In a move that has been on the horizon for the past year, MLB has decided to place a one year ban on collisions at home plate, in turn changing 145 years of MLB history. And while this move is well intentioned on its face, there is no doubting that it actually detracts from baseball rather than adding to it.
The new rule, 7.13, says “a runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or any other player who covers home plate).” If a player breaks this rule they will automatically be called out which effectively gives catcher’s eminent domain over home plate.
Of course the value behind making this new rule is rooted in saving catchers from injuries, especially after seeing San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey break his leg in a home plate collision back in 2011. Posey missed the rest of that season, as did Cleveland Indians catcher Carlos Santana after being injured back in 2010. Each of these players were huge parts of their respective organizations, and their injuries brought a huge spotlight to the push to ban home plate collisions.
But while the thought process may be rooted in positive, the overall rule changes the dynamic of players who are approaching home plate and really does not avoid as many injuries as one may like to think. While there are little documented numbers on how many catchers are actually injured at the plate every year, it is hard to recall ten players in the last 30 years who have been injured at the plate.
Furthermore, taking out all aspects of the game that would risk a player’s health is certainly impossible even in a sport that is as non-reliant on contact as baseball. After all, are you going to stop players from sliding hard into second base because it can cut an opposing player? Or what about forcing guys to stop running ten feet before the warning track because they may get hurt by running into the wall? Each of these things could certainly result in an injury to opposing players and in fact result in many more injuries per year than home plate collisions do.
Taking away this rule gives an inherent advantage to catchers in tight plays as they are now allowed to sit on top of home plate in a way that allows runners no conceivable way to be called safe. Whereas the threat of running over the catcher was once a way for base-runners to earn a piece of the plate out of respect, it is now up to an umpire to interpret whether or not a player going 110 percent toward home plate slowed down enough to not initiate contact. And that is a shame.