Starting Lineups: Closing In On Home Plate Collisions


Enough is enough.

Today, Major League Baseball will have its first public address about what has long been its most dangerous element: home plate collisions. After years of seeing catchers become the type of target practice that the government relegates as only safe to perform in uninhabited parts of Arizona, the baseball community is finally standing up and saying that it’s time for a rules change to forcibly shift the culture. And it is a change that is not only past due, but is also needed before it is too late.

The only reason that the continued demolition of catchers by base runners ascending on home plate has been tolerated in the most part is because it just "always has been." It is seen as a part of the game and part of the measure of being “baseball tough.” But in reality, not only is in tremendously dangerous, but it is also technically against the rules. In all fairness, it should be deemed as obstruction of the base, which sees to it that base is automatically awarded to the runner at any other base — except for home plate.

This has been allowed to exist because the play at the plate is one of the most thrilling plays in all of baseball. Timing of the throw, the ball coming in while the runner blazes around third base and finally the impact … and seeing if the unstoppable force or the immovable object came out on top. It is an undeniably exciting sequence, but it's flawed in existence.

The honest truth is that athletes are becoming too big, too fast and have too much speed to tie these elements together. Catchers, despite being the only positional player with protective gear on, are no better than human bowling pins. Allowing it to continue is as reckless as removing the fair catch in football, something that nobody would cosign as a good idea.

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, a former catcher whose career was ended prematurely due to concussions derived from repeated impact at the plate, will take the proposition of each club voting to outlaw the play. Joining him will be San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who saw his franchise player Buster Posey suffer a season-ending (and potentially career-altering) injury in an impact play at the plate in 2011. They will be the delivers of the message, and from all indications, it will not be received by deaf ears. For a game that struggles with finding a solution to some of its most clear and present dangers quite often, this is an encouragingly forward-thinking step.

Sports need thrilling moments that capture both the moment and bring the sequence of events together in one. But the participants’ safety over the long run has to be a priority, and baseball is better without this play being allowed. Getting it out the way early is for the better, before it is finally too late.

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