Saturday, December 21, 2013

5 comments Nick Cafardo Doesn't Like the Rule Banning Home Plate Collisions Either

We have already read about Terence Moore's disgust for banning home plate collisions between the catcher and the base runner at home plate. Now Nick Cafardo of "The Boston Globe" has bravely spoken out against the rule change disallowing collisions at home plate between the runner and the catcher. "What's wrong with a few collisions?" asks Nick Cafardo safely tucked into his press box seat chewing on the pregame spread and drinking his third Diet Coke of the day. Where could this end? Do we ban foul balls (yes, Cafardo actually asks this question as if banning the same collision at home plate that is illegal at every other base is a slippery slope to foul balls being banned)? What's wrong with a few career-threatening injuries? It's baseball, there are supposed to be career-threatening injuries resulting from one player smashing into another player in an effort to cross home plate. Sure, this type of action is against the rules at every other base, but home plate collisions can't be banned because tradition exists. 

One of the game’s biggest stars — Buster Posey — suffered a nearly career-ending knee injury

I'm not sportswriter, but if I was going to argue home plate collisions should not be banned and try to use some facts in my opening sentence then I would make sure the sentence is factually correct. Buster Posey suffered a fractured fibula and torn ligaments in his ankle. He didn't suffer a potentially career-ending knee injury. Maybe Cafardo thinks a person's fibula is in his/her knee or maybe he is too busy frothing at the mouth about a rule change in baseball he is making factually incorrect statements.

as a result of a collision with then-Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins in May of 2011, therefore we must protect catchers?

Cafardo seems to be having some cause and effect problems. Buster Posey was injured two and a half years ago in a home plate collision. It's clear the rule change isn't entirely motivated by Posey's injury, but the rule change is motivated by the variety of catchers who have gotten injured in home plate collisions. Plus, at no other base is it acceptable to just run over the fielder.

Major League Baseball finally has arrived at banning home plate collisions, starting in 2015 —

Now in the second paragraph there is a second factually incorrect statement. Collisions may end up being banned as early as during the 2014 season.

Baseball is seeking to ban collisions that have happened since Abner Doubleday invented baseball. What are we doing here?

Making the game safer for baseball players and protecting catchers from themselves much like the NFL has taken steps to protect NFL players from themselves. Logically, if you were designing rules for baseball would it make sense to say a base runner can run over the fielder at no other bases without being called for interference...except for home plate where the runner can then bowl over the catcher and be safe if the catcher drops the ball and the runner tags home plate? It doesn't make sense to change the rules governing the base running when it comes to a runner trying to touch home plate. All of a sudden it's perfectly okay to run over the fielder at home plate?

This isn’t football, in which every play is a collision.

No, this isn't football where every play is a collision. It is baseball, where the catcher gets into a minor car accident every time a runner bowls over him at home plate. Collisions at home plate don't happen often, so there should be no issue with banning them.

You get a severe home plate collision once in a while, and although MLB estimates that 50 percent of its concussions come from collisions at the plate, they also are the result of batters being hit with pitches, catchers taking foul balls off the mask, and other collisions.

The stupidity of this argument baffles me. MLB estimates 50% of concussions come from collisions at home plate, but Nick Cafardo thinks steps shouldn't be taken to reduce these concussions? If concussions can be reduced by 50% by changing a rule, shouldn't this rule change seriously be considered? Yes, concussions also happen when a better gets hit by a pitch or a catcher takes a foul ball off the mask or even when fielders collide, but there is no way to avoid these from happening without substantially changing how baseball is played. Collisions at home plate can be removed from the game of baseball without changing the fundamental way the sport is played at all.

How far are we going to take this?

It's only going to go until home plate collisions are banned. How dramatic about this are you going to be?

David Ross and Alex Avila suffered concussions as the result of foul balls off their masks during the 2013 season. Are we banning foul balls soon?

This would be comical if I didn't know Nick Cafardo wasn't intentionally missing the point. No, foul balls will not be banned. The idea isn't to ban any little thing that can cause an injury to a baseball player, but to ban collisions at home plate which really shouldn't have a place in baseball anyway and have caused severe injuries to those who are a part of a home plate collision. Don't be a drama queen.

The type of collision Ross and Avila had in the American League Championship Series would be banned; Ross barreled in and tried to dislodge the ball from Avila’s mitt. A player was trying to score and the other player was trying to prevent it.

Yes, but at every other base when one player is trying to get to that base and another player is trying to prevent it, then it is against the rules for one player to bowl the other over. A runner can't try to dislodge the ball from the fielder's mitt at any other base.

An outfielder throwing to the plate, a runner barreling around third, and ball and runner coming to the plate at the same time is one of the most exciting plays in baseball.

It will still be very, very, very exciting after home plate collisions are banned. It just so happens the runner will have to try and score without running over the catcher. This isn't too much to ask at every other base, so I think the runner can try to touch home plate without running over the catcher and the catcher can make the tag without sitting directly in front of home plate.

Does the catcher hold on to the ball after the collision, or does he drop it, with the runner safe?

Does the catcher suffer a season-ending injury or does he simply get a concussion and miss the next couple of games?

This is sport. This is athleticism.

There is nothing athletic about running over the catcher or standing in front of home plate with the baseball. A person with very little athletic ability could perform both tasks quite easily.

And now we’re taking it away?

Taking it away from what?

“I think it’s well-intended,” Francona said. “I might be a little bit in the minority. I think there is liable to be more injuries with baserunners than maybe we realize.

I have no idea what "there is liable to be more injuries with base runners than maybe we realize" means. There is liable to be fewer injuries if a runner isn't allowed to run over the catcher. Yes, some player might hurt himself sliding into home plate, but this doesn't mean sliding into the base is inherently more dangerous than running over the catcher or being run over by the base runner.

I guess I feel like if you don’t want your catcher not to block the plate, just tell him not to block the plate. You don’t have to enforce rules, just tell him not to block the plate.”

If the police want someone to wear a seat belt then they could just tell the public to wear a seat belt, but this doesn't always work. In fact, MLB is saying they don't want the catcher to block the plate, so they are making a rule to ensure this happens.

Detroit manager Brad Ausmus, who caught 1,938 games over 18 seasons, is torn as well.

It's better for Ausmus to be torn than have Alex Avila get something torn due to a home plate collision.

“I do think it should change,” he said. “With all the new information on concussions, it’s probably the prudent thing to do. However, I am a little bit old school in the sense that I don’t want to turn home plate into just another tag play. This is a run. This is the difference between possibly making the playoffs and not making the playoffs. It should matter a little bit more.

A play at first base, second base, and third base are also the difference in making the playoffs and not making the playoffs. This doesn't mean the runner should be able to run over the first basemen because he wants to be safe at first to get a runner on-base with two outs in the ninth inning. Every runner being safe at every base could make the difference in whether a team makes the playoffs or not.

The idea a play at home plate where the runner slides can't be exciting is just plain bullshit. I can immediately think of one exciting and very important play where the runner sliding into home ahead of the catcher's tag was involved. 

“In my mind I’d love to see something that if there’s a collision, any hit above the shoulders, maybe the runner is out. I don’t know how it’s going to pan out. I know that would be very difficult to umpire, intent on something like that. But I do think something is going to happen.”

It sounds like Ausmus isn't really torn, but is more concerned with the enforcement of the rule and how umpires will determine intent. It sounds to be me like Ausmus doesn't mind some contact between the catcher and the runner, but he also understands a hit above the shoulders can cause injury.

“But again, for me, those things are going to happen,” he said. “The occasional knee injuries, those things are going to happen. In my mind let’s talk about protecting the head, keep the concussions to a minimum or to zero, if possible.”
Is a rule change necessary? Or is simply enforcing the obstruction rule in place good enough?

I can see where enforcement of the obstruction rule is good enough, but this doesn't take into account the runner bowling over the catcher. Yes, the catcher is not allowed to stand in front of home plate in the baseline, but if the catcher is standing on home plate with the ball would that count as obstruction? I don't think it does, so that brings into account why MLB wants to ban home plate collisions from the game. There will be times when enforcing the obstruction rule won't get done what MLB wants done. They want collisions at home plate out of the game of baseball and it seems simply enforcing the obstruction rule wouldn't get this done.

Simple enough. The catcher has to have the ball in his possession before he can block the plate. Leave it alone. Enforce it. 

Great. But if the catcher has the ball in his hand then the runner can still run over him to score and we are back at square one.

Or as Francona suggests, just tell your catchers they are not to block the plate and they are to use the swipe tag, the way Pudge Rodriguez did through his career.

But there are managers who won't tell their catchers to not block the plate and MLB wants there to be zero collisions at home plate, so they have taken this out of the hands of each individual manager and made a league-wide rule.

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, who headed the committee to look into home plate collisions, said the recommended ban is because of a few factors.

“One is just the general occurrence of injuries from these incidents at home plate that affects players, both runners and catchers — and also the general concern about concussions that exists not only in baseball but throughout professional sports and amateur sports today,” he said.

Baseball has gotten trounced for being reactive to issues like steroids and making the game more attractive to "the kids," but they finally get out in front of an issue and they are getting trounced for overreacting to the issue of home plate collisions. Concussions aren't just a football-related issue.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who was a rough-and-tumble backstop for the Dodgers, is on board with the change.

What a traitor.

“Well, I think everyone is in agreement that the mindless collisions at home plate where a catcher is being targeted by a runner, that needs to be addressed,” he said. “I think that it’s easy to say a runner has to slide. But on the other side of the coin, it’s going to be difficult to contain a runner and telling him what he has to do and let the catcher have carte blanche to be able to block the plate aggressively.

This is why MLB will review the collisions at home plate during this offseason to come up with a list of rules they can present to the teams and the player's union.

“I think it’s going to be possible, you just have to figure out how to do it. I know as a catcher, if I knew that the runner couldn’t run me over, I’d definitely block the plate. So there is probably a solution there. That is something that they’ve got to work on. Will it be perfect? I don’t know. Probably not.”

But the key point is that if this rule is made in a smart manner and enforced correctly then it won't affect the viewer's enjoyment of the game. I personally don't enjoy home plate collisions because they look like they hurt and I'm not in favor of my favorite team's catcher getting hurt.

It sounds as if runners and catchers will have to change what their instincts tell them they should do and what they’ve been taught do for many, many moons.

In reality these catchers and runners haven't been around since Abner Doubleday "invented" the game of baseball, so they would have to fight the instinct they have been taught since learning to play baseball. It doesn't make it easier for the players, but Cafardo wants to frame this as catchers trying to change instincts they have had for 150 years and I'm pretty sure there are no 150 year old catchers active in the majors.

Francona believes this may cause a whole other set of problems — possible injuries for the baserunner.

There may be injuries to the base runner, just like their are injuries to the base runner when sliding into second base and third base or running to first base. The difference is that a collision with the catcher is inherently dangerous to the runner and the catcher, while an injury while sliding into a base doesn't seem as inherently dangerous.

He’s right. Some things are better left alone. 

This is easy for Nick Cafardo to say while he sits up in a press box away from the field. Some changes are for the better and I think eliminating the pointless home plate collisions would be a change for the better. Of course, as soon as there is an issue with the enforcement of collisions writers like Nick Cafardo are going to whine and bitch about how the rule stinks and now they have proof the rule doesn't work in practice, as if they expect a change in rules to immediately go smoothly and without an issue. 


HH said...

Baseball is seeking to ban collisions that have happened since Abner Doubleday invented baseball.

If we're calling out factual misstatements, this one counts. It's pretty clear that Doubleday didn't invent baseball.

HH said...


College rules, for instance, specify that the runner has to make an attempt to score, and contact above the waist of the catcher -- the goal of which is to prevent the catcher from holding on to the ball -- is not regarded as an intent to score.

Is college baseball unwatchable? Of course not. Why would it be a problem if professionals play the same way?

Bengoodfella said...

HH, that is true as well. We all know David Eckstein invented baseball.

I think I would be fine with that rule at the college level. I have to admit, I didn't watch collisions banned for a while. Then I started thinking that at no other base is it fine to run over the fielder and hope you can get him to drop the ball. Why is that fine at home plate? Because you are trying to score a run? Sometimes getting to second base is important too, but you can't run over the second basemen.

I think it's going to be looked back on in 20 years and wonder why it was the runner could run over the catcher.

HH said...

I am all for banning the collisions. Cut concussions in half in one fell swoop? Sign me up!

I understand the male instinct to think of these things as "weak" and not manly, but that's easy to say for those of us who don't get dementia at 50, who don't have to rehab our way back to just walking, whose livelihood doesn't depend on some jerk tearing our ligaments in a meaningless August game. We don't bear those risks. We shouldn't make others bear them out of some misplaced macho pride.

Eric said...

I think the funniest thing about this whole controversy is what Pete Rose said. Specifically, he was talking about Buster Posey's injury and he stated that collisions shouldn't be banned based on that collision because Posey's leg buckled, but he was hit above the waist. So, his reasoning is that Posey wasn't hit in the leg, so the collision didn't cause the injury. Isn't it obvious, even to a documented idiot like Pete Rose, that a 200lb man running full speed into another 200lb man has the potential to cause an insane amount of damage?