New MLB Home Plate Rule
In an effort to protect players from “egregious collisions” at home plate, Major League Baseball recently announced an experimental new rule (7.13) for the 2014 season. It reads:
“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.” (MLB.com)
The rule is surely in reaction to a history of injuries resulting from such plays at the plate as well as recent focus given to concussions in sports. One such example is the collision that resulted in season ending leg and ankle injuries to Giants catcher Buster Posey in 2011. Said Posey about the new rule, “What I take away from it is, it eliminates the malicious collision, which is a good thing.”
The players it’s meant to protect do not, however, universally support the new rule. Says veteran MLB catcher A.J. Pierzynski, "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 a run that ultimately gets your team into the playoffs. And not given that opportunity is unfair. I understand why the rule is made, but I wish there was a better way to go about it.''
''You're not allowed to pitch inside. The hitters wear more armor than the Humvees in Afghanistan. Now you're not allowed to try to be safe at home plate?'' Said Pete Rose, who famously pancaked catcher Ray Fosse to win a meaningless 1970 MLB All-Star game. ''What's the game coming to? Evidently the guys making all these rules never played the game of baseball.''
The rule does provide for umpire interpretation, which inherently introduces some gray area. The umpires will also be able to review potential violations of the new rule using the expanded instant replay rules for the upcoming season.