Today Major League Baseball implemented a new rule regarding plays involving collisions at home plate. As per MLB.com the new rule reads as follows:
Rule 7.13: 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.
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.
Personally, as with the unwritten “neighborhood rule” that exists at second base, I am in favor of the new guidelines. Baseball is not a contact sport. Yes, there’s room in the game for breaking up double plays, but the “neighborhood rule” exists so that a middle infielder doesn’t get his knees blown out every time there’s a slow grounder because he has to stay on the bag throughout the play, but still allows a runner to influence the throw by sliding in hard.
To me this rule does the same thing. You can still have contact at the plate, they just want both parties to be smarter about it. A runner shouldn’t be allowed to change his trajectory or lower his shoulder to lobby a huge hit on a fielder, there’s no where else on the diamond that this occurs. The only part of this rule I think is even debatable is whether or not a catcher should be able to block the plate before he has the ball because you see second and third basemen block a runners path to the bag on stolen base attempts and other tag plays, but the difference between those plays and a play at the plate is that those infield plays are almost always occurring in from of the fielder who is about to receive the ball; on a throw from right field a catcher has no vision of the runner that is about to come to the plate.
If anything this rule is well overdue. Injuries are an unavoidable part of the game, but for the league to not do everything within its power to prevent them would be foolish.