Major League Baseball instituted its new rule about home plate collisions Monday. It's not a straight-up ban, and the rule was labeled as "experimental," which suggests MLB knows there's going to be some revolt.
Traditionalists aren't going to love it. They want action, they want the game like it was and they don't want reactionary new rules to change things.
Among those who aren't a fan of the rule is veteran MLB catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who told Bob Nightengale of USA Today he's against the rule because collisions at home plate are part of the job he signed up for. Here's what Pierzynski told Nightengale:
"I disagree with it. I understand why they're doing it, but next, they're going to tell us that you can't slide into the guy at second base. It's one of those things, as a big-league catcher, I signed up for it. You never want to see guys get hurt, and you never want to see guys go down because of it, but it's part of the game you signed up for.
"There are going to be plays at the plate, late in games, where you need to block the plate and try to keep that guy from scoring, saving a run that ultimately gets your team into the playoffs. And not given that opportunity is unfair. I understand why the rule is made, but I wish there was a better way to go about it.''
Pierzynski, who joined the Boston Red Sox this offseason, is sliding down a slippery slope with that "next they're going to ban slides into second base" argument.
As mentioned above, the new rule isn't a complete ban on collisions. It states that runners can't go out of their way to collide with catchers while catchers can't block the plate if they don't have the ball. Along with baseball's new video replay system, it means big changes are coming to MLB in 2014.
Like the replay system, the new home plate collision rule won't just mean adjustments for players, but umpires too. They're got Pierzynski's sympathies.
"It puts the umpires in a horrible spot. I feel sorry for those guys. That's going to be one of the hardest things for those guys. They're going to be put in a really awkward spot.''
MLB and the player's union said Monday they would put together a committee of players and managers to track the new rule's progress and re-evaluate it for next season. If Pierzynski gets invited, we know how he's leaning.
Ultimately, though, this is bigger than what A.J. Pierzynski or any other current MLB catcher "signed up for" 20 years ago. It's not about a pact made in the past. It's about the future. Many NFL players would have given the same "it's what I signed up" answer 20 years ago, and today we're learning more about a generation of players who are dealing with unknown-at-the-time consequences of head injuries.
Baseball's rule isn't about putting umpires in comfortable spots or reacting to any specific injury. It's about making the game safer, so 30 years from now A.J. Pierzynski can tell his grandkids about the time his team made it into the playoffs. And the same goes for the A.J. Pierzynskis of baseball's next generation too.
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- A.J. Pierzynski