If you have been following the MLB winter meetings at all, you will surely know about all of the free agent signings as well as every team trading players with the Oakland Athletics. (Billy Beane, you crazy!) There has also been noise on a different front, not of shuffling line-ups, but a rule change that has people divided:
“MLB to ban home plate collisions” – ESPN headline
“Baseball Plans to Ban Collisions at Home Plate” – NY Times headline
That’s right, one of the most violent and exciting plays will be put up to vote by the MLBPA and potentially banned by 2015. As a former catcher in my days of middle school and high school baseball, this has me torn. On one hand, I LOVED those plays. I loved the choreography that went into positioning, catching, blocking, tagging, then holding on for dear life. The best feeling in the world was triumphantly standing tall and showing the umpire the ball still firmly in your grasp.
I am a realist. This play is not dangerous in terms of physical injuries like broken bones, bruises, and bloodied extremities, but the long-term consequences are coming to light after studies on former athletes’ brains. Sure, not everyone involved in the play suffers a concussion, but the likelihood of receiving one of these sneaky-yet-devastating injuries is probably higher than any other play in baseball (with exception to purposely head-hunting, though that’s a big no-no).
While these are grown men making adult choices, we are taking about an abstract idea of “x% chance of a concussion leading to long-term brain damage and/or suicide.” The reality of this choice is but a dream; signing for millions with a clear mind seems more likely and attractive than thinking about the off-chance that you become a washed-up former player, wasting money on painkillers, pills, and psychologists, while you have turned your back on your family, and have nothing to show for your prime other than a mint-condition Topps baseball card worth 50 cents.
Even if you want to still let these young athletes with dreams of becoming a hall-of-famer and multimillionaire make such a huge life decision, there should be something else that doesn’t quite make sense…
Why can a catcher block the plate and prevent a run when no other position can do the same? Sure, there are some pads that the catcher wears, but padding does not make him a bouncer at St. Peter’s Gate, does it? That padding has become more vital to foul balls or wild pitches in the dirt, not for a play that happens maybe 3 times a year to a catcher. If other players on the field cannot block access to a bag, other than with their glove, then why the double standard at home?
Now at this point I would LOVE to go into the stupidity behind “breaking up a double play,” but that’s an entry by itself (maybe when the play is under rule review).
While I understand that there is a “tradition” behind this play, and I see how exciting it is/can be, the double-standards in rules along with the long-term consequences seem to back up that this play is meant to die. Catchers can still make tags, there will still be close plays with guys sliding into each other, but no more football. We take pride in our game being so mental, a “thinking man’s game,” let’s not lose that just to duplicate the popularity of the NFL.
What do you think? Feel the same? Have different reasons/different perspective? Let’s discuss. I haven’t even brought up the “what does it teach the kids?” argument, so if you want to tackle that, go ahead. This is a friendly environment, one to discuss ideas, whether we agree or agree to disagree; the best way is to talk about it.
PS: Here is a great link of the “Top 50 Plays at the Plate” via the MLB. notice how many exciting plays were made without huge collisions? Those would NOT be outlawed, but would become the norm (no more Posey injuries). Also, if you will also notice, many of the huge collisions that will no longer be allowed come in the recent era 1990s-today. With guys being more athletic, bigger, stronger, and with larger bank accounts, both teams are gasping and taking huge risks.
PPS: Lost is the art of a beautiful and creative slide. Won’t it be more exciting and a breath of fresh air to see your favorite base-stealer with a fancy hook-slide or do a flip over the catcher?
Looking for some further reading? Look at this link that describes what CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) is; this is what researchers have been studying in athletes’ brains that have been donated to them once the player has died. Maybe it’s my aversion to brain-related disease due to my own anxiety issues (which pales in comparison), but I would not wish this on anyone.