Major League Baseball has finally published the language for the new rule regarding plays at the plate and home plate collisions. Like the Designated Pinch-hitter rule, this is “experimental.”
Why the change? MLB says it’s going to keep players safe — both runners and catchers. They point to examples such as Ray Fosse, Josh Thole, and Buster Posey. Former MLB catcher and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is a staunch supporter; ironically, the chronic post-concussion syndrome that ended his career was due to foul tips slamming into his mask and helmet. I disagree that the new language is going to help anyone — in fact, I’m betting it will make things MORE dangerous, because runners and catchers are going to be confused about where they’re supposed to be, and they’ll be thinking in the heat of the moment instead of reacting. And as for Matheny, I wish he would’ve put as much energy as did in this campaign, into changing the MLB rules so that the hockey goalie-style headgear — that Matheny helped make popular, and didn’t adequately protect him — would be eliminated.
Personally, I don’t understand why this language was necessary — the rules are/were already pretty clear in terms of what fielders at any base can do and not do depending on whether or not they have possession of the ball. Further, this new rule is written in a much different style from the rest of the rule book; it’s inconsistent in style — though, that’s just me being nit-picky as an editor.
Here is the rule:
OFFICIAL BASEBALL RULE 7.13
COLLISIONS AT HOME PLATE
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). In such circumstances, the Umpire shall call the ball dead, and all other base runners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision.
Rule 7.13 Comment: 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 of Rule 7.13. If the runner slides into the plate in an appropriate manner, he shall not be adjudged to have violated Rule 7.13. A slide shall be deemed appropriate, in the case of a feet first slide, if the runner’s buttocks and legs should hit the ground before contact with the catcher. In the case of a head first slide, a runner shall be deemed to have slid appropriately if his body should hit the ground before contact with the catcher.
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. Notwithstanding the above, it shall not be considered a violation of this Rule 7.13 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.
(Reprinted without permission from MLB.com)