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Ban on home plate collisions could be coming soon

Oct 19, 2013, 4:28 PM EDT

David Ross Alex Avila Getty Getty Images

Home plate collisions like the one we saw between David Ross and Alex Avila in Game 5 of the ALCS on Thursday may soon be a thing of the past.

ESPN’s Buster Olney was told by team officials that they expect the topic of banning home plate collisions to be raised again in meetings this winter. While it’s no sure thing that a rule change is made for 2014, it sounds like it’s just a matter of time before they are eliminated from the game for good.

Given how quickly sentiment within the sport about collisions is shifting — particularly as information about concussions has come to light, including the cost of concussion-related lawsuits faced by the National Football League — some officials talk of change as inevitable and predict that it could come swiftly.

“At this point, I don’t know who would argue to keep it, or what their argument would be,” said one team official who believes general managers will address the topic at their meetings next month. “There is no reasoned argument to keep it [in the game].”

This is nice to hear, as plays like we saw between Ross and Avila — who both missed time with concussions this year — are unnecessary and dangerous. Avila ended up leaving Game 5 with a strained patellar tendon, but things could have been much worse. Here’s another look at the play:

Olney was told by team officials that the rule change will likely reflect how the play is used at every level below professional baseball, namely that the baserunner is given an avenue toward the plate and is not allowed to target the catcher. And that sounds reasonable enough. There are plenty of managers and executives on the side of banning home plate collisions, including Mike Matheny, Jim Leyland, and Bruce Bochy, so let’s hope logic and safety prevails. And soon.

  1. johnnysoda - Oct 19, 2013 at 4:36 PM

    I can understand their thinking, but at the same time, I don’t expect it to be that practical. What’s a baserunner going to do in a close play at the plate? Let the catcher tag him out? I doubt it.

    • texasdawg - Oct 19, 2013 at 4:40 PM

      Be tagged out. Or be ejected. Fire the third base coach if it happens too often. This isn’t football, and anything that makes baseball less stupid than football is a positive. .

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 19, 2013 at 4:56 PM

      You can’t charge into any of the other players, so why is the catcher different? Also if the catcher blocks the plate without the ball, that’s interference isn’t it?

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:00 PM

        Technically it’s obstruction. But yes that’s the idea. This rule change will only work if they start properly enforcing this call.

      • mornelithe - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:04 PM

        Then they’d have to start looking at the take-out slide going into second, if not at the same time.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:12 PM

        The take-out slide at second is a complete and totally different kind of play. It’s no where near as forceful or violent, and 9 times out of 10 the player is simply trying to force the fielder to adjust or hurry their throw, in addition to the fact that the runner is sliding and actually slowing their momentum, and rarely make any contact at all. They aren’t charging into another defenseless player at full bore with arms crossed and shoulder lowered.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:13 PM

        One more thing. With the take out slide, it’s very easy to enforce on the field if the player gets too rough. The second baseman or shortstop will drop a knee into the sliding player’s rips/face area.

      • mornelithe - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:23 PM

        It’s still a play where someone could get seriously harmed. Especially in situations where a player has to tap the bag and throw to first all in one smooth motion. We’ve seen it time and again, and sometimes it does result in injury to the infielder. Just like with the home plate collision. How often does the play result in an injured catcher?

        And really, let’s be honest, it was the foul off Avila’s knee that ended up taking him out of the game anyway. What’re they going to do, ban foul balls now? To be clear, I’m not for banning home plate collisions. The problem there is ejecting the runner doesn’t make up for the fact that your plate defense, likely power catcher, and his game calling are gone. Who’s to say teams simply don’t pinch run, with an expendable bench player, just to take out the catcher? Banning it, doesn’t mean teams won’t do it anyway.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:30 PM

        I can’t think of any time since Ty Cobb a player was hurt on a take out slide. It’s also the reason so many get away with the neighborhood play at second.

      • Reflex - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:58 PM

        If you want to build a case against takeout slides, by all means do so. That has nothing to do with the fact that taking out the catcher is incredibly dangerous for both the runner and catcher and should be limited or banned.

        Finding something else possibly dangerous is not an argument for ignoring another dangerous play.

      • raysfan1 - Oct 19, 2013 at 6:04 PM

        Protecting the person covering second is what the “neighborhood play” is about.

      • yahmule - Oct 19, 2013 at 8:16 PM

        Did Frank Robinson, Baylor, McRae play after Cobb, because they were knocking middle infielders silly.

      • Francisco (FC) - Oct 19, 2013 at 8:25 PM

        I can’t think of any time since Ty Cobb a player was hurt on a take out slide

        Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

      • American of African Descent - Oct 19, 2013 at 10:09 PM

        It’s really easy to avoid being run into if you’re a catcher: don’t block the plate.

        The reason you don’t see people barreling into the second or third baseman is because you can’t overrun those bases.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 11:37 PM

        I’m not really sure how many times I have to say this in this thread. Catchers should not be blocking the plate. There is a rule against it, and it should be properly enforced. But like any other base, the player needs to be able to be in position to make a play without fear of getting leveled by a runner. In addition, standing near the bag and not blocking the plate has not stopped runners from barreling over a catcher before.

      • albertmn - Oct 20, 2013 at 9:40 AM

        If the take out slide at second was outlawed, it would help eliminate most contact at 2nd. While it wasn’t the infielder hurt in his situation, ask Morneau if the contact at 2nd makes a difference. If the slide was out, he wouldn’t have felt obligated to put himself in the position he was in when he got his concussion. It ended a potential MVP season (go look at his stats that season up to that point, they were exceptional) and you could argue it ruined his career (or at least the path his career was headed on).

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 4:58 PM

      You slide. It’s not that complicated.

      • forsch31 - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:04 PM

        Sliding into a catcher blocking the plate and wearing all that gear isn’t all that safe, either. Unless you like broken ankles or ripped tendons.

        My guess is that collisions won’t be outright banded, but they’ll look to do away with violent ones like the Ross/Avila one. Kind of like how the NHL has attempted to remove head shots…

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:10 PM

        If you notice below, I’ve said in two separate comments that it will only work if you start to enforce the rule stating that catchers without the ball can’t block the plate.

      • Arods Other Doctor - Oct 21, 2013 at 4:04 PM

        The anti collision rule works just fine in college baseball. It is amazing how many people think that the corporate entity that is MLB defines the only way the game can be enjoyed.

        All the people that say it won’t work unless this and that have obviously never watched high end amateur baseball.

    • cohnjusack - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:05 PM

      I’d be interested to know how often home plate collisions are actually successful. No one seems to have a definitive list of them to actually tell. But my guess, just from watching them over and over again, it not very. If it successfully dislodged the ball 10% of the time, is that worth the the much higher injury risk? Are 100 potential injuries worth 10 runs?

      Here’s an idea. Don’t get thrown out at home. Attempt to slide around the tag like you do at every other base. Players don’t go plowing into the 3rd baseman, why do we assume it’s fine to do so with the catcher?

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:18 PM

        It does not seem to work very often, and I have a feeling with absolutely ZERO evidence to support, but I believe that collisions at home have decreased over the years as players salaries have risen and coaches have figured out that it isn’t worth the risk.

      • mornelithe - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:26 PM

        It worked in a League of Their Own!

  2. texasdawg - Oct 19, 2013 at 4:37 PM

    Good news. People who want violence and concussions and CTE-related suicides can stick to football.

  3. theskinsman - Oct 19, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    Be interesting to see how this is implemented. Catching is dangerous enough without adding full speed collisions.

  4. nothanksimdriving123 - Oct 19, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    I suspect Ray Fosse will favor the change.

  5. byjiminy - Oct 19, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    Thank God. About time.

  6. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    I’m sure a bunch of people will scream and wine if they ban these collisions and call it “wussying” up the sport, but really this is a smart move, and one that should have been done a long time ago. The solution is really very simple. Slide. Also tell catchers they can no longer block the plate. It should be no different than when a runner attempts to steal second or third. If you do not slide on a close play, you are automatically out. If you block the plate, you are called for obstruction. Once the catcher acquires the ball, he or she may legally block the path of the base runner. Obstruction only applies to a defensive player who is not in possession of the ball. This is the way the majority of America plays the sport, (Little League, Rec Leagues, High-School and some college leagues.) and it should be this way in the professional leagues aswell.

    • American of African Descent - Oct 19, 2013 at 10:15 PM

      Home is different than second and third because you can’t overrun second or third.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 11:31 PM

        And that argument has been lost several times in this thread already.

      • American of African Descent - Oct 20, 2013 at 9:04 AM

        And by “lost several times,” you mean I’ve made it several times and it’s gotten lost in all of your complaining about how you were run over once when you were no where near the plate, and that your example is typical of each and every home plate collision?

    • piermo7 - Oct 20, 2013 at 12:49 PM

      Solution could be two first bases and two home plates and play baseball with plastic bats and a tennis ball so nobody get hurt,

      This is wussying up the game indeed.

      • Arods Other Doctor - Oct 21, 2013 at 4:06 PM

        Spoken like a true non-catcher.

  7. succulentnipples - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:02 PM

    This is what happens when there is no crab dip left.

  8. titansbro - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:05 PM

    You actually can charge into another position player if he’s blocking the base path. I don’t have a problem with this rule change but I can see the baseball elitists are coming out of the wood works.

  9. bigtrav425 - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    UGH! Stop the insanity!!!!!! Please for the love of god just stop all this none sense….the only ppl who have the “sentiment” to stop collisions,hard hits etc etc is all the overly PC pu$$ies

    • Sign Ahead - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:13 PM

      Is this actually supposed to be convincing?

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:16 PM

      Thanks more making my argument for me by showing your ignorance.

      The only people against such a rule are the people who’ve never been run over at the plate by a guy who runs a 4.3 at 240lbs running full bore with arms crossed and shoulders lowered, aiming for taking off your head while your back is turned.

      • American of African Descent - Oct 19, 2013 at 10:20 PM

        Why are you blocking the plate with your back turned? You shouldn’t be near the plate unless you’ve got the ball!

        Put it another way, would you go running out into the street without looking both ways first? No? Then why would you put yourself into a situation where “a guy who runs a 4.3 at 240lbs [is] running full bore” without keeping at least one eye on him? Is the run really that important that you’d risk injuring yourself for the rest of the season?

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 11:33 PM

        Yes, excuse the catcher for standing near the bag he is supposed to defend. Really, why am I bothering with someone who has obviously never played the position before?

      • American of African Descent - Oct 20, 2013 at 8:55 AM

        You realize that there’s a big difference between “standing near the bag” and standing in the base path (while looking the other way) and trying to block the progress of a 200 pound man.

        Only one of these activities will get you leveled.

      • Arods Other Doctor - Oct 21, 2013 at 4:10 PM

        Afro American, you obviously haven’t watched much baseball. You see the one where Adam Dunn hit the guy standing three feet in front of home plate? You see the dozens of times a year the running will go straight into the catcher who is up in front and intending to swipe and not blocking at all? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

        You put your kid out there and watch his career end because someone put a forearm through his neck and then tell me how great a part of the game it is. It’s just stupid.

  10. jason9696 - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:09 PM

    What does Pete Rose think?

    • frank433 - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:17 PM

      Pete Rose would bet on a change coming soon.

      • km9000 - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:50 PM

        I see what you did there.

  11. Anoesis - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    Brian McCann just put his fist through his computer monitor.

  12. elwaysmilehighdenver - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:17 PM

    If NO attempt is made to touch the plate, then you should NOT have a free run at the Catcher. It’s that simple.

  13. jwbiii - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:31 PM

    This is not a rule change. This is simply a matter of instructing the umpires to enforce the baserunner obstruction rule.

    7.06 When obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal “Obstruction.”

    (a) If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batter-runner is obstructed before he touches first base, the ball is dead and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire’s judgment, if there had been no obstruction. The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction. Any preceding runners, forced to advance by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction, shall advance without liability to be put out.

    Note that the runner is safe regardless of whether the obstructing fielder has possession of the ball.

    • paperlions - Oct 19, 2013 at 6:03 PM

      Exactly. The rule banning collisions already exists as does the rule banning catchers from blocking the plate without the ball. All that is necessary is to make umpires enforce it and to tell players the rules will be enforced.

      This is like the revision of the strike zone a decade or so ago. They didn’t re-define the zone, they just finally started to make umpires call the zone in the rule book and reduced the amount of variation in the zone called by umpires.

    • seeinred87 - Oct 20, 2013 at 2:26 AM

      Obstruction, by definition, occurs without (and only without) the ball.

      “OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and
      not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.”

  14. wouldabeenthere - Oct 19, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    Think I favor eliminating collisions, for safety sake but how will it work? Baserunner slow to a walk and catcher standing near but not in front of plate walk around and tag runner?

    • thesportsjudge - Oct 19, 2013 at 7:30 PM

      If the link does not work, go to wikipedia and type in Morra.

      The baserunner and catcher can stand in opposite batters’ box and do that game(Morra).

    • Arods Other Doctor - Oct 21, 2013 at 4:15 PM

      The rule in amateur baseball is that you can:
      1. slide
      2. try to elude (jump over, try to get past, run back the other way)
      3. give yourself up

      There is not an option to try to run through the player with the ball or to try to jar the ball loose at any base including home.

      This is true for college on down to youth leagues, though some of the those are more stringent and do not allow you to jump over the player with the ball.

  15. cogitobaseballergosum - Oct 19, 2013 at 6:33 PM

    Actually it does matter whether or not the fielder has the ball, although there is some umpire discretion regarding an incoming throw. The rule you cited is not the one that defines obstruction, it merely refers back to the term which was outlined in the definitions section (Rule 2.00 contains all the defined terms):

    OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and
    not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.
    Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball
    is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the
    ball he may be considered “in the act of fielding a ball.” It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire
    as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball
    and missed, he can no longer be in the “act of fielding” the ball. For example: an infielder dives at a
    ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of
    the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.

    • cogitobaseballergosum - Oct 19, 2013 at 6:49 PM

      Sorry, that was meant to be a reply to jwbiii.

      And the possession of the ball matters, because without it, any blocking of a base by any part of a fielder could be considered obstruction. Think of any non-force play at a base where the fielder drops his glove, with the ball, in front of the base so the runner will slide into it before his foot hits the base. Without the possession part of the rule that situation could be interpreted as obstruction. Or when a pitcher or first baseman fields a sac bunt up the first base line and stands in the baseline waiting for the batter/runner to get there for the tag. Without the ball it’s obstruction, with the ball it’s legal.

    • jwbiii - Oct 19, 2013 at 8:57 PM

      cogito, I get your point, but you are referring to a comment, which is an interpretation of a rule. A comment, an interpretation, is about as difficult to change as a pair of socks.

      • cogitobaseballergosum - Oct 20, 2013 at 1:29 AM

        But the definition of obstruction, before the comment, clearly states “while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball” – as opposed to your statement “regardless of whether the obstructing fielder has possession of the ball.”

        I took your statement as a contention that even if the catcher had the ball he was still guilty of obstruction if he blocked the plate. If that’s not what you meant, I apologize.

  16. weaselpuppy - Oct 19, 2013 at 6:39 PM

    I can see allowing the catcher to have ONE foot in the baseline to block the plate, setting up for a sweep tag, or if the ball gets there real early, come up and move up the fair side of the baseline to tag them….runners can slide to the back corner and reach for the plate or try and slide through the blocking foot….but no longer allow catchers to STAND in the baseline or have both feet blocking the plate.

    Not a big change as far as baserunners go…they simply can’t plow into the body of the catcher anymore, especially if the catcher is following the rules and isn’t there to plow into.

  17. flickflint - Oct 19, 2013 at 6:39 PM

    Or make a rule that catchers can’t take their helmet/masks off when runners on base? Baseball will be way boring without the possibility of a home plate collision

  18. cmpuck - Oct 19, 2013 at 7:17 PM

    What’s happening in this generation of sports?
    No fighting in hockey, no hits on defenseless receivers, and now you can’t run into a catcher anymore?

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Oct 19, 2013 at 7:36 PM

      Um, sanity?

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 7:44 PM

      We aren’t in ancient Rome anymore. No need to watch men with swords fight tigers for amusement. If you want violence, go watch Boxing or MMA.

      • Francisco (FC) - Oct 19, 2013 at 8:30 PM

        Are you NOT entertained!?!? Yeah this ain’t Rome no more.

    • jwbiii - Oct 19, 2013 at 8:30 PM

      Because one Dave Duerson is one too many.

      • piermo7 - Oct 20, 2013 at 12:42 PM

        Along with your logic two wheels motor sports should be banned.

  19. drelms - Oct 19, 2013 at 7:24 PM

    I love the comments from people saying that the catchers are defenseless. Have they ever watched a game? Every catcher standing at home blocking the plate is facing towards the field and is waiting to catch the ball being thrown from the field either infield or outfield. He sees the ball and knows full well that a guy is coming in from third, how is he defenseless? You could see Avila was catching the ball and bracing for the collision as David Ross was bearing down, he knew full well he was getting hit, in no way defenseless. It’s part of the game leave it alone.

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 7:51 PM

      I’ll tell you what. You stand at home facing into right field with full catchers gear on, and let me come running full speed from third and plow my shoulder and forearm into the side of your head and you tell me that you are safe. I’ve been in the position and suffered a concussion that lasted for months, and let me tell you it’s not fun. (The last thing I remember from that night is spinning around a few times and blacking out before hitting the ground. I also am told that I never left the game and actually got a double my next at bat, as well as drove home, but only remember waking up home the next day.) This is just one of those cases where the people who have never been in the line of fire have no clue what they are talking about. (And I am not intending to be rude or insulting in any way, I promise.)

      • American of African Descent - Oct 19, 2013 at 10:30 PM

        Or how about exercising some personal responsibility? You know that a guy is coming around third base at full speed. You either have the ball and are in a position to make the play, or you don’t.

        For the record, if I’m set — that is if I have the ball and I’m facing you — I’ll let you come full speed at me and try to score. It’s probably not going to end well for you. Now if I’m looking the other way waiting for the ball to come to me and I get hit . . . well I was kind of asking for it by putting myself in harms way, right?

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 11:40 PM

        I was not blocking the plate when I got run over. I was standing in front of the plate. That did not stop the runner from running me over “because that’s what Pete Rose would do.”

        The problem is not when catchers are set, the problem is the time immediately before that when the majority of these collisions tend to occur, when the catcher is still attempting to field the thrown ball and the runner blindsides them. So how about we just stop all collisions and prevent unnecessary injury, so the players can you know, play the damn game.

      • American of African Descent - Oct 20, 2013 at 9:02 AM

        I agree that you’ve identified the problem. But the times I’ve seen someone run over the catcher it’s because the catcher has his eyes somewhere else and is impeding the base runner’s path to the plate. Want to “play the damn game”? Stay well out of the way of the oncoming base runner unless you’ve got the ball! Simple self-preservation.

        If someone ran over you when you were well in front of the plate just to prove some sort of point, you might appeal to the league. (Alternatively, you can do what we do when pitchers throw at us, and kick his ass.) Just because you got hurt because one player played dirty does not mean we should treat catchers like NFL punters, where touching them is an automatic penalty.

  20. pastabelly - Oct 19, 2013 at 7:28 PM

    Agree with posts about plate blocking catchers making a rule change impractical. Thes guys block base path and plate long before they have the ball.

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 7:45 PM

      And the point we’ve been making is that this action is already currently illegal and needs to be enforced properly.

  21. psly2124 - Oct 19, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    Maybe they should ban swinging while there at it

  22. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 11:49 PM

    “the rule change will likely reflect how the play is used at every level below professional baseball”

    This right here really tells you all you need to know. The proposed rule will likely be the same as EVERY LEVEL BELOW MLB. If 99% of baseball has one rule, but MLB has another, maybe there’s a reason for that, and when the safety of multimillion dollar players are concerned, maybe we should take a good look at that. MLB should be an instrument for positive change and progression in the sport. It shouldn’t be the rest of baseball pushing MLB to change to keep up.

  23. kitnamania13 - Oct 20, 2013 at 12:37 AM

    Home plate collisions are the one thing that prevent baseball players from being bigger pansies than soccer players. Catchers already get to wear helmets, masks, chest protectors, and leg protection. Let’s see them earn all that protection every once in a while.

  24. piermo7 - Oct 20, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    One good thing about baseball is that baseball has it all as an sport speed strength and hard contact. To ban home plate collisions is to take away an important feature of the game.

    What is next? Two first bases? A tennis ball to prevent injuries?

    MLB is moving in the wrong direction on this one.

  25. piermo7 - Oct 20, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    People must understand there is a difference between hard contact and violence, there is no violence in contact or combat sports. If you see Ávila/Ross play you will see Ross showing sportmanship to Ávila after collision.

    If you don’t like contact stick to non contact sports, but don’t try con make every sport a non contact sport.

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