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RandBall: Much gray area in MLB's new home plate collision rule

  • Blog Post by: Michael Rand
  • February 25, 2014 - 8:40 AM

 

Well, MLB and the Players' Association have come up with a one-year experiment in an attempt to clean up home plate collisions. On the one hand, this is probably a good idea since they can cause unnecessary injuries. On the other hand, the place they arrived in seeming to try to placate all sides leaves far too much for an umpire to process in seconds or split-seconds.

 

The highlights, per MLB.com:

• 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.

Well-intended, but way too complicated. The phrase "all calls will be based on the umpire's judgment is a particular red flag. There is already so much scrutiny on umpires and so much on their plates (no pun intended ... or was there?). This is just one more thing to cause inevitable flare-ups and friction, even if it is part of expanded replay.

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