- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
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BOSTON -- In the aftermath of two home plate collisions in the American League Championship Series on Thursday, officials from other teams reiterated that they expect the topic of banning that play to be raised again in meetings this winter.
Given how quickly sentiment within the sport about collisions is shifting -- particularly as information about concussions has come to light, including the cost of concussion-related lawsuits faced by the National Football League -- some officials talk of change as inevitable and predict that it could come swiftly.
"At this point, I don't know who would argue to keep it, or what their argument would be," said one team official who believes general managers will address the topic at their meetings next month. "There is no reasoned argument to keep it [in the game]."
When asked about the topic after Game 5, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland became the latest to say that he is in favor of change, and that he believes there will be change. Leyland is one of the 14 members of commissioner Bud Selig's advisory committee.
San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who lost Buster Posey for most of 2011 after his ankle was shattered in a plate collision, has been among the most outspoken voices calling for a ban on the play, which he considers to carry unacceptable health risk for the catchers and the baserunners. Oakland general manager Billy Beane said he told his catchers to stay out of harm's way and to protect themselves rather than block the plate.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, whose career was plagued by concussions, has called for change. Many other team executives say privately that they view the play as an outlier to the degree that it's unnecessary.
The team officials who expect the change to occur believe that Major League Baseball will simply adopt the rules on plays at the plate that are used at every level below professional baseball: The baserunner is guaranteed an avenue to the plate and is not allowed to target the catcher.
One team official said the collisions involving Miguel Cabrera, Alex Avila and David Ross illuminated "how stupid [the collision] is." In the bottom of the first inning, Cabrera ran through the stop sign of third-base coach Tom Brookens and was beaten to home plate by the throw by yards. Ross planted himself in front of home plate, and Cabrera -- who likely weighs more than 240 pounds -- blasted into Ross, trying to knock the ball loose.
In the next inning, Ross was the baserunner and, similarly, was beaten to the plate by the throw. Ross ran over Avila -- and afterward, Avila and Leyland indicated they had absolutely no problem with what Ross did -- in an effort to jar the ball free. It was on this play that Avila suffered a strained patellar tendon in his left knee.
"Both guys were out by a mile," the team official said. "Now the Tigers may have lost their catcher. With catchers dropping like flies all over the place with concussions, it's dumb.
"Ross did nothing wrong, because that's how everybody expects that play to go. But there is no place [in the game] to be raising an elbow into somebody's head or neck to knock the ball out. It's just dumb [for baseball]."
Avila and Ross had concussion issues during this season.
Some executives view the issue as a math equation: The heightened risk of injury from possibly saving one run in one game is simply not worth the dollars invested in the players involved -- the same line of thinking that led to NFL rule changes designed to protect quarterbacks.
In the aftermath of two home plate collisions in the American League Championship Series on Thursday, officials from other teams reiterated that they expect the topic of banning that play to be raised again in meetings this winter.