Oct 19, 2013, 7:23 PM EST
Opposing catchers such as Dioner Navarro for the Chicago Cubs know what they’re in for when they see Chase Utley rounding third base. If the ball beats Utley to the plate, they better brace themselves for impact.
But not for long. One of the most exciting plays in baseball sounds like it’s on the verge of going extinct. With the number of injuries mounting, Major League Baseball could move to outlaw violent collisions at home plate as early as next season according to a report filed by Buster Olney for ESPN.com.
That means plays like the one back in August where Utley bowled over Navarro and sent the catcher off the field on a cart would be gone forever. Olney has more:
Given how quickly sentiment within the sport about collisions is shifting — particularly as information about concussions has come to light, including the cost of concussion-related lawsuits faced by the National Football League — some officials talk of change as inevitable and predict that it could come swiftly.
“At this point, I don’t know who would argue to keep it, or what their argument would be,” said one team official who believes general managers will address the topic at their meetings next month. “There is no reasoned argument to keep it [in the game].”
The team officials who expect the change to occur believe that Major League Baseball will simply adopt the rules on plays at the plate that are used at every level below professional baseball: The baserunner is guaranteed an avenue to the plate and is not allowed to target the catcher.
The groundswell to remove the play at the plate really seemed to grow legs when Buster Posey suffered a fractured fibula and torn ligaments in his ankle for the San Francisco Giants in 2011. Olney cites numerous injuries during the ongoing postseason that might be the last straw.
It’s interesting because the play at the plate is so ingrained in baseball’s culture—not to mention glorified—that there will undoubtedly be an outcry over the softening of the game. Of course, there was frustration with recent rule changes in football too, but those haven’t seemed to affect the sport’s popularity any, and complaints have died down.
That’s just the direction things are headed in sports. Does baseball need the play at the plate? Probably not, but it’s always been there. But if removing it prolongs careers and cuts down on long-term health problems for professional athletes, it’s something that needs to at least be explored.
Up next: removing fighting from hockey. You just know they’re coming for that.
>> Ban on MLB plate collisions likely [ESPN]
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