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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Buster Posey has a vested interest in new regulations to cover collisions at home plate.
So when I told him that Rule 7.13 had been approved on an experimental basis, and that I had the wording right there on my screen, he eagerly took my phone and slowly scrolled through the emailed release.
“Just reading it like this … I’ll need to hear clarifications on some things,” said Posey, who preferred to withhold comment until then.
He doesn’t want this to be “The Buster Posey Rule,” even though he knows for many fans, players and executives, that’s exactly how it will be perceived. He didn’t ask for it or lead the lobbying effort. Even when solicited for his input, he was hesitant to stay involved beyond the union’s initial round of fact finding.
And now that the language has been drafted, Posey is going to make darn sure he understands every nuance of it before he offers any thoughts.
The joint announcement by Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association shouldn’t have blindsided anyone on Monday. There was no doubt some form of a rule to prevent targeted hits at the plate would be on the books before opening day -- and not because of Posey’s traumatic leg injury in 2011. Just take one look at the NFL’s struggle to deal with concussions and other traumatic head injuries, complete with high-profile litigation, and you begin to understand why Commissioner Bud Selig felt compelled to act swiftly.
Basically, the rule outlaws a runner from targeting contact with a catcher by deviating from a direct line to the plate. It also prevents catchers from blocking the plate when they are not in possession of the ball. There are no “safe zones.” There is no mechanism for fines or suspensions, either. If a runner is deemed to have intentionally rammed into a catcher, he will be called out. If a catcher is deemed to have blocked the plate without the ball, failing to give the runner a lane, then the runner will be called safe. Umpires may use replay when applicable, as well.
It’s a win for Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who was one of the earliest and most outspoken voices for a rule to protect catchers.
“I’ve been for it,” said Bochy, just a few minutes before the rule was announced Monday. “I think it’s time for a change and I’ve tried to stay at the forefront along with other catchers who are for it, just so we can do something to protect these guys. They’re just not protected. These (runners) are getting bigger, faster and stronger. I’m behind a change.”
Pablo Sandoval wasn't sure what to think. On one hand, he was a catcher at Single-A San Jose when a runner flattened him on a play at the plate. (He dialed up the popular Youtube video to show that he wasn't standing in front of the plate when he got blasted.) On the other hand ... "It's part of the game," he said.
Hector Sanchez, the Giants’ backup catcher, wasn't conflicted at all.
Sanchez recalled a play in 2010 at Low-A Augusta when a baserunner crashed into him as he was getting ready to receive a throw. The runner’s helmet hit him flush on the ear, and he wasn’t wearing a hockey-style mask.
“I was giving him the plate,” Sanchez said. “And all I was doing was trying to catch the ball. No bueno, man. So this is a good rule for catchers. Sometimes you’re scared to get hit, so you let the throw go. Now you can feel comfortable because the runner cannot hit you.”
Technically, the runner doesn’t have to slide. There will be plenty of questions and gray areas for catchers and runners to go over. The league will provide instructional materials to players in the coming days.
The rule was announced just as most Giants players were getting ready to leave for the day, so most declined to comment until they could study it. Bochy and Giants GM Brian Sabean were scheduled to meet with MLB VP Joe Torre Monday night to go over how expanded use of instant replay will be instituted, and some discussion of Rule 7.13 was bound to happen there as well.
For now, the rule exists on a page. And a phone screen. It's below:
Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) have officially negotiated the addition of Rule 7.13, covering collisions at home plate, on an experimental basis for the 2014 season, the parties jointly announced today.
In 2014, the rule being implemented by MLB and the MLBPA (set out below) will prohibit the most egregious collisions at home plate. The new experimental rule sets forth that:
--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).
--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.
In determining whether a runner deviated from his pathway in order to initiate a collision, the Umpire will consider whether the runner made an effort to touch the plate, and whether he lowered his shoulders or pushed through with his hands, elbows or arms when veering toward the catcher. The rule that will be in effect in 2014 does not mandate that the runner always slide or that the catcher can never block the plate. However, runners who slide, and catchers who provide the runner with a lane to reach the plate, will never be found to be in violation of the new rule. Beginning immediately, Clubs will be required to train their runners to slide and their catchers to provide the runner with a pathway to reach the plate at all levels in their organizations.
MLB will distribute training materials throughout Spring Training and discussions on the new rule, including the retraining of catchers and base runners, will be held during MLB’s meetings with managers in the weeks ahead. Additionally, MLB and the MLBPA will form a committee of players and managers to review developments as the season progresses and to discuss the possible application of the new rule in 2015.
Finally, instant replay will be available to review potential violations of Rule 7.13. The Umpire Crew Chief will have discretion to invoke instant replay in order to determine whether Rule 7.13 was violated.
OFFICIAL BASEBALL RULE 7.13
COLLISIONS AT HOME PLATE
(1) 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 base runners 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.
(2) 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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