So Major League Baseball passed some new language that looks to greatly reduce, if not completely eliminate home plate collisions. The new by-laws – which could easily be dubbed the “Posey Rule” considering MLB only looked into this after Buster Posey was hurt in the 2011 season – take effect this season and will be re-evaluated after the season.
So what does it mean exactly? What’s the new rule? Here it is from the rulebook, Rule 7.13:
(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.
I bet Ray Fosse wishes this rule had been in effect in 1970 when Pete Rose took him out like a cardboard box sitting on a railroad track. But are players in favor of the rule? What do current and former catchers think of it?
Mariners Hall of Famer Dan Wilson was asked about it during his appearance at FanFest. His reply was – and I’m paraphrasing here – that he wasn’t a fan and that we was saddened to see that element of the game disappear.
What does Posey think of the rule? After all, he had a part in drafting the rule.
“What I take away from it is, it eliminates the malicious collision, which is a good thing. My main thing was for everybody to be comfortable with it. Not everybody is going to be comfortable with something when it’s changing, but the main thing, I guess, is that catchers and runners both were protected.” — Buster Posey
Much like NFL players have had to adjust their tackling style in recent years to avoid helmet-to-helmet collisions, this too will take some getting used to. I foresee several runners questioning their approach home, wondering if they need to slide, dive, duck or dodge. The speed on the approach may be slowed due to the additional thought process that will now be involved.
I think, in the end, it is the right thing for the future of the game. But as a former catcher myself, like Wilson said, it will be sad to have it not be a part of the game.