Today, the MLB Rules Committee led by Joe Torre and Sandy Alderson announced a sweeping change planned for the 2014 season: ugly home plate collisions will be officially a thing of the past:
MLB has now decided to eliminate home-plate collisions at home plate, meaning, players must slide going into home.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 11, 2013
There could be fines and suspensions as penalties for home-plate collisions.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 11, 2013
Craig Calcaterra at Hardball Talk notes that the players must approve it for the rule to go into effect for the 2014 season; otherwise, MLB will have to wait until 2015 to implement it. However, the players are expected to fully approve of the change.
Given how many concussions have resulted from home plate collisions, I am 100% behind this rule. For as exciting a finish as home plate collisions could occasionally be, like J.T. Snow vs. Ivan Rodriguez in the last play of the 2003 NLDS, it is simply not worth it to have to stomach the collisions that end like Buster Posey's did in the early goings of 2011. Modern medical studies have taught us far more about concussions than we ever knew before, and baserunners' assaults on home plate with catchers blocking can lead to concussions so easily.
Catchers have to go through enough hardships just from foul balls off the mask and rogue swings hitting the helmet. Playing careers like Mike Matheny's and Jorge Posada's ended in large part due to concussions. By eliminating home plate collisions, MLB takes a step toward decreasing the frequency of concussions in the game. It's not like barreling into a fielder at other bases has ever been considered acceptable at any position other then catcher. Catcher equipment can only do so much to protect them. As Tanya pointed out on Twitter, it's so much easier to sit at home on your couch and bemoan the loss of home plate collisions when you're not the one risking brain damage from enormous men trying to demolish you. It's just not worth the risk, and sliding plays into home plate can be just as exciting (Don't believe me? Watch the end of the 1992 NLCS and 2007 NL Wild Card game). Baseball simply does not need home plate collisions.
On an instant replay note, Torre also clarified some of the planned new rules about instant replay. Managers will be allowed to use up to two replay challenges during the first seven innings. If he is correct in his challenge, he will receive one more. It would seem that the managers will get two challenges per full game regardless. While I would prefer a system in which a sixth umpire or someone like that simply reviews all close plays without the hassle of throwing flags, losing challenges, or whatever, this is still a better system than those of years past with no replay outside of borderline homers. It could be better, but it's a start, at least. Although the MLB Players Association and the Umpires Association still have to sign off on replay, it looks like all but a lock to be ready for the start of the 2014 season.