so we can continue to enjoy our favorite players and teams for a long time. I’m just not sure I am 100% on board with altering the way a player has played the game their entire life in the blink of an eye. Hopefully, I’ll come around with understanding soon, just like I did with instant replay.