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2014 Preview: with a new rule, plate collisions will be a thing of the past . . . maybe

Mar 26, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

Utley collision 3

In addition to expanded replay, another significant change is in place for the 2014 season: a new rule intended to cut down on collisions at home plate. The sort of which led to Buster Posey‘s broken leg a few years ago and countless catcher concussions over the years. The basics of the rule are as follows:

  • 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).
  • 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.

It’s not a perfect rule. Many assumed, before it was announced, that the rule would prevent catchers from ever blocking home plate, whether they have the ball or not. As of now they can still do it as long as they have the ball. If so — and if the runner isn’t overly obvious in his efforts to knock the ball loose — we will still likely see some serious physical contact at the plate, with a ball-possessing catcher being hit by a plate-seeking runner.

Still, it’s something. It will prevent runners from lowering that shoulder and hitting a sitting duck catcher. And it will prevent catchers from setting up as some sort of fortification guarding the plate as they wait for a throw. Injuries should be reduced.

I say “should” because, unlike the replay rule, there is considerably more uncertainty as to how this rule will play out in practice. ¬†Just yesterday, while watching the Tigers-Braves spring training game, ESPN commentator, former catcher and former manager Eric Wedge said that, were he on the field, he’d still block the plate without the ball. His thinking: make a tag any way you can and put the onus on the¬†umpire put a run back on the board if he decides you violated the rule. It’s not irrational to think you can get away with it sometimes given how many things an ump has to look at on such plays and given that, under this rule, you are allowed to block the plate sometimes. It’s possible some baserunners will think the same thing and try to knock balls loose in more subtle ways than before.

I predict that we’ll get more contentious and controversial plays out of this new rule than the replay rule. But as baseball officials will always tell you, they’d prefer incremental change over wholesale change and then tweak later if necessary. There will probably be some tweaking in the future.

  1. phillysports1 - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    Picture above , I was at that game . Donnie Murphy’s homer nailed us smh

  2. clydeserra - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    ” As of now they can still do it as long as they have the ball.”

    that was always the rule. just never enforced (see Vartek, jason).

    The new part ot the rule is about the runner

    • paperlions - Mar 26, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      Right, just like any other position player at any other base. All fielders with a ball are allowed to block the progress of the runner when attempted to make a tag.

  3. renaado - Mar 26, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    I’m pretty sure Leagues in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea will still be doing the collision though. I’m pretty sure they don’t heard MLB’s new rule, well even if they do they’d hardly follow it, anyway it’s their own league there.

    • paperlions - Mar 26, 2014 at 12:32 PM

      Are you sure those leagues even allow collisions? Collisions are not allowed in HS, college, or the minors. MLB was the ONLY level of baseball in the US that allowed runners to run over catchers.

      • renaado - Mar 26, 2014 at 12:41 PM

        I don’t really know what they’re saying though but Murton and Aikawa was probably ejected because of the Brawl not at the collision. Yakyubaka probably has the description for that though but it’s already outdated now and couldn’t be found on one of it’s pages anymore.

    • DJ MC - Mar 26, 2014 at 1:12 PM

      Good for them.

  4. freddsox - Mar 26, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    Where is Scott Cousins these days. Out of baseball?

    • renaado - Mar 26, 2014 at 11:33 AM

      He’s probably thinking “Why… Am I the reason for all of this?” statement.

  5. big64d - Mar 26, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    The best way for the catcher not to get hurt in a collision at the plate is to not block the plate. Seems pretty simple to me. I don’t think that calls for a rule.

    • mtr75 - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:46 PM

      I’ve been saying that since this was announced, and I’ve been killed on here for it. Much better to have the umpire make the determination than he players on the field, right? This is a pointless, poorly thought out and unnecessary rule.

  6. big64d - Mar 26, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    Is sliding into second to hard to break up a double play going to be against the rules soon?

    #ImpeachBudseliG

    • paperlions - Mar 26, 2014 at 12:33 PM

      No, just like sliding too hard into home plate isn’t against the rules but running over the 2B/SS at 2B is against the rules.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:17 PM

        Honey, you’re reasoning with someone who thinks Bud can be impeached. No.

      • paperlions - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:35 PM

        Oh, that’s what that mean…I thought he was calling Bud a peach.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:39 PM

        Bud’s a prune.

      • big64d - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:27 PM

        Youre an idiot because its not against the rules. As long as youre with in a reasonable distance front he bag you can take out the 2nd/SS. It happens all of the time.

      • mtr75 - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:05 PM

        No it isn’t.

  7. southernballhawk1 - Mar 26, 2014 at 12:28 PM

    Before you know it they will make so many stupid rules it wont even be baseball any more. Look at what they are doing to football!

    • nategearhart - Mar 26, 2014 at 1:30 PM

      What’s your beef with this rule?

      • southernballhawk1 - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:43 PM

        An old southern saying “If it ante broke then don’t fix it.” Sure some catcher have gotten hurt in the past but injury is part of the game!

    • nategearhart - Mar 27, 2014 at 10:11 AM

      So then I assume you also dislike mitts and batting helmets.

      • southernballhawk1 - Mar 27, 2014 at 10:21 AM

        very funny.

      • nategearhart - Mar 27, 2014 at 10:32 AM

        Then explain the difference.

      • southernballhawk1 - Mar 27, 2014 at 10:46 AM

        Running over the catcher is a play and taking away that play is changing how we play the game. Wearing protection does not change how we play the game it just makes it safer but does not change the game play.

  8. zdravit - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:27 PM

    When a runner knows he’s dead, he’ll still blow up the catcher.

    • moogro - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:41 PM

      I wonder if you are right. I wonder if it was blatant if there would be an ejection.

  9. stupidusername - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:12 PM

    So a catcher is still allowed to stick his padded leg up the baseline, as long as he does it when he catches the ball and not before. And a runner is still allowed to plow the catcher as long as he doesn’t go out of his path to do it… Unless there’s more to the rule change than you posted then I fail to see a change that will make a difference. Utley still pops up to plow the catcher instead of jamming his foot into a padded leg and Posey still gets run over because the runner didn’t change his path… Catchers, please stop going to both knees on or in front of the plate. If a runner runs you over you’re going to bend backwards with your knees and ankles under you… How about just making the rule that runners have to slide if there is a clear opening to the base and any fielder can’t ever stick a leg (or any other body part without the ball) in front of a base.

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