Prompted by collisions such as the one that knocked out Buster Posey for most of the 2011 season, MLB and the players union said Monday they had agreed to a new rule that prohibits the “most egregious collisions” at home plate.
Rule 7.13 will be used on what the two sides called an “experimental basis” for the 2014 season.
Some key points of the new rule are:
• Unless the catcher has the ball, he cannot block path of a runner trying to score. If the catcher blocks the plate in such fashion, the runner will be safe.
• If, in an umpire's judgment, the runner attempting to score initiates contact in such a manner, the umpire will call the runner out.
• The rule says a runner may not deviate from the direct pathway to the plate to initiate contact with the catcher or another player covering home plate.
In that case, it will be in the umpire’s judgment whether the runner made an effort to touch home plate and whether he lowered his shoulder, for example, and turned toward the catcher. Replay will be permitted if an umpire’s ruling is challenged.
Posey, whose collision with Scott Cousins of the Marlins in May 2011 ended his season, told Baseball America contributor Andy Baggarly he wasn’t ready to comment.
"Just reading it like this ... I'll need to hear clarifications on some things," Posey said.
The release notes that runners need not always slide; also, catchers can “block the pathway of the runner” while waiting for a throw, and will not violate the rule if contact is unavoidable. However, the release notes, if a runner slides, he won’t be in violation of the new rule. The sides also said committee composed of managers and players will review the new rule to determine what changes are necessary for the 2015 season.
"There is nothing more sacred in the game than home plate, and base runners want to do all they can to score a run while catchers want to do their best to defend the plate--in many cases at all costs,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, a former big leaguer, said in a news release. “Therefore, as one might imagine, the issue of home plate collisions is one that generates spirited debate among the players. Because of this, coming up with a rule change that allows both the runner and catcher a fair and equal opportunity to score and defend was our mandate.
"We believe the new experimental rule allows for the play at the plate to retain its place as one of the most exciting plays in the game, while providing an increased level of protection to both the runner and the catcher,” Clark said. “We will monitor the rule closely this season before discussing with the Commissioner’s Office whether the rule should become permanent.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell said the rule seems to favor the catcher.
“The rule does not change as far as it relates to the defense player,” Farrell told the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham. “It’s just that the baserunner cannot run the catcher over.”