Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association announced on Monday a new rule that should reduce the number of collisions at home plate. Rule 7.13, whose parameters were discussed at the winter meetings, will be used in all Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues games in preparation for the regular season.
Multiple Los Angeles Dodgers catchers recently expressed their disdain for the rule change, with A.J. Ellis going so far as to say he believes the new rule strips catchers of making a game-changing play. However, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark believes the rule is fair for all involved, according to Paul Hagen of MLB.com:
There is nothing more sacred in the game than home plate, and baserunners want to do all they can to score a run, while catchers want to do their best to defend the plate — in many cases, at all costs,” said Tony Clark, executive director of the MLBPA. “Therefore, as one might imagine, the issue of home-plate collisions is one that generates spirited debate among the players. Because of this, coming up with a rule change that allows both the runner and catcher a fair and equal opportunity to score and defend was our mandate.
Initially, the general sense was the new rule would ban catchers from protecting home plate all together. However, catchers will be permitted to block the plate so long as they’re in possession of the baseball. The expansion of replay heading into the 2014 season will allow the umpire crew to review potential violations of rule 7.13.
Here’s the rule in its entirety:
OFFICIAL BASEBALL RULE 7.13
Collisions at home plate
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 baserunners 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.
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.
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