As I watched Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro get absolutely lit up in a home plate collision with Mat Gamel of the Milwaukee Brewers, I wondered to myself why this aspect of baseball was even necessary.
I’m obviously not the first person to suggest this, and I’ve read all the criticism of writers who have previously suggested such rule changes, but there’s generally minimal logic to be found in the dissenting corner.
Their arguments usually go something like this:
“You’re ruining the tradition of baseball!”
“It’s always been this way, so why change it now?!”
“You could get hurt doing anything! What’s next? No sliders?!”
This would be a straw man fallacy if these weren’t the most common arguments I actually see against the idea.
Oh, and don’t let me forget the best of all:
“It’s people like you who are pusssssifying Amurrrrricccccaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrr!”
Well, that’s great.
Despite my mocking, I actually understand where they’re coming from. No, really.
I was raised on traditional, hard-nosed baseball where doing things like wrecking a second baseman and blowing up the catcher was just considered “playing the game the right way”. Hell, my great-uncle was initially reviled in Japan for busting up the double play, and I learned a lot of my baseball from a guy who taught my great-uncle how to play ball, my grandfather. So I don’t feel the “you just don’t understand” reasoning applies to me.
I do get it, but I didn’t grow up believing in statistical analysis either, yet I was drawn to it anyway because I sought out things like logic and facts, not tradition and romanticization.
In that same vein, I can’t see the logic or sense in continuing to allow collisions at home plate, and I’ll even take it a step further than others and add takeout slides as well.
The hit on Jason Castro would be cited as a blow to the head of a defenseless player in the NFL, and would probably lead to a fine and perhaps a suspension. In the NHL, a player just got suspended for 25 games for an elbow/shoulder to the head of a defenseless player. Yet, in the MLB, for whatever reason, these actions are completely legal and legitimate.
In sports like football, hockey, basketball, and yes, even soccer, exerting physicality and strength over an opponent is not just “part of the game”, but an active and legitimate strategy that is frequently employed by dominant teams.
Physicality in baseball? Eh … not so much.
No matter how often people repeat this rhetoric about beanballs and intimidation or whatever, baseball never was and never will be a contact sport. Exerting one’s physicality on an opponent has minimal to no effect, especially in the modern game, so why even bother keeping this “tradition” alive?
Two roughly developed rule changes (that you can help me adjust) would instantly address the issues I have:
1) Treat home plate like any other base. The catcher may not interfere with the runner’s path to the base and the runner may not collide with the catcher.
2) A player sliding or diving into a base must do so directly in line with the bag unless attempting to avoid a tag. In essence, this eliminates the need for the neighborhood play, as there will no longer be batters sliding five feet out of the basepath trying to take out the legs of infielders.
I can’t see how the product on the field would suffer with those rule changes implemented. People don’t watch baseball to see infielders get taken out or catchers blown up, because if that was the actual appeal of the sport, then they’d be out of business.
The reality is that baseball has been and always will be a finesse sport, regardless of how people try to twist it. As such, both rule changes would have a minimal impact on the actual game, but would help avoid a number of potentially horrific head, knee, and ankle injuries, which I think would both protect players and improve the quality of the product on the field.
Most importantly, it just makes sense.