Feb 23, 2014; Ft Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox catcherA.J. Pierzynski
poses during photo day at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit:David Manning
-USA TODAY Sports
Earlier today, Major League Baseball implemented a new rule regarding home plate collisions. The rule, designed to limit injuries on unnecessary home plate collisions, states that a catcher can no longer block the plate unless it is impossible to field the ball otherwise. On the flipside, runners cannot run out of a straight line in order to initiate contact with the catcher. On the whole, these seem like relatively reasonable rules but new Red Sox catcher AJ Pierzysnki isn’t a fan of the new rules. In an interview today, Pierzysnki voiced his opinions on MLB’s newest rule.
"I disagree with it. I understand why they’re doing it, but next, they’re going to tell us that you can’t slide into the guy at second base. It’s one of those things, as a big-league catcher, I signed up for it. You never want to see guys get hurt, and you never want to see guys go down because of it, but it’s part of the game you signed up forIt puts the umpires in a horrible spot. I feel sorry for those guys. That’s going to be one of the hardest things for those guys. They’re going to be put in a really awkward spot."
To be fair, Pierzysnki does have a point. Remember the controversy that surrounded the Red Sox’ loss on an obstruction call in Game Three of the World Series last year? That was on a long-established rule and though we were obviously not happy with the result, most fans generally accepted that it was a fair call.
Imagine if a team lost a game– a playoff game, even– on this new rule. Imagine the controversy that would surround that and the ignominy that the umpire would reside in going forward. There’s a good chance that this new rule will put umpires in a “really awkward spot” on multiple occasions this season.
With that being said, this is obviously the right move from a player safety perspective. Home plate collisions have severely impacted the careers of many Major League catchers– most notably in the All-Star Game in 1970 when a hard-charging Pete Rose collided with catcher Ray Fosse, essentially ending his season and having a significant effect on his career going forward. But even in recent seasons with more advanced safety measures, home plate collisions have notably affected Buster Posey, who missed the final 117 games of the season after a collision with outfielder Scott Cousins (now in the Red Sox organization), and Red Sox backup catcher David Ross, who spent time in the disabled list last year with concussion symptoms after multiple collisions.
Hopefully, this rule will prevent such horrific injuries as these in the future. However, surely there must be a better way to implement the rule. Having controversial calls being decided by a judgement call is simply not going to go over well in many situations. It’s good to see MLB taking measures to improve player safety, but ideally this will be a stopgap towards a better plan– much like Pierzynski is a stopgap towards the Red Sox’ bright catching future.