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Cardinals manager and former catcher Mike Matheny supports a ban on home plate collisions

Oct 19, 2013, 6:05 PM EDT

Mike Matheny AP

Earlier, D.J. Short informed us that Major League Baseball is considering banning collisions at home plate in an effort to better protect catchers. There have been quite a few incidents that have been the impetus of the call for change, most notably when Buster Posey and Scott Cousins collided on May 25, 2011. Posey was hurt badly, as he suffered a broken fibula and torn ankle ligaments. Most recently, Tigers catcher Alex Avila was bowled over at home plate by fellow catcher David Ross in Game 5 of the ALCS. Avila didn’t suffer a concussion, but there was concern since Avila was only a couple months separated from a previous concussion.

Another motivating factor is the mess the NFL finds itself in, with many retired players suffering from CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The NFL has been the target of many lawsuits as a result. Back in August, the NFL settled with about 18,000 retired players for a total of $765 million. Major League Baseball, seeing this, wants no part of that.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is one of a growing number of former Major Leaguers to support a ban on home plate collisions. Matheny caught for the Cardinals, Brewers, Blue Jays, and Giants over his 13-year Major League career and he was forced into retirement after suffering a concussion in 2007. Via Derrick Goold, here’s what Matheny had to say about the situation:

“I do believe that this game will get to the point where there will no longer be a collision at the plate, ” Matheny said during spring training. “And I am 100 percent in support of that. … Can this game survive without that play? I say absolutely.

“Why doesn’t it turn into every other base?” Matheny continued. “It’s a tag play. You get in position to make a tag like a third baseman. No one is going to (level) a third baseman. … I’d love to hear the rebuttal. What I personally witnessed is enough to change my mind. It took me a little longer to get to the realization of risk we’re putting these guys in.”

  1. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    Smart man. I hope MLB hears his words.

  2. hojo20 - Oct 19, 2013 at 6:36 PM

    Imagine the 2003 NLDS….. Giants down to their last out vs. the Marlins,,,.JT Snow rounding third, heading home for the tying run…..Pudge Rodriguez has the ball…..and JT can’t attempt to jar the ball out of Pudge’s glove because of the MLB’s fear of litigation. So sad.

    • atxjustin - Oct 19, 2013 at 7:07 PM

      This isn’t coming completely from a fear of litigation from MLB, this is about the short and long term health and safety of the players.

      Players and third base coaches will just have to be more selective about trying to score on close plays, knowing they can no longer barrel into the catcher.

    • joelgold - Oct 19, 2013 at 7:15 PM

      And that would have totally changed the outcome of that game, huh?

      • mkprz - Oct 20, 2013 at 12:48 PM

        He would have lost the game where Ellis was out at the plate.
        Of course, he wants this new rule now.

  3. Marty McKee - Oct 19, 2013 at 7:09 PM

    I thought this was common sense, but the reason nobody levels a third baseman is because a runner isn’t allowed to overrun third, but he can overrun home plate. How many years has Matheny been in baseball?

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Oct 19, 2013 at 7:42 PM

      OK, plays at 1st base then.

    • paperlions - Oct 19, 2013 at 7:49 PM

      Have you ever seen a runner run over the pitcher when trying to score on a passed ball or wild pitch? Why not? The “over running the base” thing is irrelevant for multiple reasons, first of which is that on most collisions the runner doesn’t even wind up past home plate, but sprawled somewhere near it.

      But mostly, it is the fact that a runner can over run any base all he wants, of course, he could be tagged out, but a runner isn’t out simply for running past any base. If the ball is successfully dislodged from assaulting a 1B/2B/SS/3B then a runner would have plenty of time to get back to the base. The only time a runner can not leave the base line is with the intention of avoiding a tag, if you’ve run over the guy with the ball (which is interference by rule regardless of the base or identity of the fielder), then no one is trying to tag you…so straying from the base would not result in being called out. Besides, you can assault any fielder without going more than a couple of feet past the base.

      It is unclear when guys started runner over catchers, but they didn’t do it pre WWII, is seems to have started sometime in the 50s or 60s. At no point in history has blocking a base without the ball or running over a fielder to dislodge the ball NOT been against MLB rules, and there are no special rules for home plate or collisions with the catcher.

      How long have you been watching baseball? Do you even know the rules?

      • Marty McKee - Oct 20, 2013 at 10:05 AM

        Huh? Good grief, Cardinals fans. Of course, you *can* overrun third base–there’s no invisible barrier there–but, as you note, you run the risk of being tagged out if you do, which is why no runner bowls over the fielder. Would a runner have plenty of time to get back to the bag? Maybe, maybe not. It isn’t worth the risk to runners to find out.

        And, of course, avoiding a tag is not the only time a runner is prohibited from leaving the baseline, as interference calls on batter/runners running on the grass to first base demonstrate.

  4. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 7:57 PM

    I posted this in the previous thread, but it’s still relevant, so I’ll copy/paste. For all those saying that the play should be kept, I will put money down that almost 0 of them have ever actually been in this situation as Mr. Matheny has been. Which is why his opinion on the matter is so important.

    “I’ll tell you what. You stand at home looking 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.)”

  5. paco53 - Oct 19, 2013 at 11:38 PM

    I was a catcher before they implemented rules for collisions. I am a high school umpire now. It is a great rule to stop the collisions at the plate and it is not hard to call. I ejected a runner last season for slamming into a catcher. In my many years of umpiring, there have not been that many ejections. Runners know they cannot try to kill the catchers.

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 19, 2013 at 11:47 PM

      Congratulations to you good sir. I know too many umpires who allow players to attempt to destroy catchers, and it is 100% unnecessary, especially in leagues where people are playing simply for the fun of it.

  6. mkprz - Oct 20, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    I agree with the Cardinals.
    Let’s stop blocking home plate, but only after this year of course.
    Otherwise. Ellis would have been safe even after his own catcher blocked the plate and caused a collision.
    Not severe, thank goodness..

    • forsch31 - Oct 20, 2013 at 2:28 PM

      You do realize that Ellis was out by a country mile, right? That Molina had time to order a soda and some chips while waiting for Ellis to come in? Also, Ellis slid into him…it wasn’t a collision. Ellis wasn’t trying to level Molina, only knock the ball from Molina’s mitt. That’s why the “collision” wasn’t too bad and both guys got up right away with no ill-effects.

      Mike Matheny is a former catcher who’s career ended due to multiple concussions. He’s spoken out before about the need to cut down on violent home plate collisions. This is nothing new from him.

  7. mtr75 - Oct 20, 2013 at 7:00 PM

    Just curious, which other base does the fielder physically block all access to the bag? When a second baseman covers second, he still leaves access to the bag. You can slide to wherever he isn’t. The catcher is the only guy on the field who physically puts his body in a position to totally block you from being able to touch the plate. If you don’t want to get run over, get out of the way. I’ve seen other players physically impede a runner in the base paths and get plowed the hell over. Get out of the way. Simple as that.

    • Arods Other Doctor - Oct 21, 2013 at 2:02 PM

      So if you’re trying to go from first to third and the throw beats you by fifteen feet you should try to put your forearm through the third baseman’s neck? Why not? He’s in your way after all. And unlike what you said, he’s completely blocking the bag … it’s not just the catcher. When he has the ball why the hell would he be off to either side giving you a lane to get past him?

      If the guy doesn’t have the ball and he’s in the base path it is obstruction and you’re automatically safe. College rules (or high school or below) do not permit going in high on the catcher and there are not as many stupid injuries because of it. You should try watching something other than MLB and you may appreciate that MLB rules are not the only way the game can be played.

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