A's welcome underdog status despite being division champs
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PHOENIX – Major League Baseball’s new rule to prevent home plate collisions drew a wide range of reaction Monday in the Oakland A’s clubhouse.
Rule 7.13 states that a runner attempting to score “may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher” or another player covering the plate. If the umpire judges that the runner did so, the runner will be called out.
Likewise, unless catchers are in possession of the ball, they can’t block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If they’re found in violation of that, the runner is safe.
The rule is “experimental” for this season, meaning it will be reviewed to see if it will be permanently implemented next season.
“It looks like it’s gonna take away the runner’s intent (to hit the catcher), and I think that’s a good thing,” A’s catcher Stephen Vogt said. “I think to completely take the play out is a bad decision. The big difference in that play is guys who are trying to go through guys to get to the plate, as opposed to guys who are just trying to crush the catcher.”
In judging whether a runner deviated from his pathway to the plate, umpires will consider whether the runner made an effort to touch the plate, and whether he lowered his shoulders or pushed through with his hands, elbows or arms when veering toward the catcher.
A’s first baseman Brandon Moss was involved in a big collision with the New York Yankees’ Chris Stewart last season while trying to score the winning run in the 15th inning. He said the contact was unavoidable because the throw led Stewart into Moss’ path to the plate.
“A lot of those things happen pretty fast,” Moss said. “A lot of guys will get hurt if there’s rules in place to where you’re having to think about a collision.”
But Moss said, ultimately, he doesn’t think the new rule will take away players’ aggressiveness, whether they’re trying to score a run or prevent one.
“Throughout the year, my over/under on how many collisions there are is probably 20, and I would take the under,” he said. “That’s part of the game. More catchers are getting concussions from foul balls than from collisions.”
But baseball officials want to put a stop to hard-contact plays at the plate such as the one that left Giants catcher Buster Posey with a broken leg and ended his 2011 season.
The MLB press release announcing Rule 7.13 points out that it “does not mandate that the runner always slide or that the catcher can never block the plate. However, runners who slide and catchers who provide the runner with a lane to reach the plate will never be found in violation of the new rule.”
Moss said most players already followed the basic principals that are spelled out in the rule. Catcher Derek Norris, likely to platoon with Vogt behind the plate for Oakland, said the rule is a step in the right direction but that it leaves a lot open to interpretation. Because a call rests with the umpire’s judgement, some will be more inclined to enforce the rule and others will allow more leeway.
“I won’t change a thing,” Norris said. “If I need to take away a run I’ll take away the plate. It’s just knowing the situation of the game. … You put the gear on for a reason, and not just because you’re blocking baseballs. You’re putting it on because it’s a hard-ass position to play and you gotta be a hard-ass to play it. If you don’t want the collsion, play somewhere else.”