By Ken Reed

Lost in all the trades and free agent signings of baseball’s offseason — often called the Hot Stove League — was a significant development: Major League Baseball’s rules committee voted last month to ban home-plate collisions.

For most of MLB’s history, it has been a mark of manhood for catchers to block home plate, and runners to bowl over said catchers, on close plays at home. However, it apparently has finally become clear to all the macho men in baseball that the excitement of a home plate collision isn’t worth the risk of injury, some of which — including concussions — can be career threatening or ending.

Why blocking the plate was never considered obstruction of the base path I’ll never know, but I digress….

According to New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, speaking for the rules committee, the idea behind the vote was to make the game safer without changing its essence.

Hey, there’s an idea for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman: Gary, you can ban fighting in the NHL without changing the essence of the game. In fact, you can enhance the essence of the game!

“Ultimately what we want to do is change the culture of acceptance that these plays are ordinary and routine and an accepted part of the game, that the risks and individual risks, the costs associated in terms of health and injury, just no longer warrant the status quo,” said Alderson.

The rule change still needs to be formally approved by owners and the players union but that approval is expected with little resistance.

Basically, plays at home plate will now be treated just like plays at second and third base. The runner is entitled to a lane to home plate and the catcher faces an obstruction penalty if it isn’t given to him. The catcher might also get a fine or ejection based on the specifics of the play. The same holds true for the runner if it’s determined that he had a clear path to the plate but chooses to run into the catcher instead.

The lesson here for all sports, including football, hockey, soccer, and basketball, is to look for rule changes that make the game safer without changing the game’s essence.

Based on what we know today about brain trauma and concussions, there’s no other choice.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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