MLB moves to eliminate home-plate collisions

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – On the day Major League Baseball moved to protect its catchers, Mike Scioscia was asked to identify the most violent of his many collisions at the plate.

"I don't remember the worst one," he said.

And that, presumably, would be the very point of the coming legislation.

A legendary blocker of the plate who more than once was assisted from the scene of a wreck, the Angels manager got the laugh he intended and, 25 years later, the rules change he had to be persuaded to support.

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The Playing Rules Committee voted Wednesday to eliminate home-plate collisions, this after Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and Giants manager Bruce Bochy, both former catchers, spoke in support of the legislation. Matheny retired from the game after suffering numerous concussions. Bochy became an outspoken proponent of rules to protect catchers when his, Buster Posey, missed most of the 2011 season because of a particularly brutal collision.

The rule's language – what constitutes running over a catcher and the punishment for it – has not been finalized. Upon completion, it will be subject to the votes of owners and players. Members of the committee expect the rule to be in place for the 2014 season.

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"I'm proud of the league for taking a step forward," Matheny said this week. "I just believe it's something that we can't turn a blind eye to, what's going on in these other sports. Let's learn from what's going on there and see if we can't make our sport better."

The NFL and NHL, in particular, have long histories of viewing concussions as little more than mild ankle sprains. Only recently have they begun to consider the long-term effects of concussions. MLB introduced concussion protocols three years ago that included a seven-day concussion disabled list.

Los Angeles Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said Wednesday he considered the play at the plate – and whatever comes of it – to be a necessary part of the game and its outcome.

"I know what's in my job description," he said.

He added: "I understand and appreciate MLB's concern with our safety. With all the medical advances and information out on head trauma, not to mention possible orthopedic injuries, I'm thankful that my career could be prolonged."

Writing the rule could be the simplest part of the process. Implementing the rule, enforcing it, and possibly altering the final score of the game as a result will be difficult and will come as one more responsibility for umpires whose job is to determine safe or out, not necessarily how or why.

"I know when you do make a great play at the plate, and maybe you do make a great tag and block a guy off, it's a great momentum swing in the game and can be uplifting," Scioscia said. "You can make those plays without putting your body on the line. I think that's what the game is trying to get to."