To protect the catcher the play at the plate does not need to be eliminated, rather it should be controlled. Other sports like football and hockey have reformed the kind of hits that are deemed acceptable. Recently with the help of Cardinals captain Mike Matheny and Indians chief Terry Francona, collisions at home plate have become a heated subject.
The arguments on both sides of this debate are simple, but miles apart. Francona and other hard-nosed Baseball purists think that the game shouldn’t be changed. Throughout MLB history, it has been legal for the base runner to annihilate the catcher in order to knock the ball loose and score. Often, the catcher acts as a mark bracing for the impact of a solid 21st century professional athlete. Some players like Giants catcher Buster Posey, who did not play in 2011 after having his collar bone broken while blocking home plate, now look like a matador leaving the base path open and trying to tag the runner. Every baseball fan can recall chilling moments when the ball rolls out of an unconscious catcher’s hand and the run scores. The fact is baseball players today are bigger, stronger and faster, making the collision at home plate different than when the rule was written. While a catcher’s protective gear has evolved, it still has not been proven to limit the risk or serious effects like brain damage.
In an attempt to protect the ever-important catcher, former players like Mike Matheny have expressed the need to eliminate the play that resembles football or hockey. Abolishing the play at the plate is unrealistic, because it would force the base runner to give up if the catcher wisely blocks home plate. Essentially it would become a force out, which would be tragic to baseball and dramatically change the way the game is played.
MLB needs to follow the compromising example set by the NFL and NHL. Don’t change the game just make it safer! Doing nothing would not be practical since head injuries are getting more exposure everyday while doctors gain insight into the long-term effects of concussions and other forms of head trauma.
The solution will take adjustments and education throughout the baseball world, from Little League on up. In the rules, there needs to be a defined legal way to collide with a catcher who blocks the plate (go after the ball), and more importantly clear details that illustrate what is not acceptable because it is unsafe (attacking the head, lowering the head to create the collision).
If football players can alter the way they assault the opposition as seen in 2012, and hockey players can as well, then certainly baseball players can follow suit. If base runners don’t follow the rules, they should be fined or suspended depending on the blow. Through gradual and thorough changes, MLB will decrease the amount of serious injuries to players that dictate the game. Protect our catchers, protect our national past time!