Column: Line Drives — Changes in rules needed

[This is my column from the Dec. 12 issue of The Commercial Review.]

“What are they going to do next, you can’t break up a double play? You’re not allowed to pitch inside. The hitters wear more armor than the Humvees in Afghanistan.”

The above quote is from  Pete Rose, Major League Baseball’s all-time leader in hits. Rose was commenting on the proposed rule change by the MLB to ban collisions at home plate.

Under the proposed rule: catchers will not be allowed to block home plate; runners will not be permitted to target catchers; questions on blocking and targeting will be reviewable, violations will be subject to discipline.

“Now you’re not allowed to be safe at home plate?” Rose added. “What’s the game coming to? Evidently the guys making these rules never played the game of baseball.”

The MLB rules committee is hoping for the rule to be in place for the 2014 season, but it must be approved by the players’ union in order to go into effect next season.

Rose has a point.

Players like him, George Brett and Ty Cobb left everything on the field in order to win. If they had to bowl over a catcher to score a run, so be it. It was part of the game when they played, and still is today.

To this baseball fan the rule initially felt like a step in the wrong direction for the league, which has struggled to sustain its fan base through the steroid allegations.

But after reading more than just headlines, the proposed rule is starting to make sense.

When the safety of players is jeopardized by allowing collisions at the plate, the game can —and should — be changed.

Baseball players make hundreds of millions of dollars, and the organizations that pay them see the individuals as investments.

When those costly investments are not able to contribute because of a preventable injury, it makes sense to outlaw the impact at home plate.

Take San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, for example.

In 2011, Posey broke his leg and tore ligaments in his ankle after being hit at home plate by Scott Cousins of the Florida Marlins (now the Miami Marlins).

Posey, who only made $575,000 when he was injured but now makes $18.2 million per year, missed the remaining 117 games of the 2011 season.

Last year, Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila spent time on the disabled list with a strained knee after a collision at the plate.

Granted, Avila earns 16 percent of Posey’s contract ($2.95 million), he is still seen as an investment, and when he’s not on the field for the Tigers he cannot do his job.

The NFL is making changes to its sport to increase player safety, and while there aren’t nearly as many serious injuries in baseball as football, it is good to see the MLB doing what it can to protect its players.

After all, player safety is of the utmost importance.

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