MLB adopts rule on collisions at plate

"[As a baserunner], my mindset, when I'm coming around third, is to slide hard and late."

Texas Rangers catcher  J.P. Arencibia said the new rule "takes away the malicious intent behind the play at the plate."

"It stops guys just going out of their way just to try to dislodge the baseball when [catchers] have the plate," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

Hall of Famer George Brett, the Kansas City Royals' vice president of baseball operations, said he doesn't like the rule even though he understands that the objective is to reduce injuries.

"I'm not a big fan of it," Brett told ESPN.com. "Catchers are taught to put their foot right in front of home plate, and the plays are bang-bang. I like the collision.

"I don't sit around at home at night and think about it. This is the first time I've thought about it since two months ago when somebody told me, 'They can't run into catchers anymore.' I said, 'That sucks. I love that play.'"

A runner who violates the rule will be declared out even if the catcher drops the ball. If a catcher blocks the plate without possession of the ball, the runner will be safe. However, a catcher may block the plate to field a throw if the umpire determines he could not have otherwise fielded it and thus contact with the runner could not have been avoided.

"We believe the new experimental rule allows for the play at the plate to retain its place as one of the most exciting plays in the game while providing an increased level of protection to both the runner and the catcher," new union head Tony Clark said. "We will monitor the rule closely this season before discussing with the commissioner's office whether the rule should become permanent."

Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, who was steamrolled at the plate by Sean Rodriguez in 2012 and Ryan Kalish in 2011, is one of the biggest supporters of the rule change, although he'd like to get clarifications from Major League Baseball on exactly what is and isn't permitted.

"There are always going to be catchers who want to leave it on the field," he said. "You want to be strong for your team. And stopping runs is the most important part of this game. It's whoever scores the most runs. So you want to be able to stop those runs at any cost.

"But the bigger thing that I think really comes into play here is you look at the NFL and the effect that concussions have. You know, we're not just talking about a career. You're not just talking about missing a season with an injury. You're talking about a couple of head-to-head collisions, and you could have quite a bit of memory loss and quite a difficult time functioning later in life. And for me, I think that's the one issue I'm glad is hopefully going to be straightened out."

Orioles manager Buck Showalter attended a briefing on the rule by baseball officials Sunday. And as someone who still cringes when he thinks of some of the hits Wieters has taken, Showalter is grateful for a rule that aspires to all but eliminate "the cheap-shot collision."

"We're talking about where the [catcher] is completely exposed, doesn't have the ball and some guy hunts him," Showalter said. "We've had it happen with Matt a couple of times. And as you remember, we were real unhappy about it. I can still remember the players who did it. With no intent to score. Had the plate given to him. Could have slid. And just [hit him] very maliciously. We're going to get that out of the game."

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