Union has 'concern' over new rules

Updated: February 26, 2014, 1:33 PM ET
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Baseball's new collision rules haven't yet affected a game. But union chief Tony Clark said Wednesday the players' union is "remarkably concerned" about the impact of the new rules.

"Moving forward we're going to have to pay attention to what happens," Clark said after meeting with Philadelphia Phillies players. "I think the title of the press release said 'experimental.' That's not an accidental word."

Since the rules were announced Monday, a number of players have expressed concerns about their impact. Clark said players have been told to let the union know immediately if they see something they believe violates the spirit of the rule or appears to change the game in some fundamental way.

"If players see something, or, heaven forbid, we've got guys getting injured who otherwise, before the rule, wouldn't have gotten injured, those are things we've got to address sooner rather than later," he said. "That's why this is a one-year consideration. That's why you saw 'experimental' in the headline."

Players have been vocal in expressing fear that the rules protect catchers but not runners who may collide with them, even inadvertently.

Asked what union officials are telling players who ask what protection the rules give runners, Clark said that if the rules had been implemented as originally proposed, "there would have been far more questions and concerns than there are right now."

"If where we started was where we had ended up," Clark said, "I guarantee you what would have happened out here on the field would have altered the game altogether. And not only would have altered the way runs were scored ... it would have been very detrimental to the players on the field in trying to process and understand what all of these moving pieces would otherwise mean, as opposed to what they have always understood and been taught."

Clark acknowledged that the rules still permit catchers who have caught the ball before the runner arrives to drop a knee and block the plate. The union is aware of players' concerns about that possibility, he said.

[+] EnlargeAlex Avila, David Ross
Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesNew rules about home plate collisions have the MLBPA worried about how games will be affected.

"Again, we're going to have to watch what happens," he said. "OK, so a catcher isn't blocking the plate. He's [in front of] the plate. But now as soon as he gets it, he's dropping knees and crushing the runner? Well, now we've got to talk about that as well.

"So what happens as a result of what we've done is something that we're going to pay a lot of attention to. And all it's going to take is one phone call from a runner to suggest that somebody dropped [a knee] or did something that they otherwise couldn't or shouldn't have done, and we're going to have to have a conversation."

No one, Clark said, has shared an issue with the new rules' objective: to prevent future Buster Posey-type injuries. The questions concern the ripple effects of putting the rules into place.

"Everybody acknowledges that we want to protect players," Clark said. "That's where the conversation starts. We want to protect players. OK, so how do we do that? Once you go to the how-do-we-do-that, that's when the water starts to go a little muddy. And that's why a lot of us are uncertain as to what this is going to look like.

"We obviously don't want to put something in place that's going to get more guys hurt. But we don't want to go so far down the road that you've got a runner standing and staring at the catcher, and the catcher's standing there looking at his feet, and it changes everything. So we want to be very careful here about what we do."

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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