Changing The Home Plate Blocking Rule

By CalvinChu
Aug. 14, 2014

The home plate blocking rule have raised its fair share of controversy, so let's explore what the history of the rule is, and what can be done to solve the situation.

In the days before people truly were concerned about ACL tears and concussions, home plate collisions were the equivalent of a monster sack in football, the only truly violent collision that always occurred on the basepaths. The logic behind it? If a batter ran as hard as he could into the catcher, he could knock the ball out of his glove, and thus be able to score. The logic behind a catcher blocking the plate? To force the runner to make a decision about how to reach the plate - do I try to slide under the tag? Do I run around the catcher? Do I hurdle him?

That all changed after the MLB implemented what is now known as the "Buster Posey Rule", after the San Francisco Giants' star was injured in a home plate collision. Extended legs can be ran over, head to head collisions can occur, so the reasoning to remove these collisions was logical in terms of player safety. However, the rule has created tons of controversy. The rule only hampers the defensive team, the catcher, as only the catcher can be called for such an infraction. Incidentally, should the catcher indeed commit an egregious violation of the rule, he's the one who stands to get hurt just as much, if not more, than the runner, as he's stationary, taking the full on blow.

Today's example of the White Sox losing a run to the Giants due to a catcher being in the way highlights potential issues in the rule. Usually, home plate collisions occur on fly balls or other hits to the outfield. However, what about plays in the infield, where the throw is shorter and the catcher has less time to react to a thrown ball and needs to get in a place to catch and tag the runner?

Since a catcher is allowed to be in the way of a runner if a throw goes there, then doesn't that make all balls hit to the right side of the field harder for the defense since a throw must be cut off before it reaches exactly the plate, then must be carried in the glove of a catcher to make a tag?

It's not like horsecollar tackles or facemask tackles in the NFL, where the team that commits the penalty is risking only the other team's safety, the catchers themselves risk their own health as well.

Ah, so what can we do to improve the entertainment of baseball without sacrificing player safety? After all, baseball is and always be simply a game...

1. Mild mockery proposal: Make all plays at home plate force plays if a player is within 10 feet of the base, thus declaring that he truly wishes to try and score. This way, there is no incentive for a player to bull into a catcher because just like any other force (such as 1st base), the player is already out.
Of course, this is probably the least fun to watch, but brings much more strategy (ex: a player may choose to run back or stop before entering the 10 foot zone, where upon entering, he would be ruled out.

2. Allow the catcher to block the plate if the runner is not within 10 feet of the base upon catching the ball. The current rule does not really clarify what can be construed as blocking the plate, so in theory, a player that just rounds third while the catcher is standing in front of the plate could score because of "obstruction"

3. Change the rules altogether and instead, have throws go to the mound. If a player has not reached a base, then he must go back to the base he last touched. Kickball style.

In all seriousness, the issue of home plate collisions is no joke, but in order for the current rules to stay valid and useful, they must become more clear on what is/isn't legal.