Injury to Cardinals catcher should hasten rule changes across the major leagues

The fractured forearm of St. Louis Cardinals catcher Willson Contreras should be sounding alarm bells that baseball must take action to preserve catcher safety as backstops creep closer to the plate.
Milwaukee Brewers v St. Louis Cardinals
Milwaukee Brewers v St. Louis Cardinals / Scott Kane/GettyImages

The St. Louis Cardinals may have seen their hopes for 2024 go up in smoke on May 7, when catcher Willson Contreras suffered a fracture to his forearm on a swing by J.D. Martinez. Contreras is projected to be out for six to eight weeks, and the injury has stirred up conversations among fans and players about what can be done to prevent the growing number of catcher interference calls around the league to lessen the chance of an incident like this happening again.

Catcher interference used to occur once in a blue moon, but its prevalence has drastically risen over the past few years as catchers have taken a new approach to framing in an attempt to get more strikes called for their pitchers. Catchers tend to be closer to the plate than at any time in the past, and this, combined with the trend of catching the pitch low and yanking it up toward the hitter's bat path, has led to an epidemic of interference calls.

After the game, Cardinals pitcher Miles Mikolas mused that there could be a rule put in place where catchers have to stay behind a line drawn in the dirt. Such a change would not be the first time a rule was created to preserve catcher safety. In 2011, star San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey fractured his fibula and tore several ligaments after a collision at home plate, causing him to miss the remainder of the season. Three years later, a rule was instituted that essentially banned collisions at home plate.

Umpires could do their part by more strictly enforcing the rule that requires the batter to have both feet in the batter's box. There are several rules that umpires tend to look the other way on, such as allowing a batter to stroll outside of the batter's box between every pitch. Baseball has worked to crack down on some of these rules for the sake of speeding up the game, but it would serve the sport well to enforce the batter's box rule with more regularity.

There is a growing likelihood, however, that the catcher interference issue will sort itself out within the next few seasons as the automated ball-strike system makes its way across baseball. If balls and strikes are always called flawlessly, there will be no reason for a catcher to attempt to manipulate a pitch and get in the way of a hitter.

Contreras' injury should be a wake-up call to Major League Baseball that something needs to be done to curtail the increasing danger that catchers are putting themselves in for the purposes of stealing strikes. Whether it's a rule change or an adaptation of the automated ball-strike system in 2025, there needs to be some way to alleviate the hazards that come with baseball's most dangerous position.