Vindicated at Last on Home Plate Collisions
A few years ago I wrote a rather vituperative piece arguing for home plate collisions to be banned. Specifically, I got a lot of flack for suggesting that Carlos Santana got hurt on a home plate collision because he was too aggressive in trying to block the plate. Sadly, the piece got more attention/hits than any other piece I’d written up to that point — people love controversy and they love to feel self-righteous outrage/indignation.
At the end of the day, the points I was trying to make, i.e., the best interpretation of baseball’s rules ban home plate collisions and they only happen because of ambiguity in the rules and a lack of enforcement on MLB’s part because the institution believes fans find these collisions exciting, remain valid. The fact that blocking the other bases hasn’t been allowed since the 19th century pretty much says it all.
News sources such as ESPN and the New York Times today report that MLB plans to ban home plate collisions possibly as early as the 2014 season but in any event no later than the 2015 season. Frankly, the only reason it’s taken this long to bar home plate is that the owners don’t really care all that much about the health of the players, at least in and of itself.
Instead, with increasingly big player contracts (not to mention increasingly big, fast, strong players), home plate collision injuries were really beginning to hit the owners where they live — right in the pocket book. However much fans might theoretically like the excitement of home plate collisions, players like Buster Posey and Carlos Santana losing big chunks of the season to home plate collision injuries quantifiably cost teams big money in salary and lost production.
Regardless of the real reasons for why MLB is finally taking this action now, anything which protects players from entirely unnecessary injuries is a good thing. Catching equipment is made solely to protect the wearers from pitched balls and foul tips; it isn’t designed to protect catchers from full speed collisions. If you want big collisions, watch football or hockey — the players in those sports are at least properly equipped for it.
Will baseball be less exciting without home plate collisions? Only if you really enjoy the big collisions. There will still be plenty of close plays at the plate and incidental contact, only without as many train wrecks causing major injuries.