Major League Baseball is taking a proactive step to protect the health of its players. It has agreed in theory that the runner-catcher collision at the plate should be abolished; a final rule will be written this offseason. While collisions at the plate have created many famous moments in baseball history, they've also come at a price.
Here's a picture of Pete Rose being super gritty and scoring the winning run in the 1970 All-Star Game. Here's a picture of Ray Fosse breaking and dislocating his shoulder, effectively putting an end to a promising career. While Fosse was able to continue to play for several seasons, he never regained his early form, nor would he ever again play without pain.
Pete Rose reacted to MLB's announcement with his typical thoughtfulness and tact.
The fear of lawsuits from players suffering long-term concussion syndrome, or even the tragic suicides and chronic traumatic encephalopathy that afflict increasing numbers of NFL players, has surely spurred the rule change as much or moreso than the desire to protect player health. Also in this mix are the desires of general managers not to see the value of substantial investments in catchers and runners eroded by needless trauma.
As a team holding a long-term, eight-figure contract on a catcher, the Cardinals should applaud this rule change.
As a former catcher whose career was ended too early by the symptoms of too many concussions behind the plate, the Cardinals' manager, Mike Matheny, has been a vocal proponent of such a rule change.
While the rule has yet to be written, catchers will likely be required to leave a lane of access for the runner; runners will be prohibited from trying to shake the ball loose or knock the catcher over. The NCAA has a similar rule prohibiting contact above the waist with the catcher.
I think this will be a positive move, not only for player health, but for the entertainment of the game. Unless you are the kind of person who watches NASCAR to see the wrecks, the grace and athleticism baseball celebrates are not reflected in a Michael Cuddyer-AJ Pierzynski collision.
I'd much rather watch a runner use athleticism and skill to score a run.
Good baserunning isn't running someone over like a dump truck. I can do that. I can lower my shoulder and charge as hard as I can at someone. I look for athletes to show me what I can't do, to amaze me with talents, to make me ask "how could he do that?"
That's the essence of baseball for me: Willie Mays chasing down a ball no one else can catch; Miguel Cabrera turning on a bad pitch most players couldn't touch and driving it out of the park; Brendan Ryan fielding a grounder on the wrong side of second base; Scott Rolen laying out to snag a liner at the third-base line; Jim Edmonds snagging a ball that's already over the fence; Yadier Molina throwing a 90-mph strike to second base from his knees; and Ichiro sliding past, behind, and circling back around the catcher to score a run.
The replays and webgems that are just brutal or violent: catcher collisions, a centerfielder slamming into the wall after making his grab; a second baseman tumbling into the seats, those plays leave me cold. Not just because I am huge wimp, but, for me, that's not what baseball is about. I'd rather see Bo Jackson avoid a wall collision by running up it, than watch somebody lay there stunned after crashing into that wall. I've run straight into a tree when I wasn't watching where I was going. I can do that. Holding onto the ball after that collision, yes, that's something, but sheer endurance of a collision is not what makes me watch baseball.
So, I submit that the new rule isn't just good health practice for catchers (which it is), or the defensive moves of GMs concerned about liability and contractual investments (which it is); it's also fundamentally good for the sport. It should make the sport more entertaining.
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Christopher Cwik put together a great primer on defensive metrics, which taught me a couple things I didn't know. If UZR and TZ and DRS make your eyes cross, read up. Cwik does a great job of taking some fairly challenging concepts and breaking them down into something ordinary readers can understand.
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To go along with the Baron's excellent post yesterday, John Sickels posted a general guide for the rules of the Rule 5 draft and the draft order (hint: we pick last!).
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In what I can only assume is an effort to become DanUp's favorite player of all time, Tomo Okha has come back as a knuckleballer.
In other weird comebacks, ex-Cardinals Mark Mulder and Adam Kennedy have both announced that they would love to play some more baseball in the major leagues.
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Around the actual Cardinal club, John Mozeliak announced increased focus of scouting efforts on the international market, notably on a pair of Cuban infielders: Erisabel Arrubarruena and Aledmys Diaz. I'm wondering if Mike Shannon's pronunciation of those names would improve or get worse after a couple drinks.
The Cardinals also signed non-prospect pitcher Angel Castro. His profile strongly suggests he is merely depth at the Memphis level, should the Cardinals see potential Memphis starters like Tyler Lyons called up for the Major League squad. While last year saw a remarkable number of rookie debuts, the heavy use of the farm played havoc with the Memphis team. Castro will
not take a spot on the 40-man roster. [ed. -be added to the 40-man roster.]