Starting this season, Major League Baseball will institute a one-year trial catcher rule. The goal of this newly adopted rule is to prevent catchers from being slammed into by baserunners at home plate (remember when San Francisco catcher Buster Posey broke three ligaments in his ankle and a bone in his leg in May 2011 and missed the rest of the season?). But if you dig deeper into this rule, it’s one complicated modification.
Basically, the new rule does not allow a baserunner to go out of his way to plow down a catcher when there is a play at home plate. In other words, a player has to go directly toward home plate and not at an angle so that he hits the catcher. If the runner pushes through with his elbow, arm or hand, he could be ruled out under the umpire’s discretion. If a catcher is blocking the plate without the ball near him, the baserunner will be determined safe. The adaptation also states that a catcher CAN block home when it is impossible to field the ball any other way to make a play. The umpire needs to decide if either the catcher or baserunner violates the rule and make the appropriate call.
To me, the way this new ruling is phrased is very contradicting. At what point can a catcher block the plate? Right now, how I interpret the rule is if the catcher blocks the plate from the runner the player is ruled safe. At the same time, the catcher is allowed to block the plate in order to attempt the tag. What exact point during the play does a catcher have to allow a runner to score? When can the catcher block the plate? For example, can a catcher block home before the relay man gets the ball or does the catcher have to wait until after the relay happens? I don’t have an answer to that critical question.
Some catchers are asking the league for clarification on this rule, according to ESPN. I hope the fans also get some more explanation before the season starts. Luckily, this rule can be reviewed on the expanded replay system. If this gets too confusing or if it does not cut down on injuries, the rule should be revised or scrapped in 2015. To review the full rule, click here.
Written by: Michael L. Sack