February 25, 2014 in Sports

Home-plate collisions limited

MLB, players say rule is one-year experiment
Associated Press
 

NEW YORK – Rather than ban home plate collisions outright, Major League Baseball and its players adopted a rule limiting them this season.

In what both sides said was a one-year experiment, the rule allows collisions if the catcher has the ball and is blocking the runner’s direct path to home plate, and if the catcher goes into the basepath to field a throw to the plate.

“It’s not a radical departure from what it had been,” Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

The new rule, 7.13, states “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).” A runner violating the rule shall be declared out, even if the fielder drops the ball.

“It’s good. I think it takes away the malicious intent behind the play at the plate,” Texas Rangers catcher J.P. Arencibia said. “Obviously, the runner doesn’t always have to slide, and the catcher still has the ability to block the plate once he has the ball in hand.”

Along with the rule, the sides agreed to a pair of comments umpires use for interpretation. The first comment says “the failure by the runner to make an effort to touch the plate, the runner’s lowering of the shoulder, or the runner’s pushing through with his hands, elbows or arms, would support a determination that the runner deviated from the pathway in order to initiate contact with the catcher in violation.” It says players who slide appropriately are not in violation of the rule.

The second comment says that “unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score.” The runner shall be declared safe if the catcher violates that provision. In addition, it is not a violation “if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in order to field a throw, and the umpire determines that the catcher could not have fielded the ball without blocking the pathway of the runner and that contact with the runner was unavoidable.”

“There are some things that often times can make the water a little muddy,” union head Tony Clark said . “Over the course of the offseason, the concern was protecting players, but trying to draw up something that not only made sense on paper, but also was going to make sense to the players that were playing on the field.”

The umpire crew chief can use video review to determine whether the rule was violated.

“It stops guys just going out of their way just to try to dislodge the baseball when they (catchers) have the plate,” Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

“I think it’s fair. A runner’s path is to home plate,” Oakland catcher Derek Norris said. “Any deviation and he’s not trying to score, he’s trying to harm.”

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