Wednesday, December 11, 2013

4 comments Terence Moore Says Collisions at Home Plate Are Fine Because Look at How Creating New Rules to Protect Football Players Has Ruined the Sport of Football

I've covered repeatedly how Terence Moore hates any change to the rules in Major League Baseball. He's a "traditionalist," which means he's too lazy to accept new rules. The only change Terence doesn't like is the inclusion of the new one-game wild card playoff. Presumably the reason he doesn't have a problem with the one-game wild card playoff is because he has strict orders from to claims he likes it. It simply doesn't make sense the same guy who hates the DH, hates modern home run celebrations, and hates expanded replay would like the inclusion of one more team into the MLB playoffs. It doesn't make sense to me.

Terence didn't like that the GM's might get together at the winter meetings and alter the rules about home plate collisions between a base runner and a catcher. He thinks it's not a positive change for the game of baseball. The reason he feels this way is because college football and the NFL has tried to protect the athletes who play their sport and this has made things worse. This is kind of shoddy reasoning in my opinion. I would be much more comfortable if Terence Moore just admitted that he doesn't like change and that's why he doesn't mind if the base runner runs over a sometimes defenseless catcher.

For so many reasons, this was inevitable: Panic. Whining. Hand-wringing from the Knee-Jerk Society of America over collisions at home plate between runners and catchers ... you know, even though such collisions have occurred since the first baseball was colored white.

As I nearly always say when covering a Terence Moore article, the worst reason to continue doing something a certain way is because it has always been done that way. If baseball didn't change and adapt then baseball would only involve white players against other white players. Because after all, it had been that way since the first baseball was colored white. The baseball was colored white for white people and not darker for any other race. But again, as I always say, Terence Moore doesn't hide behind tradition when it suits his needs or when tells him he has to write a positive column about the one-game wild card playoff.

Major League general managers are expected to discuss the matter next week when they gather in Orlando for the GM Meetings, and that's fine. It never hurts to exchange thoughts and ideas.

Now if those general managers wish to go further than that, then we'll have a problem.

What's the point of exchanging ideas and thoughts when there isn't a problem the ideas/thoughts are supposed to correct and if action won't be taken to correct this problem?

More specifically, if baseball's decision-makers wish to change the way they've handled home-plate collisions forever -- which is to say they've ignored the situation --

If you ignore problems they will go away. If you ignore potential problems these problems will never crop up. Anyone who is in denial knows this is true.

it will be the game's most significant rule change since the designated hitter was brought into the Major Leagues 40 years ago.


My opinion has changed over the years. Probably even a year ago I wasn't in favor of altering the rules about home plate collisions, but I've slowly come around to the idea maybe MLB should not allow a runner to run over the catcher in order to score a run. It is sort of dangerous to allow the base runner to just crash into a catcher who is protecting the plate. I understand the runner has a right to try and score a run, but a runner isn't allowed to bowl over a third or second basemen in a non-force play situation, so why should the runner be allowed to run over the catcher in the same situation? Because he has protective gear on? The protective gear is designed to protect the player when catching pitches that a pitcher throws, not as battle gear to protect the catcher when he's about to be run over by a base runner.

We know how that turned out.

Not bad at all?

Not the best, not if you join me among the most fervent of the game's traditionalists. Altering the way collisions are handled at home plate would be worse than the DH. 

Not even close. On a scale of "worseness," a DH that comes to the plate a minimum of three times per game for each American League team has more of an impact on a single game as compared to altering the way a collision that happens at home plate maybe once every day (and I think that would be stretching it) would impact a game. The DH has a much bigger impact on the game of baseball than the impact of altering collisions at home plate.

While the DH effects only the American League, this would affect everybody, which makes you wonder what this is all about.

It's clearly an attempt by stat geeks who live in their mom's basement to make an arbitrary rule change to the way baseball has been played over the last century or so. It's certainly not an attempt to make the position of catcher safer (you know, since that's the position on the field where a ball is thrown at a fielder 100+ times per game at 90 miles per hour) and recognize that serious injuries can occur and have occurred due to the base runner being able to run over the catcher.

Buster Posey, you say? Yes, but that's not a good enough answer,

Why is that not a good enough answer when it is a perfectly good example of a great, young player getting injured in a collision at home plate? You know what's not a good enough answer to counter a change to altering the way collisions are handled? Saying the rules shouldn't be changed because it's always been done that way. That's a shitty answer.

He missed the rest of that season after leading the Giants to a World Series title the year before. When he returned in 2012, he led the Giants to another World Series title.

Thus the overreaction. Soon after Posey was carried from the field that day, you heard variations of the following from everywhere: "Baseball needs to do something right now."

I don't think the overreaction was based entirely on Buster Posey getting injured. I believe given the NFL is starting to react towards concussions that players are experiencing playing the game of football, there is a natural concern that catchers are suffering injuries because the base runner is allowed to run over him in order to score a run. If you think about it, it doesn't make sense why a runner will be called out for running over the third baseman during a non-force situation, but it's perfectly fine for the runner to bowl over the catcher.

Quick: Go back three, four, five or even 20 years. Now tell me all of the ugly home-plate collisions that you can remember prior to the Posey situation, and take your time. Now tell me all of the ones that you can remember since the Posey situation.

At the very top of this column is an interview with David Ross about his collision at home plate with Alex Avila in Game 5 of the ALCS. Pete Rose nearly destroyed Ray Fosse's career running over him at home plate.

Here is a gallery of seven collisions at home plate where major/minor injuries were suffered. 

This is an article by Tom Verducci about home plate collisions that lists more players injured in home plate collisions. 

Here's an article arguing against runners bowling over the catcher where Yadier Molina escaped injury on a home plate collision.

Buster Posey getting hurt in a home plate collision wasn't an isolated incident. I can't remember all of these collisions, but this doesn't mean they don't occur. I'm not able to watch every MLB game, but the collisions do occur and the three links I provided show this to be true.

See what I mean? Out of the slew of plays at home plate during a given season, they rarely produce catastrophic injuries. When they do happen, they become bigger than life.

When catastrophic injuries do happen they become bigger than life because it puts the focus on the idea it may not make sense for a base runner to be able to bowl over a catcher in order to score a run.

Nothing illustrates this point more than the 1970 All-Star Game, when hometown Reds hero Pete Rose crashed into Indians catcher Ray Fosse at the plate in extra innings at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium. It gave the NL the victory and Fosse a separated shoulder that affected the rest of his career. While many praised Rose for his relentlessness during an exhibition game, others blasted the player called "Charlie Hustle" for exactly the same thing.

It's a legal play, even if it was a legal play made in an exhibition game, so I would hold no grudge against Rose for what he did. It may have been a little extreme, but he very well could have had money riding on whether the National League won the All-Star Game or not. So for $10,000 I would bowl over a catcher too, as long as it was legal.

Should running over the catcher be legal? Forgetting the issue of whether an injury could occur or not, does it make sense the base runner can't run over a fielder in a non-force play situation except at home plate? I'm not sure it does.

In contrast, there was shouting last month after Game 5 of the AL Championship Series between the Tigers and the Red Sox produced a couple of ugly crashes at the plate.

In every single column he writes Terence Moore finds a way to submarine the point he wanting to prove. He writes in this column:

Now tell me all of the ugly home-plate collisions that you can remember prior to the Posey situation, and take your time. Now tell me all of the ones that you can remember since the Posey situation.

Then Terence proceeds to write about two ugly home plate collisions that occurred during the playoffs in the exact same game. So Terence's point appears to be, "Yeah, but these collisions don't happen often. You can't even think of the last time an ugly collision occurred I bet. Now let me tell you about two ugly collisions that happened in the same game just a few weeks ago."

After Ross plowed into Avila, Ross was out, but so was Avila later in the game. The combination of getting dinged by foul balls and the Ross collision was enough to put Avila out of action with a knee injury.

So Terence has gone from challenging his readers to think of a time when a player got injured in a home plate collision, to providing an example from just a few weeks ago where a catcher had to leave the game due to an injury suffered in a home plate collision.

It also triggered more talks from that Knee-Jerk Society to do something about these collisions, even though Avila told reporters afterward, "I've been hit a bunch of times [during collisions]. I've never seen anything wrong with it. It's part of the game. You do what you can as a catcher to protect yourself."

Now to be fair, NFL players don't like the rule changes made to protect the quarterback and to protect defenseless receivers. The rules aren't changed based on the public support of the players for these rules, but in order to help protect the NFL players from themselves. As we all know, professional athletes have their own code and idea of what's "part of the game" and what is not. So sometimes, the athletes need to be protected from themselves. I'm a person who doesn't like protecting other people from themselves and figure they are grown adults who can be responsible for their own actions, but sometimes when it comes to sports it's smart to take steps to make the sport safer overall...regardless whether the players like it or not.

Yes, you do. For instance: You don't try to block the plate, and many teams instruct their catchers not to do so. If catchers do wish to block the plate, they shouldn't do so in a harmful way.

How about if the runner wishes to score a run he doesn't do so in a harmful way?

Take the eighth inning of the 1979 All-Star Game. While many remember Dave Parker's famous throw to the plate from right field, most forget that Gary Carter was there to catch it. Not only that, the future Hall of Fame catcher was able to make the grab without putting himself in harm's way of Brian Downing racing from third, and then he pushed the sliding runner away from the plate while applying the tag.

Here's the difference. Brian Downing was SLIDING into home plate. He wasn't looking to run over Gary Carter. What a terrible example by Terence. What would Carter have done if Downing was looking to run over him to score the run? Therein lies the issue. Bad example, go home and think about what you have done.

The catcher has control of his own fate in the majority of these situations, 

I agree. The runner has control of his own fate also. The catcher has to make a choice between getting in the runner's way and trying to save his team a run or getting out of the runner's way and allowing a run to score or tag the runner while away from the plate. I think MLB shouldn't force the catcher to make a decision and the runner shouldn't be allowed to run directly over the catcher in order to score a run. This is just like a runner going to third base can't run over the third baseman to reach third base.

and during the rare times when a runner goes out of his way to harm the catcher with an intent other than scoring -- well, players have a way of policing themselves.

And players policing themselves usually will eventually lead to a batter getting hit, potentially a fight and maybe some suspensions.

They don't need outside legislation, because that has a tendency to make things worse.

While I agree with this in principle, I fail to see how it can be worse in this situation. I think a catcher or base runner getting severely injured seems like the worst thing that could happen. If MLB altered the rule and stated the runner had to make an attempt to not run over the catcher at home plate then I would be fine with this altered rule. For example, if the catcher is in front of the plate with the ball, the runner can go in standing up, but he can't make an attempt to knock the ball out of the catcher's hands (by running over him, etc.) just like a runner going into third can't try to knock the ball out of the third baseman's hands.

I admit this is not an easy rule to enforce, but somehow base runners trying to leg out a double or triple manage to slide into the base when the ball easily beats them there without running over the fielder, so I would imagine a runner coming home could do the same thing. The runner has a right to try and score, but he doesn't need to try to get the ball out of the catcher's hand by running over the catcher. I think it's needless. I enjoy seeing a violent home plate collision, just like I enjoy seeing a hard-hitting football game, but there does come a time to protect the players from themselves, and a rule stating the runner can't run over the catcher on a non-force play would be consistent with the rule in this same situation at every other base on the field.

Since the league enacted rules before this season against hitting above the shoulders, they've heard defenders such as Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather say they'll now go after the knees of opponents. Which creates a whole bunch of other issues.

Football and baseball are completely different sports. The idea of protecting players in this situation is the same, but football is intended to be a contact sport, while baseball is not intended to be a contact sport.

Just ask those in college football, where its new targeting rule has been a mess.

This is the first year the officials have been required to call and interpret the rule. Have to give it more than one year. Yeah, it's been a disaster in many aspects so far. But catchers and base runners don't collide that often and if the rule is written well I think it could be left up to less interpretation from the baseball umpires than the NCAA targeting rule has been.

It calls for a defender to receive an automatic ejection from the game for hitting an offensive player around the head or neck area. Even if a call is reversed after a replay review, the team of that defender still gets a 15-yard penalty.

The targeting rule isn't the issue. It's the interpretation for "targeting" and how many times football players collide into each other during a game that's the issue. Baseball players don't generally collide that often, so I think the rule altering how home plate collisions could be written to allow less room for umpire interpretation. I think this could avoid many of the issues the NCAA officials are having.

Don't ask.

That new targeting rule has helped decide the outcome of several college football games.

Fortunately, we are discussing baseball and if MLB alters any rule about collisions at home plate in a logical fashion then they can avoid the interpretation and other issues the new targeting rule has created in college football. The idea behind the targeting rule is sound, to protect unpaid amateur athletes, but the execution hasn't been very good. I know Terence Moore will grasp on to the new targeting rule as the reason why ANY new rule change in ANY sport is a bad idea, but he's just creating a boogeyman in order to better prove his "any rule change is a bad rule change" philosophy.

The idea behind protecting football players by calling a defensive player for "targeting" is sound though, and that's what MLB would try to do by altering the rule about collisions at home plate. I don't think it's a bad idea to protect a catcher from a runner who hits him going full speed without any attempt to touch home plate before colliding with the catcher. 

Elsewhere, coaches already are screaming about a new rule change in college basketball, and its regular season doesn't officially start until this weekend. In an effort to increase scoring, the NCAA has instituted something called "freedom of movement" rules, which essentially bans defenders in college basketball from touching offensive players.

This is a stupid rule, but a stupid rule that wasn't implemented for anywhere close to the same reason the "targeting" rule was created or why MLB would alter how home plate collisions are handled by the umpire.

So the message to baseball decision-makers when it comes to what to do with home-plate collisions: Just leave it alone.

Or create a rule about home plate collisions that doesn't leave too much room for interpretation from the umpires and also looks out for the catcher's safety when a runner decides he wants to bowl him over to score a run. If this rule sucks and doesn't work out, get rid of the rule. As it stands, a change to how home plate collisions are handled would become more consistent with the rules involving what a base runner can or can't do when it comes to trying to make it into a base safely at every other base on the field. I don't see why tweaking the rules to prevent injuries to catchers and base runners is a bad thing. It is a change though, which Terence generally hates, unless tells him he can't hate that change.  


HH said...

Why does everyone forget that the year before Posey, Carlos Santana was badly hurt the exact same way when Daniel Nava ran over him at home plate? C'mon, Cleveland is real. Acknowledge their pain.

Meanwhile, the rule at home plate should be the same as all other bases. Beat the play and slide in. What is to be gained from risking the health of players?

HH said...

Daniel Nava - Ryan Kalish. The point stands.

Zidane Valor said...

I never quite understood why catchers were allowed to block the plate anyway. Any other base and it would be baserunner interference.

Bengoodfella said...

HH, I was against eliminating home plate collisions until I really started thinking about it. It didn't make sense to me at all the other bases a base runner can't just run over the fielder, so why is home plate different? Because the catcher has protective gear on? The gear is to protect him from pitches being thrown 90 mph directly at him, not so he is protected when he gets in the equivalent of a minor car crash.

It also doesn't make sense to risk the health of the players now that they are worth so much. I would rather Brian McCann have stepped aside and let a run score then potentially got knocked down and miss a few weeks or get something torn like Santana/Posey had happen to them.

Zidane, I have to think if I have a problem with the catcher standing in front of the plate. I probably do, since it would be consistent with rules at other bases. I think the elimination of collisions at home plate isn't a big deal overall. The catcher can put his foot in front of the plate just like another fielder does and block the base that way. A collision is unnecessary.