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MLB to consider banning home plate collisions

Multiple sources expect MLB to consider changing the rules, perhaps as soon as December's Winter Meetings.

Ronald Martinez

Major League Baseball will give strongly consider banning home plate collisions, potentially ending the practice as soon as the 2013 GM/Owners Meeting this next month in Orlando, Florida. This per a report by ESPN's Buster Olney, who has spoken with officials from multiple teams in the aftermath of two hard collisions during Thursday night's Game 5 of the American League Championship Series between the Red Sox and Tigers.

Said one unnamed official:

"At this point, I don't know who would argue to keep it, or what their argument would be. There is no reasoned argument to keep it [in the game]."

Collisions like those between Miguel Cabrera and David Ross and Ross and Alex Avila have long been a part of baseball, but there has been growing sentiment to change the rules which allow such plays, which are already outlawed at every other base. Cleveland's Lou Marson was placed on the DL earlier this season after Tampa Bay's Desmond Jennings ran him over at the plate, but the backup catcher on a small market team being hurt draws little attention. Collisions in a playoff game, with a far wider wider audience watching and discussing the action, and are far more likely to draw attention, as they have this week.

The collision I recall getting the most attention came on May 25, 2011:

That play ended the season for reigning NL Rookie of the Year Buster Posey. It is in MLB's best interest that its star players are on the field, and so it was in the aftermath of that incident that a great deal of momentum built up for changing the rule. Thursday night's twin collisions may have been the final straw.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland (also one of 14 members of MLB's advisory committee) said after the game that he thinks it's time for collisions to go. Giants manager Bruce Bochy and Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny, both former catchers, have both also gone on the record as wanting such collisions banned in baseball. Matheny was, until a couple years ago, strongly against outlawing collisions, but minds are changing, and that kind of high-profile support makes it increasingly likely that the rules are changed too.

Collisions like this are already banned at every other base. There's no reason home plate has to be governed by an entirely different set of rules. Collisions at home plate are also already banned by the NCAA, and every other level of baseball in the U.S. short of the professional ball. It's not as though this is a drastic change, it would simply involve MLB doing what every other level of baseball already does, and treating home plate like every other base on the field.

Catchers will have to unlearn a couple habits (fielders also aren't allowed to block any of the other bases), but those aren't habits they learned when they were kids. Once MLB teams stop instructing catchers to block the plate (which some teams already done), catchers will stop developing those habits in the first place. The game will go on, not fundamentally different than it's been.

Those against changing the rules tend to fall back on the "it's part of the game" argument, as if that should be reason enough. There are plenty of things that used to be "part of the game" that aren't any longer. Progress is coming, it's time for the opposition to get out of the way.