Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Major League Baseball Makes Healthy Rule Change

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Major League Baseball Makes Healthy Rule Change

Article excerpt

Our national passion for sports doesn't produce all that much good news, so it's worth noting that last week Major League Baseball's rules committee took a step so sane and healthy that one wonders why it wasn't taken long ago: The committee voted to change baseball's rules to eliminate runner-catcher collisions at home plate.

Briefly, for the non-fan: Baseball is essentially a non-contact sport. Unless a fielder is holding the ball or in the act of catching it, a runner approaching any base must be given a clear path and is ordinarily prevented from reaching the base only by a tag with the ball. Collisions on the base paths are relatively rare.

The exception is home plate, where a runner attempting to score is often physically blocked by the catcher. The result is a punishing collision between ballplayers, one running at top speed, one dug in hard, and both essentially unprotected. Collisions at home plate are generally inconsistent with all the rest of baseball, and they have inflicted serious injuries and ended careers.

The final language of the new rule is under development, but likely it will mean the end of violent home-plate collisions.

No doubt many players will welcome this change, but expect some pushback. In the New York Times account, Brad Ausmus, former catcher and current manager of the Detroit Tigers, expresses reservations: "I'm a little bit old school in the sense that I don't want to turn home plate into just another tag play."

His point is well taken. Baseball's conservatism-its resistance to instant replay and, at least in the National League, to the designated hitter rule-is generally a good thing. And home plate collisions have been a part of the game from the beginning.

But I suspect that if objections to this rule change arise, they will be less concerned with the conservation of the original game and more worried about its "sissification."

This is the problem that football faces, and it's one of the reasons that football, in the midst of its slow and half-hearted response to the so-called concussion crisis, is unlikely to make changes that significantly diminish the violence at the heart of the game. …

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