Wednesday, December 11, 2013

MLB Rules Committee Approves HP Collision Ban

MLB will ban home plate collisions in 2014, requiring catchers provide a path to home plate and runners to slide or otherwise look to avoid contact, if a proposal by baseball's Official Playing Rules Committee is approved by the MLB Players' Association. If the Association, which is expected to approve the rules change, vetoes the proposal, MLB may still be able to institute the rule for the 2015 regular season.

As announced by MLB Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Joe Torre and Rules Committee Chairman Sandy Alderson, the collision prevention rule will prohibit base runners from initiating contact with the catcher. In turn, catchers will be prohibited from blocking access to home plate. The precise language of the rule change—including procedures, case plays and prescribed penalties—have not yet been determined. Brian Gorman is the only active umpire to serve on MLB's Playing Rules Committee.

Rule 7.06(b) NOTE, which pertains to Obstruction Type B, presently states, "The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score. The base line belongs to the runner and the catcher should be there only when he is fielding a ball or when he already has the ball in his hand." Though unclear if this definition will be expanded if the rule is approved, the expectation is that the catcher will lose the right to block access to home plate even when in the process of fielding or in possession of the baseball.

With MLB's proposed change to OBR on the table, let's review malicious contact ("MC") and flagrant collision as the terms appears in high school (NFHS) and college (NCAA) rule codes, respectively.

NFHS: Rule 3-3-1 pertains to malicious contact, providing penalties for initiating MC from either the offensive or defensive position. Upon MC, (1) the ball is dead, (2) if on offense and not already removed from the base paths ["out" or "scored"], the offending batter/runner is declared out, and (3) the offending player is ejected from the game. If the defense commits the MC, the umpire shall award penalties that in his/her judgment will nullify the act of MC (similar to obstruction B or fan interference). MC can be used to augment other calls (e.g., MC added to interference, as in NFHS 2009 Rule Interpretation 17 [With R1, B1 interferes with fielder taking throw at first base maliciously so that R1 may advance to 3B; Ruling: Eject B1, return R1 to base occupied at time of interference].

Malicious Contact has been a point of emphasis ("POE") in high school for several years, most recently for the upcoming 2014 season (it claims the #1 spot for 2014 POEs).

NCAA: High school's "malicious contact" compares to college's "Flagrant Collision," as in NCAA Rule 2-30. Additionally, Rule 8-7 is the "Collision Rule" and states "the rules committee is concerned about unnecessary and violent collisions with the catcher at home plate, and with infielder at all bases. The intent of this rule is to encourage base runners and defensive players to avoid such collisions whenever possible." However, NCAA does not presently prohibit its fielders (catchers) from blocking the base/plate, as long as there is "clear possession of the ball." When a collision between runner and fielder occurs, the umpire shall judge whether the defense has provided access to the base/plate and the offense's legitimate attempt to advance/reach in a legal fashion and without the use of flagrant or malicious contact. The specifically states that "contact above the waist that was initiated by the base runner shall not be judged as an attempt to reach the base or plate...The runner must make an actual attempt to reach the base (plate)."  The penalties for flagrant collisions are similar to that of NFHS MC.

NCAA recognizes that if a runner's path to the base is blocked, "unavoidable contact" may occur and may qualify as obstruction pursuant to Rule 2-54 (but not if the fielder is in possession of or in the act of fielding the ball).

Therefore, it is clear the present order (e.g., circa 2013 season) of HP collision tolerance is, from least restrictive to most restrictive, OBR => NCAA => NFHS.

It remains to be seen, however, whether OBR will surpass NCAA restrictions in actively requiring, as opposed to simply encouraging its catchers not to block the plate.


Gil Imber said...

I don't think you stated the summary of Rule 7.06(b) NOTE stated that, "the catcher will lose the right to block access to home plate even when
in the process of fielding or in possession of the baseball." According to the previous statement,"The catcher, without the ball,...., The baseline belongs to the runner AND THE CATCHER SHOULD BE THERE ONLY WHEN HE IS FIELDING A BALL OR WHEN HE ALREADY HAS THE BALL IN HIS HAND."

Gil Imber said...

I don't think you read the post correctly. The sentence containing the statement "the catcher will lose the right" is not a summary of 7.06(b) Note. It is a guess as to what the rule will be changed to.

Gil Imber said...

Yes... if approved, we're looking at:
2013 Rule: Catcher can block plate if in possession or act of fielding
2014 Rule: Catcher cannot block plate (must concede access) even if in possession or act of fielding

Gil Imber said...

It would make more sense to adopt the NCAA rule.

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