Torre Continues to Resist Changes on Home-Plate Collisions

As vice president of on-field operations, Joe Torre is Major League Baseball’s point man on rule changes. If Torre doesn’t think a rule change is warranted, a proposed change isn’t going to get very far. He’s not the final arbiter — rule changes are made only by a vote of the owners and the players’ union — but he is the gatekeeper of rule-change ideas.

In the past several years, Torre’s been fending off requests to consider rule changes on home-plate collisions. Those requests reached a fever pitch in May 2011 after Scott Cousins voilently collided with Buster Posey, knocking the Giants’ catcher out for the season. Just days later, Astros’ catcher Humberto Quintero and Pirates’ catcher Ryan Doumit suffered serious injuries after home-plate collisions. Torre is a former catcher, and many hoped his experiences behind the plate would make him receptive to protecting catchers from head-on collisions. But, in fact, the opposite has been true.

Posey’s manager, Bruce Bochy, spent much of 2011 lobbying other managers. Many agreed with him, but Torre did not. Bochy and others would like to see a neutral zone around the catcher, particularly when he’s receiving a ball from right field. In such cases, the runner couldn’t simply put his shoulder down and barrel into the catcher at full-speed — as Cousins did to Posey. Torre wasn’t convinced. In late 2011, he spoke to Giants beat writer Andrew Baggarly

“Well, listen, I knew it was more emotional than anything else. None of us like to see that. But I really haven’t heard anything that would encourage me to change anything or recommend a change. Being a catcher for a lot of years, I knew what the consequences were.”

In other words: It’s always been done this way, so why change?

Bochy has continued to press the issue and has an active ally in Cardinals manager Mike Matheny — another former catcher — whose career was cut short after repeated concussions caused partly by home-plate collisions. And a few weeks ago, it looked like some progress was in the offing:

But no. Torre hasn’t softened his stance. Not one bit, according to this story in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle.

“My stance has really never changed. I’ve always said I’m willing to listen and I’m willing to talk. If something makes sense, we’ll certainly take it seriously.

“If something is going to make the game safer and not affect the way the game is played, I’m certainly all for it. Up until now, I really haven’t heard that thing that would make us change.”

“And not affect the way the game is played.”

That’s the key point from Torre’s recent comments and it mirrors what he said back in 2011. Even if a rule change would make the game safer, it shouldn’t be pursued because it would “affect the way the game is played.”

Hmm. Seems we’ve heard a variation of this argument before. “Baseball is a game of history and tradition. You mess with that, and you mess with the very fabric, the very core of the game.”

“That’s why we can’t have black players in the game.”

“That’s why we can’t have instant replay.”

“That’s why we can’t have female umpires.”

“That’s why we must have a ban on PEDs and HGH.”

The integrity of the game. Or, rather, an idealized version of the integrity of the game, that must be preserved at all costs.

Nonsense.

Baseball is a sport steeped in tradition but shouldn’t allow itself to be suffocated by it. Times change. Knowledge evolves. Batters wear helmets. Catchers wear masks. Runners on first can’t leave the baseline for the sole purpose of taking out the second baseman or shortstop on a slide. The league is investigating protective headgear for pitchers, after Brandon McCarthy took a line-drive off his head last season and needed emergency brain surgery to save his life.

Instant replay is here for foul ball/home run calls and much more is coming soon (although not soon enough). Will it change how the game is played when an off-the-field umpire quickly reviews a close play at first base and overrules the on-field umpire? Of course it will. Will it make the game better? I think so. It certainly will make the game more fair and more accurate.

Last season, I wrote about the spate of lawsuits against the NFL by former players who have developed, or fear developing, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) from repeated blows to the head. I wondered if similar lawsuits were likely against MLB for life-threatening injuries suffered by players hit in the head by pitches. I concluded then that MLB was likely safe from liability because it hadn’t withheld information from players, as the NFL is accused of doing. Now I wonder what will happen if MLB takes no action to protect catchers from head-on collisions in the face of mounting evidence that repeated blows to head could cause long-term brain damage.

But it shouldn’t come to that.

Change the rule, MLB. Change it because doing so makes the game safer. And if that means the game isn’t played in the future exactly as it was played in the past, so be it.




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Wendy writes about sports and the business of sports. She's been published most recently by Vice Sports, Deadspin and NewYorker.com. You can find her work at wendythurm.pressfolios.com and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.


115 Responses to “Torre Continues to Resist Changes on Home-Plate Collisions”

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  1. Bob says:

    If a catcher doesn’t want to get trucked at home plate, don’t block the runner’s path.

    If a cather is not blocking the path to home plate, and the runner goes out of their way to plow into the catcher, treat it the same as any other situation where the runner leaves the base path to intentionally create contact with the defender. No different than running out of the base path to break up a double play.

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    • Dave says:

      Yea, it’s no different! Except for the fact that a “hard slide” is completely different than a head on collision.

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    • jg941 says:

      Bob, simple yes or no question: Can a runner knock over/barrel into/”truck” any other fielder in a basepath when he’s trying to get to 1B, 2B or 3B? If you correctly answered “no”, then why do you think it somehow makes sense to allow the runner to do this when he’s trying to get to home plate?

      Please answer (if you can) without using any historical/”how the game’s always been played” reference, please.

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      • Sparkles Peterson says:

        Pretty sure a baserunner can in fact barrel into any other infielder who happens to be standing in the basepath. The only difference is that catchers are the only ones who routinely break the rules by using their bodies to block a base before they have the ball.

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        • NeilS says:

          A baserunner can make incidental/accidental contact with any infielder if the infielder is obstructing him, yeah, because the infielder shouldn’t be there. But barreling into him suggests an intent to injure – and you can never do that. (Unless, it seems, the guy you’re trying to injure is a catcher. Or you’re only using your spikes. Which is also stupid.)

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        • vivalajeter says:

          And another obvious difference is that 1B, 2B, SS and 3B don’t wear pads over their legs. Or a chest protector. Or a mask.

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        • paperlions says:

          The difference is that a runner can NOT attempt to dislodge the ball by running over a fielder at any other base. If any other IF has the ball as the runner approaches, the runner is obliged to stay in the base paths and attempt to safely reach a base….without running over a fielder with the ball in his possession. If a runner attempt to dislodge the ball with any action that is not a normal running/sliding motion, the runner is out.

          There is no special rule for home plate in the rule book. If a catcher is in the basepath with the ball, the runner should be called safe for obstruction. If a runner attempts to run over a catcher to dislodge the ball, even if he is successful), the runner should be called out for interference. Those are already rules, all MLB has to to is enforce them.

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      • Wil says:

        A runner can DEFINITELY run into a fielder who is blocking the basepath. I saw Brian McCann take out a fielder from the Mets I believe (may have been David Murphy) because of this exact reason.

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      • Steve says:

        All these years watching baseball, and you’ve never seen a 6-4-3 double play?

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      … and if a point guard doesn’t want an elbow to the forehead, then he shouldn’t drive the lane when Charles Oakley, Rick Mahorn,Dale Davis, etc are defending the paint. They know the consequences?

      FWIW, Posey wasn’t blocking the runner’s path. The dumbass runner that tried to tag on a shallow fly to RF realized the only way he’d be safe is to hit the catcher so hard that he drops the ball before he can tag the runner before runner touches home plate.

      Does anyone notice other leagues are making rule changes that essentially serve to “keep the talent in the game” (and not on the DL or IR).

      I have, for a long time, said that they should make the area in front of the plate the “catcher’s crease” (just like the goalie in hockey). That’s where the catcher stands on plays at the plate, and then he makes a tag. It’s still exciting, there’s still bang-bang plays, etc. Hockey doesn’t seem to suffer from a lack of machismo.

      I played baseball from t-ball through college, including caught through 8th grade until I became a pitcher/RF. My son 11U is a talented catcher on an 11U Travel and All-Star teams.* I have experience and a vested interest in the catcher position. As a former pitcher catchers are revered in my house.

      * I have seen my 115-pound tree-trunked leg kid destroy a couple of runners at the plate racing them to home plate following a WP/PB that dribbled away, slide shin guard first into the runner (blocking the plate) and two-handed tag them in the chest. It’s the type of play that would make dads go “Hell yeah, did you see that?!?!?!?” I asked him not to do it again until HS, because it’s simply not a play that belongs in 11U baseball where some kids legs are smaller than my forearms.

      Same thing at MLB, they got rid of runners being able to roll SS/2B into LF. During Ty Cobb’s day they got rid of “spikes high” slides that intended to only knock the ball out of the glove or knock the glove off the hand, pitchers playing beanbrawl (for the most part), most OF walls are padded … ALL of which have changed the way the game is played, at least a little bit.

      I also am fatigued with the idea by some that baseball is a “contact sport”, as if it’s in the same group as football. It’s not, it’s more golf than football. It takes an incredible amount of courage to stand 60-feet from a pitcher/batter throwing/striking a ball at tremendous velocity, but let’s stop acting like “crushing blows” are an integral part of the game.

      Catching is too important of a position for the best athletes NOT to play it.

      MLB simply needs to enforce it’s existing rules or set up something that is obvious to everything. Regardless it won;t be anything like “putting a skirt on catchers”.

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      • Tim says:

        I don’t think using hockey goalies as an example is a good idea, unless you want catchers to get run a couple times a game and batters to be able to hit them with the bat whenever they’re annoyed at anything.

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      • kwyjibo says:

        TO BILL BRASKY!! (Whether that be Circlechange or cc’s son is up to the reader)

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    • LaLoosh says:

      Yes and Scott Cousins went out of the path to home plate for the sole purpose of taking Posey out and by extension knocking the ball loose from him in 2011. That type of slide should be illegal along with a head first slide. It’s really as simple as that.

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      • Bob says:

        There are all ready rules regarding a runner leaving the base path. Those rules should have been applied, if he did.

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        • LaLoosh says:

          i agree and perhaps all that needs to happen is the “out of basepath” rules need tightening wrt home plate.

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        • LaLoosh says:

          in addition, these “football slides” should just be outlawed. This quaint idea that it’s always been part of the game is just ridiculous if used as a reason to keep it in the game. If not sliding with the clear intent on trying to score (reach home plate), then runner should simply be ruled out. That will end the take out slide practice.

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      • TKDC says:

        Since he lands on top of the plate immediately after the collision, it is difficult to understand how you think he left the base path.

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        • hilarie says:

          Unbelievable. Watch an effing replay and learn how to easily understand that. Posey was in the infield, a couple feet on the pitcher’s side of the plate, twisting around to make a swipe tag after catching (and then dropping) a throw from rf that had him facing away from the baseline. You don’t try to make a swipe tag if you’re in the basepath.

          That’s why the Torre response to the Cousins infraction has always driven me crazy: As many have said, there is already a very clear rule against what he did (and also against blocking the plate without possessing the ball). Enforce it. THEN decide if a rule change is needed to handle pure in-the-basepath collisions.

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      • Dave in GB says:

        So if they ban the head first slide is ok to ban a fielder from diving for a ball in play?

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        • Zac says:

          Wait, does diving for a ball in play have the potential to hurt another person? If not, I’m not sure of the relevance.

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  2. Chris says:

    I’m not sure why this is a rules issue instead of a coaching issue; if the consequences of blocking the plate outweigh the potential benefit, then coach catchers to not block the plate, or to nor do so in instances or ways that leave them exposed to violent collisions.

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    • jg941 says:

      Or – here’s a thought – change a rule that eliminates the violent collision.

      Torre needs to do his job – If the job consisted of someone issuing statements about how rule changes will, um, change how the game is played, then any one of us would be happy to take that gig in our spare time (we’ll even take a little less $, given the amount of time/thought it apparently takes to get the job done).

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      • legendaryan says:

        Pitchers get a lot of arm injuries. Let’s make it a rule that pitchers have to throw under hand.

        Catchers know the risk of blocking the plate. There does not need to be another rule, just enforce what is already in place.

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    • NeilS says:

      Except that Posey wasn’t blocking the plate when he got hit. Wouldn’t have saved him.

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      • Sparkles Peterson says:

        Right. In the tenth of a second after he mishandled the ball, he stopped blocking the plate and moved ever-so-slightly forward of the plate.

        If you want to solve this, stop giving catchers so much leeway with the obstruction rules. If they can’t plant themselves in the basepath, they will have to swipe-tag runners and they won’t be put in the path of a collision they are unable to see and prepare themselves for.

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    • Bip says:

      Except the consequences are a small chance at a serious injury. If 9 out of 10 times, there are no consequences of blocking the plate, and 1 out of 10 times the consequences are severe, then people will just see that 9 out of 10 times it’s worth doing. It’s the way the human mind works.

      Also as long as its legal, players will be pressured to be willing to sacrifice their bodies to make the play. This sounds like a “protect them from themselves” argument but injury is rare enough that it’s understandable that the greatest athletes in the world would be willing to risk injury to get every possible advantage. The best thing is just make that advantage not really an advantage.

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      • Tim says:

        And if 99 out of 100 times there are no consequences, people arguing on the internet will make a huge deal of the the other one.

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  3. sturock says:

    What’s wrong with a rule saying a runner can’t barrel into a catcher? There are not clean slides usually; they’re more like football hits. The runner should just have to slide feet- or head-first (i.e., with their body in the dirt) if there’s a throw. We all like to see a close play at the plate. But does the catcher really have to get run over and carried off on a stretcher to provide that enjoyment?

    And, yes, pitchers should be wearing protective headgear. Are we going to wait for someone to get killed from a line drive?

    Neither one of these changes would alter the way the game is played.

    As for PED’s and HGH, though, I vote for much harsher penalties for anyone caught using drugs. If you’re caught once, it’s a one-year ban. If you’re caught twice, a lifetime ban. There is absolutely no incentive right now for any player, especially one in a contract year, to lay off the juice.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      What’s wrong with a rule saying a runner can’t barrel into a catcher?

      For runner safety reasons, you cannot force a runner to slide into a catcher’s shin guards if catchers are allowed to block the plate.

      What is required is something that removes the situation where one player is allowed to stand directly between the runner and the plate or where the runner can go slightly out of his way to interfere with the defender.

      I believe the rules exist in a way that could be enforced so that the situation is all but eliminated.

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    • Tim says:

      All fielders will be required to wear protective headgear during any plate appearance by Giancarlo Stanton.

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  4. The Big Hearst says:

    MLB will drag its feet when it comes to catcher protection, but if superstars are consistently damaged by it, that penalizes the game’s profit too much, and I expect more owners who get burned by injured catchers will be in support of it. Torre is right in how it’ll change how the game is played…runners won’t barrel into catchers anymore.

    However, pitcher protection is a different animal. What happened to Brandon McCarthy was a freak occurrence, not a comparatively routine tactic executed by baserunners to sneak in a run. Clocking the pitcher is as rare as hitting one of the infielders, a player in a dugout and a fan in the stands. While it’s a nice gesture, it could influence the game in unforseen ways beyond protection.

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    • philosofool says:

      In 2011, Juan Nicasio’s neck was broken by a line drive. In 2009, Chris Young spent about two months on the DL with. skull fracture after Albert Pujols hit a comebacker.

      Pitchers get hit in the head far too often.

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      • Cidron says:

        on the one hand, getting hit in the head, regardless of how many occurrences, is to many.. But, statistically, it just doesn’t happen often enough to warrant a rule. (pitcher come-backers that is).

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        • Dave S says:

          Unless you happen to be the guy that gets smoked in the head by a line drive. Or his family member or loved one.

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        • Cidron says:

          statistically, it still doesn’t warrant a rule change.. yes, it is a personal sad story. It would be as if someone got struck by lightning and died. Sad story for sure. But, to enact legislation to govern that everybody go indoors, regardless of their current location during a lightning storm would be silly. Empty highways, roads, sidewalks… It just wouldn’t be statistically feasible.

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      • Bip says:

        Also Hiroki Kuroda in 2010 missed a couple months after getting hit with a comebacker. Seems common enough to me.

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      • Baltar says:

        So what? What kind of rule change would prevent that from happening? The batter can’t hit the ball?

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      • jim says:

        so we’ve got 3 batted balls out of, what, surely hundreds of thousands over that period of time

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        • philosofool says:

          People said the same thing about seat belts. You have to do a cost benefit analysis.

          Cost of making everyone wear helments: x
          Cost of a star pitcher, including the value of human life: hundreds, thousands, or millions of times that.

          So you only need a very small chance of a lethal event before the cost-benefit says “Pitchers should wear helmets.”

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  5. Steve1 says:

    It is possible that you are putting words in Torre’s mouth. In the referenced articles, he never said anything about integrity. His comments read to me that he wouldn’t support a rule change that altered the dynamic that occurs as a player attempts to score from third.

    Any rule change would involve the giving or taking away of options to either the baserunner or the catcher. That changes the way the game is played.

    Your extrapolation to include civil and gender rights, instant replay and PEDs is a bit of a stretched comparison.

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    • TKDC says:

      I think Torre is somewhat senile at this point, and my feeling goes back to his interviews after he left the Yankees. He never seemed all there. His “explanation” during the Braves/Cards playoff game was pure and utter nonsense.

      If there is one change baseball needs to make to facilitate progress, it would be removing some of the dinosaurs from important roles in the game.

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    • boss says:

      I agree on the PED / HGH thing being a stretch. It actually ended up overshadowing the article in my mind.

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      • Steve 1 says:

        Disagree. We have arbitrarily chosen what constitutes PEDs and at this point there is basically little logic between what is legal and what is illegal. I’m glad Wendy used a comparison that might be how we feel in 20 years about the current atmosphere around PEDs in sports.

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        • TKDC says:

          Arbitrarily? You mean like they flipped a coin and heads meant illegal and tails meant legal?

          Or do you mean you don’t like it?

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        • boss says:

          then what did you mean earlier when saying :

          ‘Your extrapolation to include civil and gender rights, instant replay and PEDs is a bit of a stretched comparison.’

          im no expert on PEDs, but i would think the ban on certain drugs exists largely due to the workplace safety issues that steroids would create by essentially forcing players to take drugs to remain on a level playing field. the catcher collision issue lies much more along the lines of inertial reasoning than does PED use

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        • Sparkles Peterson says:

          Well, it is arbitrary, because the best evidence shows that some of the banned “performance-enhancing drugs” don’t enhance performance in the least.

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        • Steve1 says:

          boss: the second Steve 1 isn’t me. I’m with you.

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        • Steve 1 says:

          Yeah that was an accident. I don’t know who this fake ‘Steve1′ is but I’ve been posting (especially in chats) for a long time.

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  6. TKDC says:

    It’s odd that you include the PED/HGH thing when the status quo for baseball was to allow those, not ban them. It’s also odd that you compare instant replay to those other issues, and I say that as a supporter of extensive instant replay.

    Anyway, I’m all for a rule banning runners from plowing into catchers as long as there is a concurrent rule that bans catchers from interfering with the baserunner’s path to the plate. If you make the play truly about only whether the catcher can receive the ball and tag the runner out before he reaches home plate, that would be fair. If you just ban plowing over the catcher only, then catchers will be emboldened to block the plate and runners won’t be able to do anything. A sliding runner who is met with a shinguard dropped on his leg is dangerous, too, though admittedly less so than a full on collision.

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  7. OtherSideoftheCoin says:

    It’s an odd situation. We would cringe if base runners were allowed to just truck over fielders at any of the other bases. But at the same time, fielders aren’t allowed to just fully block the pathway to the base.

    I have no numbers to back this up but it would seem that in terms of preventing runs, blocking the plate has been extremely beneficial to catchers— that is they have gotten outs when a baserunner probably would have been able to slide in safely. However, trucking the catcher hasn’t really had much of a benefit. The catcher usually holds on to the ball when he’s ready for it. And the runner probably would have been safe sliding if the catcher wasn’t ready for the hit.

    I don’t understand Torre’s stance in which he seems unwilling to consider an alternative. But catchers need to be willing to give up something as well.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Albert Belle trucked the hell out of Fernando Vina.

      I don’t recall too many purists defending Belle’s right to the baseline or the right to not be tagged.

      I’m a Cardinal fan and slides like Matt Holliday’s on Marco Scutaro (as a most recent example) have no place (IMHO) and are not within the spirit of the game, since the intent of the runner is NOT to “get to the base as quick as possible”, but essentially to interfere with the defender (often in a violent way).

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  8. Bob says:

    Like everything else, this isn’t a black and white issue and shouldn’t be as simple as “just change the rule”. I would be all for a rule change if it were the right rule. There clearly cannot be a solution that satisfies every involved party (catchers, teams losing their franchise catcher, fans wanting contact, old school traditionalists, fans not wanting to lose a game because their player had to limp into home plate). MLB should be looking for the solution that causes the greatest amount of satisfaction across all parties. In this case, the best solution might be a change in coaching as Bob & Chris suggest. Or maybe there is a potential rule change that makes the most sense. Torre should not be a “no” man just for the sake of old school baseball, but if there hasn’t been a good suggestion for a rule change yet, then either wait to think of a rule change that’s actually a solution or find a solution that’s not a rule change.

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  9. Rattle says:

    “It’s always been done this way, so why change?”

    That isn’t what Torre implied. This is Fangraphs. Please stick to the facts, and not make up facts due to emotion.

    Even your ending rant doesn’t even make sense. Fundamentally wrong social issues like racism have little connection with a catcher blocking the plate and a runner plowing him over.

    Torre doesn’t believe there is a reasonable solution to this, and as of right now, he is correct.

    Catchers block the plate, it is a method for run prevention.

    Do not make this game out to be the NFL, or become the NFL.

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    • Heather says:

      Why stick to the facts when histrionic ranting makes a better story?

      It doesn’t help that Torre has long been viewed as a sabermetric whipping boy.

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    • TKDC says:

      At the very least, policies discriminating against minorities or women should not be compared to safety rules, instant replay, or PED use, which all have room for reasoned debate. Those inclusions I believe were intended to be inflammatory.

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  10. Heather says:

    Rather than a safe zone, how about a rule not allowing catchers to block the plate?

    The rule Bochy wants enforced is one that benefits defense and catchers…interestingly enough, the Giants have an All Star Catcher and a lackluster offense.

    If Bochy truly wants just to keep catchers safe, then he should be open to a rule that protects catchers (I.e. catchers can’t block home) rather than one that benefits his team disproportionately.

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    • thirteenthirteen says:

      Are you posting from 2010, perhaps? The Giants are one of the best offensive teams in the NL. They led the NL in road scoring in 2012, outscoring the second place team, the Cardinals, by 49 runs. Taking park factor into account, they led the NL in wRC+ and wOBA.

      Regardless, since Posey wasn’t blocking the plate when Cousins ran him down, I’m not sure how a rule simply forbidding blocking the plate would prevent a repeat of his injury. Cousins pretty had an open path to the plate, and ran off-line in order to collide with Posey, with the intention of knocking the ball (which Posey didn’t actually have) loose.

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      • TKDC says:

        A runner can’t decide in literally a tiny fraction of a second whether the catcher, who is in position to block the plate once he receives the ball, is going to block the plate or not. Two steps away from home plate, Cousins probably believed that Posey was going to receive the ball and block the plate. He believed that because if the ball had been caught and had gotten there 1/10 of a second earlier, that is exactly what would have happened. Had Cousins slid, he would have had no chance of avoiding Posey’s tag.

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        • My recollection of the event is that Cousins said in an interview after he hit Posey that he knew that he wasn’t going to score because the ball was not hit far enough plus the fact that Nate Schierholtz had gunned down a number of people from RF already that season, so he decided that his best choice was to run into Posey and knock the ball out.

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        • TKDC says:

          I couldn’t find that. I did find this quote from Cousins:

          “If I saw a clean lane to slide, that’s the play I’m making. I have speed and like to believe I’m going to beat the ball. But there was no chance on that play. It was a game-changing play in extra innings, and I had to play as hard as I could.”

          The fact is Posey was in perfect position to block the plate. Anyone who doesn’t understand that just doesn’t understand baseball.

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        • chuckb says:

          Because base runners can’t predict whether or not catchers are going to block the plate, they have carte blanche to run them over at their whim? Seriously?

          You’re telling us that if a base runner is unable to avoid a tag at home plate, they should be allowed to run over the catcher who is in possession of the ball, regardless of whether or not the catcher is actually blocking the plate?

          That’s insane.

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        • TKDC says:

          When a catcher is going to block the plate on a throw from right field, he prepares to receive the ball with his left foot at the top left corner of the plate (where Posey’s was). As he receives the ball, he will take a mini-step with his left leg to put it directly in front of the plate, and block it as he takes the ball (if possible using both hands) to tag the runner. This has the advantage over the swipe tag in that if the throw beats the runner, the catcher can block the runner long enough to allow him to make the tag. Also, many players, not wanting to collide with the catcher, will do a hook slide, which give the catcher even more time to make the tag, but sometimes doesn’t work as the catcher’s thought process is generally on the player coming towards him, not around him.
          If you are not trying to block the plate, you can easily set up a foot or two in front of and to the right of the plate (or behind the plate, but you don’t ever see this). Many guys do this.
          I have zero doubt that Posey was receiving that ball with the intention of blocking the plate. The fact that he didn’t field it cleanly was the only reason he did not thrust his body in the way. I imagine he thought there was enough time for him to get out of the way. When you watch the video, if you’ve ever played any sport of any kind, and you know how blocking the plate works, you would not blame Cousins. He faced a player who looked like he was going to block the plate and only at the last millisecond did he abandon that effort.
          Contrary to some of the comments, Cousins clearly does not leave the baseline. His feet are both on the baseline when he is approaching Posey and after the collision he lands squarely on top of the plate. He only goes back to touch the plate to be sure and I’m sure he was a bit out of it from the collision as well.
          Bottom line, you either have to not understand fast paced sports and the limitations of human reflexes or just be a giants fan with an ax to grind to blame Cousins for what happened.

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      • Sparkles Peterson says:

        Almost every fact in this paragraph is wrong.

        wRC+ is already park-adjusted, and the Giants were 4th in the NL at 99. wOBA? Well, basically, you park-adjust that and it gives you wRC+.

        Posey wasn’t blocking the plate when Cousins made contact, but he was the fraction of a second earlier when Cousins had to make a decision on how to proceed. He moved so little that Cousins did not in fact run off-line in the least when he took him out. The replays are readily available, feel free to go look at them before reinforcing this fable that it was a malicious play.

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        • thirteenthirteen says:

          You misunderstood what I meant by “park adjusted”. Obviously you don’t have to adjust for park for already park-adjusted figures. I was simply pointing out that when you look at the park-adjusted figures, the Giants have one of the top offenses in the league. That is not factually incorrect. (I didn’t realize that wOBA isn’t park adjusted…my earlier comment was pre-caffeine!)

          I don’t think Cousins’ collision was “malicious”, but it’s pretty clear he intended to collide with Posey. It wasn’t an accident. I’m sure he didn’t intend to actually injure Posey. He has expressed his regret a number of times and I believe him.

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      • Bubba says:

        “Cousins pretty had an open path to the plate, and ran off-line in order to collide with Posey”

        This. Exactly.

        Anyone who thinks Posey was blocking the plate has not seen the play. Period.

        That being said, what Cousins did was legal. And, even though it was the winning run in an extra inning game, it was a shit thing to do.

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  11. DonM says:

    I agree with Torre. As a former catcher, I intentionally blocked the baseline far enough up the line that, if the incoming player slid, I would land on him, preventing his slide from reaching home plate. It gave me a split second more time to apply the tag if the throw was a little late. I accepted being run over, or spiked, as a reasonable risk (and was never called for interference). Come to think of it, I did the same on attempted steals during the times I played second base…

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Getting trucked when you have time to face the runner and get knocked “heels over head in love” or “pot over tea kettle” or whatever the old dudes (my uncles) used to call it is fine and generally does not result in big injury.

      The problem with collisions now are [1] concussions that we learn more about all the time (especially in position where they takes foul balls off the mask regularly), and [2] regular plays where the catcher is not in a position to be able to take the contact due to making a separate action (catching the ball). So, like in poseys case his should.

      Basically we’re talking about plays coming home from the right side of the field where a catcher shoulders, head, eyes, etc will be facing a different direction than where the runner is coming. The problem is when the runner the catcher gets trucked, his position determines that his bodyweight will “roll over” his ankles/knees, and plays like that could be avoided without significantly reducing the excitement of the game or plays at the plate.

      In college, when pitchers kept getting liners off the face due to enhanced metal bats there were some that said “Don’t like it, don’t pitch”, “It’s a risk of the position, accept it” and on and on. If a situation exists where safety can prevent injury and removal of talent while still maintaining the integrity, excitement, and competitiveness of the game … you do it.

      There is also the issue of baseball players being bigger, stronger, faster than they ever were (seriously watch ESPN Classic sometime, I forgot MLBers were ever 6’0 180), and body joints are not comparatively stronger than previously (but the muscles are).

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  12. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Don’t we teach our children in little league that running over players is wrong. I’m fairly certain you can’t do it in high school either. Does becoming a professional mean all bets are off?? Win at any cost?? Baseball doesn’t have to be football to be entertaining.

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  13. philosofool says:

    This is so simple. The catcher may stand between third and home plate with both feet in foul territory or both feet in fair territory as a runner attempts to come home. If he straddles the baseline in a manner determined by the umprie to block the battered path to the plate, the runneer shall be safe at home on account of interference. In any event, the base runner who collides with a catcher in a violent manner outside normal means of sliding into the plate is guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct and may be ejected from the game and possibly servea suspension.

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    • chuckb says:

      It’s not obstruction (it’s interference when committed by the offensive player) if the catcher is in possession of the ball and is attempting to make a tag. If any fielder is NOT in possession of the ball and is blocking a runner’s path to a base, it is obstruction.

      This should be the standard at home as well. And runners who decide they want to use that opportunity to run over a catcher should be immediately called out and ejected from the game, just as would occur at any other base.

      This lame “catchers should be treated differently (as in targets) because they’re wearing chest protectors and shin guards” is ridiculous. They shouldn’t be allowed to block the runner’s path without the ball and runners shouldn’t be allowed to barrel over them.

      It’s pretty simple. Too bad Joe Torre’s unable to see that.

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  14. Cidron says:

    Why do runners slam into catchers instead of slide around? Many reasons, Dramatic moment, Catcher blocking the plate, and the “if he drops the ball…” leading to reasons for him to drop it, and the amount of armor that a catcher wears not only protects him, but also gives him (catcher) reason to believe he will survive, and the runner more incentive to destroy him as the armor+catcher basically form a wall. Cant easily go over, under, or thru.. but, if you knock it down…. perhaps. Plus, it feeds the impact loving fans. If you dont believe me, check out mma, boxing, wrestling, football, … we, as fans, love our contact sports.

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  15. Inspector Gadget says:

    Guys guys guys….the solution is so simple! We need robot umpires AND robot catchers!

    NPB, I’m looking at you!

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  16. Rattle says:

    It seems to me that some people are assuming catchers can determine where they need to be at all times in a very short amount of time.

    And we should have a chart that shows us collisions the past 50 years and injuries relate to collisions.

    This all seems to be a reaction from a very small sample size…something fangraphs usually is against when trying to draw conclusions.

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    • philosofool says:

      Yeah, I am assuming that baseball players with years of experience are pretty good at being aware of where the bases are relative to themselves. Since catchers routinely complete plays in the way that they are supposed to, this assumption seems to be backed by observational evidence.

      On collisions causing injury: Are you serious? We have millions of examples of people being injured by collisions in every day life and athletics, allowing us to know that intentionally colliding with a person greatly increases their chance of being injured.

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  17. Will says:

    If there’s one thing in baseball, I’d change, it’s this. In fact, you don’t really need to change the rule as much as enforce existing ones.

    http://www.captainsblog.info/2011/04/02/cheap-thrill-mlb-cant-afford-to-keep-ignoring-rules-governing-plays-at-the-plate/6200/

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      That normally applies to society as well. At this point, there often are not situations in baseball that don’t already have existing rules.

      I recall at the point of the Cousins-Posey situation, all that needed to happen was existing rules be enforced rather than “letting them play” or “letting the players decide the game”, which is basically broadcaster/media code for not blowing the whistle or umpires making a call.

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  18. That Guy says:

    “In other words: It’s always been done this way, so why change?”

    If you were intending to paraphrase Torre’s statement, you did a terrible job. If you were intending to just use other words, literally, then well done!

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  19. Aaron says:

    I just don’t understand how the rule could be changed in a way that would be fair to the players. It seems to me that its current form is a result of necessity more than anything else.

    The way I see it, there are two options.

    Option one: prohibit the runner from trucking the catcher.

    If the catcher is blocking the plate, how do you score? Sliding into a catcher is liable to get you hurt; plus it’s not very effective. So, is at least a little force okay? Well, now you need to define it. That’s doable; but you also need to police it. That’s hard. Just ask football and hockey referees how easy it is to judge “excessive force.” And they do it every minute! Now ask a home plate umpire to make that judgment call, what, three times a season?

    In a sport where fans increasingly demand accuracy in umpiring, you’ve introduced a whole new arena for controversy – and you’ve done it at home plate, on close plays, where games are decided.

    Option two: prohibit blocking the plate.

    This introduces an even bigger mess. Now the catcher, the runner, and the umpire are all making split-second judgment calls that could go spectacularly wrong.

    If the runner’s coming in and the catcher is on the plate, does he… stop running, and hope he’s awarded the base? Does he slide into the catcher’s blind side, which you’d think is at least equally dangerous to both parties? Or does he bump the catcher out of the way, at risk of being called out for excessive force? Oh, and he’s got about a tenth of a second to decide.

    As a catcher, how close is too close? What if I crouch to apply the tag? What if I get in the way? Oh, and I need to figure all of this out while tracking the ball coming in from right field. If I screw it up, I might forfeit the out and concede a run.

    Now, imagine a simple, reasonable alternative: If the catcher is in the runner’s way, the runner can decide how to deal with him. If the catcher doesn’t want to risk the almost-certain injury that comes from being blindsided, he can stay clear of the plate and go for the tag. It’s his choice, with clear consequences.

    All that baseball needs – if anything – is a culture shift, recognizing that blocking the plate is not (usually) worth it; the increased risk of injury far outweighs the gain (does blocking the plate really work better than tagging?).

    These recent high-profile catcher injuries probably already accomplished this shift; I think the book on plate blocking right now is that it’s reckless, no?

    I’d also like to point out that, while concussions are real and horrible (I’ve had at least five myself), you shouldn’t drag CTE into this conversation. From everything I’ve read on the subject (and I’ve read a lot), CTE is believed to be caused not by occasional – or even frequent – concussions, but by the tens of thousands of so-called “sub-concussive” hits a player is subjected to throughout a career. “Reducing concussions prevents CTE” is actually a counter-productive argument, which does a disservice to the very players it’s meant to protect. The ONLY thing believed to prevent CTE is complete abstinence from physical contact.

    Tl;dr, I hope my kid chooses baseball over football – even if he/she decides to be a catcher.

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    • philosofool says:

      “This introduces an even bigger mess. Now the catcher, the runner, and the umpire are all making split-second judgment calls that could go spectacularly wrong.”

      You mean like in every close play in baseball? What you need for your argument is not that things could go wrong but evidence that things wouldn’t be better with a rule against blocking home plate.

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  20. ramsey says:

    Why not make the rules for tagging runners at home plate consistent with the rules for tagging runners everywhere else on the diamond?

    If a catcher is obstructing the path of a runner, that is interference and the runner should be awarded the base (run). If a runner initiates contact with a defender who is not obstructing his path (in order to dislodge the ball), then he is out.

    We’ve all seen these calls at second base, so why not at home?

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    • TKDC says:

      This still leaves the problem of the catcher blocking the plate as he is receiving the ball and then tagging the player after his foot fails to reach the plate. If you want to make running over the catcher illegal, you have to make blocking the plate in any way illegal. Guys do this at second base, too. They drop the knee down when the guy is sliding head first to make it more difficult. It’s another in a long line of reasons to slide feet first and punish the guys leg if he does this.

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  21. Chris from Bothell says:

    Hell, let’s make this even simpler – do just as in little league where they have one base at first base that is for the fielder to stand on, and another for the runner to try to get to. Create an extra “home plate” that the catcher needs to stand on, and eliminate tagging altogether. If the ball beats the runner home, he’s out. If the catcher doesn’t catch it in time, or isn’t on the “catcher’s plate”, runner is safe. If the runner reverses course then it’s a normal rundown and he can be tagged out.

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  22. ns978 says:

    Wendy, this is a pretty awful article.

    “In other words: It’s always been done this way, so why change?”

    Is that really your interpretation of Torre’s comment?

    Also, “That’s why we can’t have black players in the game.”
    “That’s why we can’t have female umpires.”

    Why not put your opponent in the same category as racists and sexists? It makes arguing against you a question of morality.

    You make a lot of assumptions about what Torre believes and his reasoning for not changing the rules. These assumptions are hollow. Hollow assumptions lead to weak arguments. I like most of your work but this article is awful.

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  23. First off, I think this needs to be said: no one can legislate away collisions at home plate without changing the game. That said, there are ways to make things safer.

    For example, there are already rules in the amateur ranks that helps protect the catcher which the MLB has so far refused to incorporate. The MLB should just continue the rule into the pro ranks, since the players already know the amateur rules, it would be so simple.

    Another would be to enforce runners going out of the basepath in these cases. Or adding in a rule governing areas where the catcher can’t be plowed like that. Posey wasn’t even blocking the plate, he was standing a few feet away in front of the plate, if you look at the replay, Cousins was so far away from home plate that after the collision, he had to change direction to touch homeplate and score the run.

    Here is what I feel is the key piece of info that came in the aftermath of the collision. A former NFL player noted that a hit like that which Cousins did on Posey is outlawed in the NFL. Outlawed in the NFL! That just shows how crazy it is that the MLB has refused to change the rulues.

    People here are excoriating Wendy about Torre’s comment, but from my take from all his comments made up to now, that is his basic stance: this is how it works in baseball. And if that is not tradition, I don’t know what is. To show how closed minded he is, read his comments here: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110603&content_id=19986304&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

    As everyone here knows, the situation is Cousins is tagging up from 3B to score on a sac fly before he plowed into Posey. Torre instead talks about a runner rounding 3B, he could at least use the situation that applied to the situation. Still, he claims he saw the play. If he did, he clearly didn’t understand it then.

    On top of that, we are learning more and more about how much damage is actually done to brains in concussions, and if the MLB does not do more about it, they will be making themselves liable for lawsuits by not changing rules to limit the number of collisions happening.

    People thought that going with the Live ball was changing the game, but it changed it in a good way. We need to change the rules to protect the catcher more. I’ve been impassioned by this since the Rose hit on Fosse and will be until something more is done.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      I’m curious if you’ve seen a replay of that collision recently, because your recollection seems out of line with reality. I just watched the video again, and Posey wasn’t nearly “a few feet in front of the plate”. I don’t know how to put a clickable link, but here’s a picture of the collision. Posey was directly in the baseline, and Cousins actually landed on home plate when he fell.

      http://thebaseballcodes.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/posey-collision-tif.jpg

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      • Zac says:

        I’m pretty sure both Posey’s feet are in fair territory. A lot of the talks are about not allowing catchers to straddle the base line, which he isn’t doing. Cousins could have easily slid to the foul side.

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        • vivalajeter says:

          Since we’re looking at feet, you may want to look at Cousins’ feet. They’re both touching the base line in the picture I posted. It’s not like he ran two feet out of his way just to hurt the guy.

          Going into 2nd base, the threshold is that you have to be able to touch the bag when you slide (even if it’s just with your fingertips). Cousins’ front leg landed directly on top of the plate on this play. Sure, he could have done a hookslide to the outside of the plate, but Posey is at fault too for putting himself into such a terrible position. Unlike the post I responded to, he wasn’t several feet from the plate.

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  24. wanderin says:

    Pete Rose barreling over Ray Fosse to win the 1970 all-star game in extra innings was one of my favorite plays of all time. No way do I mess with such exciting plays at the plate.

    There’s no reason to alter the rules to make the game ‘safer’. Injury and it’s associated risk due to in-game decisions is a part of this sport and should not be separated from it. I suffered through multiple injuries due to collisions while playing baseball (broken hand, concussion, stitches), and I would have the sport played no other way. Catchers are already protected to the tilt, why give them even more advantages over scoring at the plate.

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    • BookWorm says:

      “Pete Rose barreling over Ray Fosse to win the 1970 all-star game in extra innings was one of my favorite plays of all time.”

      I get that Rose was living up to the “Charlie Hustle” image by playing so hard in an exhibition game, but that has to be one of the worst examples someone in favor of home plate collisions can cite. Some fans may feel that collisions at home plate should be allowed because there are runs on the line, but the 1970 ASG example is an “all risk, no reward” situation. Nothing was gained by Rose’s actions, except the further polarization of people’s attitudes about Pete Rose. The ASG didn’t even decide home field advantage back then!

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      • wanderin says:

        Playing for honour is a virtue.

        Further, Competition is why we watch baseball, and the lack of competition is a worthless endeavour.

        If you don’t want players playing for the win, then that’s a whole other argument entirely.

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      • Cidron says:

        Are you basically saying “Don’t play hard” ? Granted, there is little on the line, but.. The average athlete in theory, plays hard. We expect it, we pay for it, and, the competition demands it (or they will find their way out of the sport and replaced by someone who will). Its not quite a switch. It isnt just “regular season and playoffs” but, once the training begins in earnest and the competition for roster slots begins, until the end of the season, there is competition. Let up a little, and you find bench. Do recall that was a big knock on Hanley Ramirez a bit ago in Fla. He didnt hustle. Is he still there? nope. They are spoon-fed the lines “Hustle” “Play Hard” “Win”

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    • chuckb says:

      Yeah, because close plays at home plate where one player isn’t helplessly barreled over by another player aren’t exciting.

      The Sid Bream play at home plate against the Pirates…totally boring, for example.

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      • wanderin says:

        Both can be exciting, but I don’t want any play possibility taken away from the offensive team.

        Either way, I prefer the Rose play, mostly because Bream’s athleticism in the play was utterly lacking.

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  25. I think a good start would be to better enforce the rules currently in place, regarding obstruction and the like.

    But honestly, I’m not entirely convinced the collision have to — or even can, really — go away altogether.

    I also think unnecessary contact with the catcher — and I don’t really like judgment calls but…. — should result in an automatic ejection.

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  26. David Brandt says:

    Aw, I thought there would be some cool in this story .gifs :(

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  27. Llewdor says:

    There should absolutely not be a special rule for catchers. The rule that governs whether any fielder can interfere with a runner works fine. The problem is that catchers don’t get called for interference as much as they should.

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    • Cidron says:

      You want special rules for “vulnerable” people. go watch NFL QB’s abuse the rule and thrive as a result. What next, red-shirts for catchers? cant hit below x and above y, or you are ejected?

      NFL tried to legislate “protected status” on qb’s and the game became pass oriented. Which is exciting, but not quality football as any purist will say. Where is the run game, where is the defense.

      You want to legislate protected status on catchers? the game will become something neither of us able to predict. But, it likely wont be the same game. The visible change may be slight, or great. We just don’t know.

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      • Jason B says:

        “but not quality football as any purist will say”

        In other words, old guys sitting in their rockers on the front porch, ruefully saying (about football, or any other pursuit) “Well it’s not as good as it was back in MY day!”

        I don’t think we want to point to those types as any sort of authority on anything except wistfully (mis)remembering the halcyon days of yore…

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  28. Tim says:

    New rule: If the catcher breaks the wicket before the runner touches the plate, the runner is out.

    This is really obvious and solves all the problems.

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  29. Brian says:

    Oh brother, some people just like the idea of change and when they find out someone else does not agree with them it makes them HAVE to have it. Welcome to the USA circa 2013.

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  30. Female Giants Enthusiast says:

    I think there should just be a protective coating around Buster Posey that prevents His Dreaminess from ever being touched by any opposing players, just like how theres a plastic coating around the poster of him i kiss before i go to sleep each night.

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  31. Jon L. says:

    Surprised to find there are no strong opinions about this issue.

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  32. Greg says:

    I like how you snuck the comment in there about an off-the-field umpire quickly reviewing a call. I have never once in my life seen a review in the NFL or any other sport that was quick.

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    • Jason B says:

      Yeah, it would be a shame to spend an extra 90 seconds (in a 3-hour game) to make sure we get an important call right. We just don’t have that kinda time these days!! *Hurriedly checks cell phone and email and texts and pinterests and tumblrs*

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  33. JohnnyB says:

    Nice Slant Wendy. If you have your way and succeed with changing the game for catchers, what next? Maybe a rule change ending breaking up double plays at second base to protect second basemen and shortstops? Base runners get hurt, too, so get over it.

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