Major League Baseball introduced a new rule this week that aims to protect catcher from collisions at the plate. Under the new rule base runners can no longer intentionally cause a collision at the plate with the catcher. Under the same rule though the catcher cannot block the plate from the runner unless he has the ball. This is a very controversial rule and a hot button issue.
This new rule was developed following a 2011 collision at the plate that ended the season for San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey after he broke his leg in the incident. Since then there has been a push for change at the plate.
The new rule which is “experimental” for 2014 states a baserunner can not go out of his way to initiate contact with a catcher. If the runner does do that the umpire can call the runner out regardless if he scores or not. On the flip side a catcher can not block the path of the baserunner if he does not have the ball. If a catcher does that the runner will automatically be called safe. The catcher can still block the plate if he has the ball, meaning the runner can still hit the catcher. However there is a catch as explained by MLB’s Vice President of Baseball Operations Joe Torre. ”He can run into (the catcher), but he can’t elbow him, shoulder him,” Torre said, “and that’s where the replay stuff is going to come in.”
A runner can hit the catcher, but essentially can not lower a shoulder or lead with the elbow. Running into the catcher now either has to be with the chest or possibly with your hands out. It will be interesting to see how the MLB would call either of those.
When an incident does occur the umpire crew can video review the play to determine the correct call to make. While plays at the plate don’t happen every inning or even every game a review will add more time to an already long game. Baseball has worried about the length of games for some time now, instant replay is a blessing and a burden.
While the catching rule is aimed at protecting players there are players who are not pleased with the rule. Red Sox catcher AJ Pierznyski told the USA Today this:
“It’s one of those things, as a big-league catcher, I signed up for it. You never want to see guys get hurt, and you never want to see guys go down because of it, but it’s part of the game you signed up for.”
“There are going to be plays at the plate, late in games, where you need to block the plate and try to keep that guy from scoring, saving save a run that ultimately gets your team into the playoffs.”
The veteran Pierznyski is not pleased with the new rule and there are certainly others that share his same sentiments. This rule is aimed at the younger guys and protecting them. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the 2014 season. Look for it to be tested early.