There is no satisfying or all-encompassing answer to the question “should baseball end collisions at the plate?” Barbaric as it may seem, it is a part of the game – a game into which both parties enter voluntarily. Collisions at the plate are scary and yet divisive.
As with most things, the opinion a person forms depends on their perspective or agenda, depending on how much you tilt your head. When San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy comes out in favor of banning collisions at the plate, it doesn’t take a very long memory to recall his team losing their star player and MVP Buster Posey for most of the 2011 season after a terrifying play involving Scott Cousins, then of the Florida Marlins.
The old guard of baseball fans don’t want to see collisions removed from the game. A certain segment of the fan base will always feel as though removing contact or danger from the game &mdASH; be it fighting or hits to the head in hockey or certain types of hits in football — pacifies the game they love.
Many in the game feel the same. Joe Torre, a former catcher and long-time big league manager, says he is willing to listen on rule changes to eliminate home plate collisions but feels as though they will remain a part of the game.
Perhaps Torre and others will be more willing to listen when the current vanguard of players and managers begin to speak out in favor of better rules to protect the players. When those players are current manager and former catcher Mike Matheny, they carry a little extra weight.
Mike Matheny told Matthew Leach of MLB.com yesterday that he is very much in favor of eliminating home plate collisions altogether, joining a chorus which includes current Padres catcher John Baker. Matheny claims this is a complete 180 for him, a self-described “old school guy” who “doesn’t see the sense” in allowing catchers to become targets at the plate.
Matheny’s career was cut short by complications from concussions, though he feels that informs just a small part of his decision to change course on this topic. That said, worries over brain injuries are legitimate at all times, according to Matheny.
“We’re talking about the brain,” Matheny said. “It’s just been so shoved under the rug. I didn’t want to be the poster boy for this gig, but I was able to witness in ways I can’t even explain to people how that altered by life for a short period of time and changed the person that I was. It’s scary. So that being said, you look at this game, can this game survive without this play? And I say absolutely. You’re putting people at risk.”
Matheny advocates a rule change which prevents both runners from colliding with catchers at home plate as well as catchers from blocking the plate with their bodies. In other words, treating home plate like every other base.
Until such a time that the rules change, it is up to the individual teams and players to decide on what is right for them. The Mets instructed their top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud NOT to block the plate should the opportunity arise. Already a player with a spotty track record of health, the Mets wisely don’t want to lose the top prize from the R.A. Dickey trade if they can avoid it.
Looking at the big picture, there is so much to lose and so little to gain from violent collisions at home plate. That said, treating home plate like the other three bases might not be fair as it isn’t like the other three bases. The rules — written and otherwise — which govern home plate are different than those for the rest of the diamond.
There isn’t a decent parallel in any other sport for a crash at the plate. In all other sports, the person being hit as the opportunity to move. In baseball, the catcher just sits there and takes it. That isn’t sporting nor is it “part of the game”, that’s just setting a player up for injury – something nobody really wants to see.
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