MLB to ban home plate collisions

Updated: December 15, 2013, 9:32 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Major League Baseball plans to eliminate home plate collisions, possibly as soon as next season but no later than by 2015.

[+] EnlargeScott Cousins, Buster Posey
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezMajor League Baseball plans to eliminate home plate collisions, like the one that injured Buster Posey in 2011.

Sources tell ESPN's Buster Olney that there is a strong desire for MLB's rules committee to fast-track the specific rule changes in time for next season.

Under the rules changes being discussed, sources told Olney:

• Catchers will not be allowed to block home plate.

• Runners will not be permitted to target the catchers.

• The question of whether or not the plate was blocked or the runner targeted the catcher will be reviewable, with an immediate remedy available to the umpires.

• Catchers or runners who violate the new rules will be subject to disciplinary action.

New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, chairman of the rules committee, made the announcement Wednesday at the winter meetings.

"This is, I think, in response to a few issues that have arisen," Alderson said. "One is just the general occurrence of injuries from these incidents at home plate that affect players, both runners and catchers. And also kind of the general concern about concussions that exists not only in baseball but throughout professional sports and amateur sports today. It's an emerging issue, and one that we in baseball have to address, as well as other sports."

Alderson said wording of the rules change will be presented to owners for approval at a Jan. 16 meeting in Paradise Valley, Ariz.

"The exact language and how exactly the rule will be enforced is subject to final determination," he said. "We're going to do fairly extensive review of the types of plays that occur at home plate to determine which we're going to find acceptable and which are going to be prohibited."

Approval of the players' union is needed for the rules change to be effective for 2014.

"If the players' association were to disapprove, then the implementation of the rule would be suspended for one year, but could be implemented unilaterally after that time," Alderson said.

The union declined to comment, pending a review of the proposed change.

MLB intends to have varied tiers of punishment.

"I think there will be two levels of enforcement," Alderson said. "One will be with respect to whether the runner is declared safe or out based on conduct. So, for example, intentionally running over the catcher might result in an out call. So I think that the enforcement will be on the field as well as subsequent consequences in the form of fines and suspensions and the like."

Discussion to limit or ban collisions has intensified since May 2011, when San Francisco's Buster Posey was injured by Florida's Scott Cousins. Posey, an All-Star catcher, sustained a broken bone in his lower left leg and three torn ligaments in his ankle, injuries that ended his season.

Posey returned to win the NL batting title and MVP award in 2012, when he led the Giants to their second World Series title in three seasons.

Mike Matheny, the St. Louis Cardinals' manager and a former catcher, made an emotional presentation about the impact of concussions on his life. MLB estimates that about 50 percent of concussions are related to collisions.

Hall of Famer Johnny Bench tweeted out thanks to MLB on Thursday for moving to ban home-plate collisions.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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