We knew a new rule about home plate collisions was coming soon from MLB because it was put into action at the Winter Meetings in December. On Monday, with a sign-off from the players' union, Major League Baseball made the new rule official.
In short: Rule 7.13 won't ban all collisions at home plate, only the ones deemed egregious in which a runner goes out of his way to run over a catcher. It also won't allow catchers to block home plate unless they have the ball. The rule will go into effect this season.
Here's the official verbiage from MLB:
(1) A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate). If, in the judgment of the Umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the Umpire shall declare the runner out (even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball). In such circumstances, the Umpire shall call the ball dead, and all other base runners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision.
Rule 7.13 Comment: The failure by the runner to make an effort to touch the plate, the runner’s lowering of the shoulder, or the runner’s pushing through with his hands, elbows or arms, would support a determination that the runner deviated from the pathway in order to initiate contact with the catcher in violation of Rule 7.13. If the runner slides into the plate in an appropriate manner, he shall not be adjudged to have violated Rule 7.13. A slide shall be deemed appropriate, in the case of a feet first slide, if the runner’s buttocks and legs should hit the ground before contact with the catcher. In the case of a head first slide, a runner shall be deemed to have slid appropriately if his body should hit the ground before contact with the catcher.
(2) Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the Umpire, the catcher without possession of the ball blocks the pathway of the runner, the Umpire shall call or signal the runner safe. Notwithstanding the above, it shall not be considered a violation of this Rule 7.13 if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in order to field a throw, and the Umpire determines that the catcher could not have fielded the ball without blocking the pathway of the runner and that contact with the runner was unavoidable.
A few other things that are important to point out:
• The first paragraph of MLB's press release says this is happening "on an experimental basis" in 2014, which means the league is giving itself enough room to wiggle out if this goes over horribly. The rule has certainly been controversial in theory. Its opponents will say it over-regulates the game and flies in the face of tradition.
• A committee of players and managers will be formed to evaluate the progress of the rule and discuss changes for 2015.
• The home plate collision rule will be reviewable under MLB's new expanded video replay system.
• Training materials will be distributed in the coming weeks to teams and coaches so they can be ready for opening day.
It makes sense for baseball to add this to its list of big changes for the 2014 season — making all the adjustments at once is easier. Like the new video replay system, though, this will certainly take a while to get used to, and require some in-game applications before we fully grasp the change.
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