Wednesday, September 10, 2014

MLB Rule 7.13 is an epic fail

If a professional sports league, like Major League Baseball, creates a rule and they begin to roll it out to the teams and players it is meant to enforce, and the first response from a large constituent is, ‘Huh?’ then the rule needs some tweaking before it is fully implemented.

This was MLB’s first mistake with Rule 7.13, otherwise known as the home plate collision rule; putting out a rule no one completely understood. The second error was going on with it for five months before trying to clarify the confusion as they tried Tuesday. The third misstep was making the rule even more confusing with the clarification. The biggest problem is that players have to deal with it for the remainder of the season and worse in the playoffs where games can be decided by these judgment calls.

The basis for the rule, the protection of catchers, is not arguable. There were some egregious acts over the last several years which have caused significant injury to catchers. These instances could have been decreased by simply adding a rule that any player who goes out of his way to barrel over a defenseless catcher will be called out and suspended for an agreed upon timetable by MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Blocking the plate and the catcher getting run over by a baserunner has been a part of the game for so long that it became part of the training. It’s difficult to undo years, eras actually, of similar play. What can be remedied is the ruling against the unnecessary action of hitting a catcher who is nowhere near the plate, is not blocking the plate or simply doesn’t even have the ball. This is a violent act and doesn’t belong in the game and most, if not all, players might agree that a suspension would be warranted.

I venture to guess we have not heard the end of the rule and it’s safe to say that chances are better than 50 percent that a play will come at the plate in at least one postseason game. The players will act differently than they would have last season or since they played high school ball and most likely one team or both will have a gripe about the rule afterward.

From the beginning, after the first ‘Huh?’ this rule should have been mulled over more and maybe even tested elsewhere before it affected games that count. For a change MLB tried to be forward-thinking, but failed miserably to do the thinking part.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.