Crying Foul: Collisions and Pitcher Helmets. Yay or Nay? Part 1

 

(c) MLB
(c) MLB

December 11, 2013. A day that will live in infamy. It was on this day that MLB Rule Committee announced a rule change that I actually would have thought only possible in one of my FoulBallz predictions. By the 2015 season, the game we all love will fundamentally change…for the worse in my humble opinion.

For those of you reading this and who’ve still not heard by now, the high and mighty in Major League Baseball have decided to ban collisions at home plate. This rule change shouldn’t come as a surprise to the more dedicated fans; it’s been something batted around for years and garnered significant discussion during the 2013 season. Regardless of how prominent the discussion has been, I’ll call it what it is, and what many others quicker to the blog-o-sphere have already iterated and reiterated: D.U.M.B. DUM! As horrible as collisions are, they are part of the game. And “banning” in any form them is just not something that is possible, realistically.

Sure I feel bad for catchers like Alex Avila who seem to always get a ball to the inside of the thigh and then on the next play get flattened at the plate just for good measure. But let’s be real, collisions are hardly avoidable. They happen in and outside of the baselines and at every point between each base.

But it’s not that I don’t agree that collisions are bad. They are. Concussions and fractures and all sorts of bad things happen as a result of them. I just think this  rule is plain poor thinking. It can’t be policed effectively in any way.

The main aspect of this as yet not-quite-fully-hashed-out rule change is that players will be required to slide into home; they can no longer stay up and plow through (into) the catcher. This sounds reasonable, but the facts remain that a collision is still a collision. If I take out a catcher’s legs as I slide into home, it’s still a collision and I can still do significant damage to him. Since catchers MUST have full use of their legs, this rule only increases the odds of significant leg injuries to catchers, which—as common sense dictates—put catchers on the short list for careers in the “Bigs.” Catchers can recoup from an upright collision much more easily and quickly than an injury to their legs, particularly their knees. Sure they have shin pads, but anyone who’s had the honor to be a catcher (and yes, it is an honor to be a catcher) knows that those guards aren’t all they are made out to be. When you get hit, you feel it, regardless of the type and amount of protection! The only option for this is to introduce goalie flavored padding, but then range of motion is severely limited.

Consider these very common scenarios that illustrate the utter inanity of this rule change:

1)     Runner on 3rd takes off on a passed throw, the throw to the plate is there on time and the catcher has the runner out dead to rights, but since the runner is running at full steam, he’s not able to stop in time to avoid the collision.

2)     A runner rounds 3rd, heads home and the outfielder stops throwing the ball to home for the tag. Why? Because if he throws, and the catcher goes to tag the runner, there will be a collision.

3)     Runner comes barreling in to home, dives and the catcher is forced to clear a path. The run scores without any challenge.

So is every game the All-Star Game?

What I do appreciate is that the owners admitted that this move is one made to protect their “investments” and for insurance purposes.

 

(c) twincities.com
(c) twincities.com

Helmets for Pitchers?

Okay. This one I get. The reason for this and its probable impact on the game are understandable and very much acceptable. It is one of the few rule changes with which I wholeheartedly agree. I’m glad this is about to be a reality. The hits pitchers have taken over the years are scary to say the least. The velocity at which the ball comes off a bat and the speed it is going when it hits a pitcher is mind-bloggling. No person can be expected to have beyond lightning fast reflexes in such a short distance either. Frankly, I think it’s a true miracle more pitchers haven’t been killed by line drives. The case of J. A. Happ seems to have been the proverbial last straw. MLB finally got a rule change right.  So I’m not gonna belabor this point. Kudos to Major League Baseball for finally doing something about this that doesn’t fundamentally change the game itself.