This May 25, 2011, file photo shows Florida Marlins baserunner Scott Cousins, left, colliding with San Francisco Giants catcher and Leesburg native Buster Posey during a play at the plate. Posey suffered a season-ending injury because of the play, and in this week’s Winter Meetings, Major League Baseball has moved in the direction of banning home-plate collisions. (Herald File Photo)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Collisions at home plate will be eliminated in the major leagues as soon as next season and no later than 2015, the rules committee announced Wednesday at the Winter Meetings.
The move was driven by heightened awareness of catastrophic long-term consequences from repeated concussions, as well as general safety concerns after recent incidents such as Giants catcher and Leesburg native Buster Posey’s severe knee injury in 2011.
“They just want to try to create a safer environment for the catchers,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “That’s the goal.”
Mets GM Sandy Alderson, chairman of the rules committee, made the announcement Wednesday. The rule change requires the approval of the players’ union in order to go into effect for the 2014 season, but Alderson said if it’s not approved by the union it could be unilaterally implemented for the 2015 season.
“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.”
Specifics of the rule still have to be ironed out before wording is presented to owners for approval at their Jan. 16 meeting.
Many former players and old-school types have recently expressed concern about the possible rule change, and all-time hits king Pete Rose was outraged after hearing it had been decided Wednesday.
“What are they going to do next, you can’t break up a double play?” Rose told the Associated Press. “You’re not allowed to pitch inside. The hitters wear more armor than the Humvees in Afghanistan. Now you’re not allowed to be safe at home plate? What’s the game coming to? Evidently the guys making all these rules never played the game of baseball.”
Rose was involved in perhaps the most famous home-plate collision, when he plowed through catcher Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star game, leaving Fosse with a fractured and separated shoulder.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, a former minor league catcher, had expressed mixed feelings when asked Tuesday about a potential ban on collisions at the plate.
“It’s a double edged sword,” he said. “You try to protect one side and then you hurt the other side. Then you put the umpires in a position where they’ve got to make another decision that maybe they shouldn’t. If you said you’ve got to slide at the plate, that if you don’t slide you’re out — all right, I think colleges and high schools have that rule. Well, the catcher’s going to take advantage of that. The catcher is going to say, okay, I know he’s got to slide, but I’m going to sit on the plate. I’m going to block the plate. Now the umpire (has to decide), can he block the plate? The ball is not there yet, that kind of stuff.
“So I’m all for protecting players, obviously, and concussion is one of the biggest issues we have in our sport and all sports in general, really. But that’s the thing with blocking the plate and not blocking the plate.”