Amid player safety concerns, particularly those related to concussions, Major League Baseball announced it had voted to ban collisions at home plate, effective for the 2014 season:
MLB Rules Committee approves ban on home-plate collisions. Details from Sandy Alderson: pic.twitter.com/5knsmpUIbF— MLB (@MLB) December 11, 2013
USA Today's Bob Nightengale first reported the decision, which came Wednesday as officials across the league were in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for the annual winter meetings:
MLB has now decided to eliminate home-plate collisions at home plate, meaning, players must slide going into home.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 11, 2013
Because the change would involve altering the collective bargaining agreement—players would be subject to punishment for home-plate collisions—it must be approved by a vote from the MLBPA. Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports that the commissioner's office will not only institute fines, but possibly even suspensions.
It's unclear at this time whether any additional wrinkles will be thrown into the rule, other than forcing players to slide to avoid tags at home plate. Paul Hagen of MLB.com reported that Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and Giants manager Bruce Bochy, both former catchers, were invited to speak to the Playing Rules Committee at a meeting on Thursday.
ESPN's Buster Olney also notes that umpires will have the discretion to look at instant replay to determine whether a collision was in violation of the rule:
The most interesting aspect of new plate collision rules, I think, is that umpires will be able to use instant replay review to make ruling.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 11, 2013
The potential ban on home-plate collisions represents a stark shift in the way the game is played. These collisions were often celebrated during baseball's heyday as the national pastime. Some of the most infamous plays in MLB history—most notably Pete Rose bowling over Ray Fosse in the 1970 MLB All-Star Game—have come from hits at the dish.
However, a recent rash of high-profile injuries have caused many around the sport to reconsider. Giants catcher Buster Posey missed more than 100 games in 2011 after suffering a leg injury in a home-plate collision. In Game 5 of the 2013 ALCS, Red Sox catcher David Ross ran into Tigers catcher Alex Avila in an ugly collision. Both players luckily were not seriously hurt, but the violence of the collision put the spotlight on a potential change.