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.
That is rule 7.13 of the Major League Baseball Rulebook. It is also sometimes referred to as the “Buster Posey Rule”.
Buster Posey broke his leg and tore ligaments in his ankle on this play, ending his season.
The rule basically puts into writing a rule that has been enforced for players since the tiniest of tots learn the correct way to run around the bases until the moment they reach the pros: SLIDE, DUMMY! Accidents will happen, of course, but intentionally blowing up a catcher should be a thing of the past.
The rule is a bit controversial. See, the reasons to slide — avoiding pointless injury for the catcher and the runner, the runner probably has a better chance of being safe with a slide, baseball is not a contact sport why was blowing up the catcher ever A Thing? — can be perceived by some as a threat to the great tradition and masculinity of baseball.
On Sunday Jake Marisnick trucked over Jonathan Lucroy in a hit so vicious, Lucroy was carted off the field. I am going to embed it, but I am warning you, it is hard to watch.
Marisnick was called out, so the rule was enforced, but there will be discussion of suspension, to be sure. With all this in mind, let’s break down the anatomy of home plate collisions.
The Set Up
In the Case of the Marisnick/Lucroy collision, the game was tied. Usually this kind of play happens during a close game. Sometimes the runner is barreling in trying to score from second. Sometimes the runner is barreling in trying to tag up. It is almost always on a throw from the outfield.
The Oh No
Sure seems like anytime a catcher is blown up, the throw is up the line, right? The rest almost happens in slow motion. The catcher reaches for it, the runner runs toward him. It is here where everyone starts to say “Why isn’t he slide — oh no.”
The catcher is low, trying to corral the ball. The runner is standing, running full speed. We all know what happens next: the runner’s shoulders and chest connect with the head and neck of the defenseless catcher, usually resulting in an injury.
Out of respect for Lucroy I am not going to post stills of him injured on the ground. In the immediate aftermath of the hit, the injurer usually attempts to display some remorse and apologizes to the injured. The injured is usually, well, too injured to respond. Then the injurer might walk around looking concerned: the “Did I do that?” face, if you will.
The Formal Apology and Explanation
The injurer will express his regret to the media — sometimes mentioning that he intends to contact the injured to send his apologies. Marisnick took to social media in this case, as well. The injurer will also attempt to explain his actions as an accident. The explanation will be varying degrees of believable.
Jake Marisnick on Lucroy injury: pic.twitter.com/guMaYeKf0W— Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman) July 7, 2019
Through my eyes I thought the play was going to end up on the outside of the plate. I made a split second decision at full speed to slide head first on the inside part of the plate. That decision got another player hurt and I feel awful. I hope nothing but the best for @JLucroy20— Jake Marisnick (@JSMarisnick) July 8, 2019
Injury is part of the game, but that does not mean players should participate in reckless behaviors that are likely to injure one another. Part of it is just an adjustment. Jake Marisnick shared his thought-process and it is not completely irrational, however, that should not have been his instinct in the first place. While he almost certainly did not mean to harm anyone, his actions were careless and did hurt someone. For that, there should be consequences, just as there are when this happens during other aspects of life.
It is not an easy thing to do, to change a pattern of behavior, but for the safety of the players, it needs to be done. Part of this responsibility is on the players to follow the rules and to practice following them until it becomes second-nature, but part of that is on the league in enforcing the rule and explaining it. Major League Baseball has a duty to protect its players and just adding a rule will not be enough. It absolutely must be consistent. Otherwise, players will just keep getting hurt.
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