VIERA, Fla. -- Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have reached agreement on a rule to help protect catchers.
They have negotiated the addition of Rule 7.13, covering collisions at home plate on an experimental basis for the 2014 season. The rule will prohibit the most egregious collisions at home plate. The rule states the following:
"A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher or other player covering home plate. If, in the judgment of the umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the umpire shall declare the runner out (even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball).
"Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the umpire, the catcher, without possession of the ball, blocks the pathway of the runner, the umpire shall call or signal the runner safe."
According to catcher Chris Snyder, "If you get a good throw and you have time, it's completely up to the catcher what he wants to do -- if he wants to stay safe, stay in fair territory. If you want contact and block the plate, you get over there and block the plate. But out of everything they could have done with the rule, on paper, this is probably the best-case scenario, I think."
Catcher Wilson Ramos agrees with the new rule. He pointed out that if it was in place in 2012, teammate Sandy Leon may not have been sidelined by injury. Leon, making his Major League debut on May 14 of that year, had to leave the game against the Padres in the fourth inning with a high right ankle sprain.
The Nationals had a 4-1 lead when the injury occurred. The Padres had runners on second and third with one out, when Orlando Hudson singled to center field. Yonder Alonso scored easily, but Chase Headley barreled into Leon to score the Padres' third run.
Leon was clearly in pain and had to be helped off the field by then-assistant athletic trainer Mike McGowan and bench coach Randy Knorr.
Clubs will be required to train their runners to slide and their catchers to provide the runner with a pathway to reach the plate if they aren't in possession of the ball.
"The rule is good [for catchers], because no one wants to get hurt," Ramos said. "It's pretty exciting. We just need to play smart. If we are on the line, we are supposed to get hit. We need to be smart in that situation. ... There are times to move out. It has happened, and we have to understand that. It's a good idea to put in that rule."
Imagine if the rule was in place when Pete Rose collided with catcher Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game.
"I don't think [the new rule] would have stopped Pete Rose," Snyder said. "The game has evolved. The physique of the player has evolved. It's a different game now. It's faster, it's bigger, player-wise. The rules are in place. In the end, there is going to be contact. It's not always going to be at home plate. There is going to be contact. There is going to be injuries. This is what we do. It's what we choose to do. That's the way it is."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.