December 11, 2013

MLB intends to ban home-plate collisions

Safety and increased awareness of concussions are behind the decision, one GM says.

The Associated Press

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Pete Rose sounded bowled over.

click image to enlarge

In this Sept. 27, 2006, file photo, Oakland Athletics’ Dan Johnson, left, collides with Seattle Mariners’ Kenji Johjima at home plate but was out on the play as Johjima held onto the ball in the ninth inning of a baseball game at Safeco Field in Seattle. New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, chairman of the rules committee, announced Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, that Major League Baseball plans to eliminate home plate collisions. He said player health and increased awareness of concussions were behind the decision.

AP Photo/Kevin P. Casey

click image to enlarge

In this July 14, 1970 file photo, Cincinnati Reds’ Pete Rose (14) slams into Cleveland Indians’ catcher Ray Fosse to score a controversial game-winning run for the National League team in the 12th inning of the 1970 All-Star game in Cincinnati. Fosse suffered a fractured shoulder in the collision. Looking on are the Reds’ third base coach Leo Durocher, and Cincinnati Reds’ next hitter Dick Dietz (2). Major League Baseball plans to eliminate home plate collisions, possibly as soon as next season but no later than by 2015. New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, chairman of the rules committee, made the announcement Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013 at the winter meetings. Player safety and concern over concussions were major factors in the decision.

AP Photo/File

Charlie Hustle, who famously flattened Ray Fosse to score the winning run in the 1970 All-Star game, couldn’t believe Major League Baseball intends to eliminate home-plate collisions by 2015 at the latest.

“What are they going to do next, you can’t break up a double play?” Rose said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press after MLB announced its plan Wednesday.

“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?” Rose said. “What’s the game coming to? Evidently the guys making all these rules never played the game of baseball.”

New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, chairman of the rules committee, made the announcement at the winter meetings, saying the change would go into effect for next season if the players’ association approved. Safety and concern over concussions were major factors — fans still cringe at the thought of the season-ending hit Buster Posey absorbed in 2011.

“Ultimately what we want to do is change the culture of acceptance that these plays are ordinary and routine and an accepted part of the game,” Alderson said. “The costs associated in terms of health and injury just no longer warrant the status quo.”

In a sport long bound by tradition, a ban will be a major step. MLB also is instituting a vast increase in the use of instant replay by umpires next season in an effort to eliminate blown calls.

The NFL reached a settlement last summer in a concussion-related lawsuit by former players for $765 million, and a group of hockey players sued the NHL last month over brain trauma.

Banned for life in 1989 following a gambling investigation, Rose insists Fosse was blocking the plate without the ball, which is against the rules. Fosse injured a shoulder, and his career went into a downslide.

“Since 1869, baseball has been doing pretty well,” Rose said. “The only rules they ever changed was the mound (height) and the DH. I thought baseball was doing pretty good. Maybe I’m wrong about the attendance figures and the number of people going to ballgames.”

Alderson said wording of the rules change will be presented to owners for approval at their Jan. 16 meeting in Paradise Valley, Ariz. Details must be sorted out, such as what should happen if a catcher blocks the plate without the ball?

“The exact language and how exactly the rule will be enforced is subject to final determination,” he said. “We’re going to do fairly extensive review of the types of plays that occur at home plate to determine which we’re going to find acceptable and which are going to be prohibited.”

Approval of the players’ union is needed for the rules change to be effective for 2014.

“If the players’ association were to disapprove, then the implementation of the rule would be suspended for one year, but could be implemented unilaterally after that time,” Alderson said.

The union declined comment, pending a review of the proposed change. Some players spoke up on Twitter.

“No more home plate collisions?! What is this? NFL quarterbacks are catchers now?” Oakland outfielder Josh Reddick wrote.

“Nothing better than getting run over and showing the umpire the ball. Please don’t ban home plate collisions,” Pittsburgh rookie catcher Tony Sanchez posted.

“Totally disagree,” added retired catcher John Flaherty, now an analyst with the Yankees’ YES Network.

Discussion to limit or ban collisions has intensified since May 2011, when Posey was injured as the Marlins’ Scott Cousins crashed the plate. Posey, San Francisco’s All-Star catcher, sustained a broken bone in his lower left leg and three torn ligaments in his ankle, an injury that ended his season.

(Continued on page 2)

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