Feb 24 2014, 6:37pm CST | by Poch de la Rosa
Major League Baseball will institute an experimental rule known as 7.13 which aims to eliminate "egregious" collisions at home plate to promote player safety.
"An experimental rule, 7.13, intended to increase player safety by eliminating 'egregious' collisions at home plate was jointly announced by Major League Baseball and the Major League Players Association on Monday.
"The timing allows for managers, coaches, players and umpires to use the entire Grapefruit and Cactus League schedules to acclimate themselves to the rule. The intention to enact regulations was adopted at the Winter Meetings last December; now the exact wording has been agreed upon. The highlights:
-- "A runner may not run out of a direct line to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher, or any player, covering the plate. If he does, the umpire can call him out even if the player taking the throw loses possession of the ball.
-- "The catcher may not block the pathway of a runner attempting to score unless he has possession of the ball. If the catcher blocks the runner before he has the ball, the umpire may call the runner safe.
-- "All calls will be based on the umpire's judgment. The umpire will consider such factors as whether the runner made an effort to touch the plate and whether he lowered his shoulder or used his hands, elbows or arms when approaching the catcher.
-- "Runners are not required to slide, and catchers in possession of the ball are allowed to block the plate. However, runners who do slide and catchers who provide the runner with a lane will never be found in violation of the rule.
-- "The expanded instant replay rules, which also go into effect this season, will be available to review potential violations of Rule 7.13."
USA TODAY Sports' Bob Nightengale reports the rule was drawn up primarily because of the incident where San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey broke his leg when he and Miami Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins collided at home plate.
Hagen interviewed MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, who said 7.13 is meant to protect both the runner and the catcher while maintaining the game's level of excitement at home plate.
"There is nothing more sacred in the game than home plate, and baserunners want to do all they can to score a run, while catchers want to do their best to defend the plate -- in many cases, at all costs.
"Therefore, as one might imagine, the issue of home-plate collisions is one that generates spirited debate among the players. Because of this, coming up with a rule change that allows both the runner and catcher a fair and equal opportunity to score and defend was our mandate.
"We believe the new experimental rule allows for play at the plate to retain its place as one of the most exciting plays in the game while providing an increased level of protection to both the runner and the catcher. We will monitor the rule closely this season before discussing with the Commissioner's Office whether the rule should become permanent."
"The big thing we are trying to eliminate, and I wholeheartedly support it, is the cheap-shot collision. (A) guy, completely exposed, doesn't have the ball, and some guy hunts him. We've had it happen with Matt (Weiters) a few times; if you remember, we were real unhappy about it."
Wieters maintains the bigger issue is preventing head-to-head collisions which may result in concussions, per ESPN's Jayson Stark.
"But the bigger thing, that I think really comes into play here, is you look at the NFL and the effect that concussions have. You know, we're not just talking about a career. You're not just talking about missing a season with an injury.
"You're talking about a couple of head-to-head collisions, and you could have quite have a bit of memory loss, and quite a difficult time functioning later in life. And for me, I think that's the one issue I'm glad is hopefully going to be straightened out."
"I'm not a big fan of it. Catchers are taught to put their foot right in front of home plate, and the plays are bang-bang. I like the collision.
"I don't sit around at home at night and think about it. This is the first time I've thought about it since two months ago when somebody told me, 'They can't run into catchers anymore. I said,'That sucks. I love that play.'"
Nightengale also spoke with Boston Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who is also not especially fond of the new home-plate collision rule.
"I disagree with it. I understand why they're doing it, but next, they're going to tell us that you can't slide into the guy at second base.
"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.
"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."
Poch de la Rosa
Poch de la Rosa follows all major U.S. sports: NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and the NCAA. His favorite teams are the Colts, Braves, Pacers, Sharks and Irish, respectively.
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