By: Kurt Snyder
I worry about baseball. I don’t worry about the players. I worry about the game. A little more than a year ago, I published a blog titled, Be Careful with Our Game. You can read it below, but in a nutshell, it consisted of a series of steps I felt the new commissioner should take to improve the game, with an emphasis on improving, not changing, baseball.
The most important suggestion was to rescind the rule put in place to protect catchers from collisions at the plate. Apparently, MLB has become squeamish about broken legs. The rule that prevents a catcher from blocking the plate was put in place after the Giants’ Buster Posey broke his leg following an ugly collision at the plate. Overreaction at the highest level.
Just over a year later, steps are now being taken to protect the middle infielders attempting to turn a double play with the runner bearing down on them. It can get pretty dicey at second base in those situations. Runners will try anything to disrupt that throw to first base.
Unfortunately during the playoffs last season, the Dodgers’ Chase Utley rolled through second base and he did it late, running into the Mets’ Ruben Tejada, breaking his leg. It wasn’t pretty. The “slide”, if you can call it that, was way too late and Utley deserved to be punished as a result of the play.
Is it frustrating and do we get mad when someone does something stupid on the field that ends up injuring a key player? Of course. And in cases of neglect, players should be fined significantly; suspensions should be handed out. Those are the moves they should make, not rule changes that water down the game and remove excitement.
Home plate and second base are where the game can get the most physical; at least they used to be. Plays at the plate have certainly been watered down by the new rule as we are now forced to watch catchers swipe their glove at a sliding or approaching runner instead of being able to block the plate.
Gone are those thrilling plays at the plate: runners plowing through the catcher, trying to jar the ball loose. How exciting was it to see a catcher hold that ball up after incredibly holding onto it after the collision? Well that’s done now.
And baseball is now waging war on the double play. There has been no issue with how the game has been played near second base. There has been no issue with how the game has been called at second base. The “neighborhood” rule has been fine. Teams understand it and accept it. Fans understand it and accept it. That alone protects infielders as they attempt to throw over to first base.
But suddenly it wasn’t enough after another broken leg. Since the “Buster Posey Rule” was imposed, I began to worry about what was happening to our game, and I wondered what would be next. What else can we ruin? What can we strip from the game next?
Baseball is blatantly overreacting to these injuries. It seems the commissioner is more concerned with the health of the players than the sanctity of the game. And it’s a very slippery slope we are travelling down now as another rule is enforced to protect players, doing nothing to protect the game.
I don’t understand a shred of it. The Tigers’ own Ian Kinsler has spoken out about how he dislikes the rule and it’s there to protect HIM! That says a lot when the guys most protected by the rule are the ones speaking out against it.
So who’s responsible? Owners must be speaking out in favor of these changes to protect their expensive investments. But these physical and sometimes dangerous plays at the plate and at second base were part of the game. It’s a sport. Players get injured.
Now, I do understand we don’t want players to get hurt. I am not completely heartless. People are paying big money to come and watch the stars of the game. Owners don’t want their investments to be sacrificed at second base or at home because of a collision.
But we have to be careful how we react. These are 2 major rules in a year that will significantly affect how the game is played, and it has to stop. Baseball also wants to take steps to speed up the game. OK, but even those measures need to be heavily scrutinized. It’s a game that is played strategically. So, I would be careful with the “speed up the game” initiatives as well.
If you haven’t noticed, the game is already changing on its own, so it’s just a matter of how MLB reacts to the changes. What do I mean? Baseball, not unlike other sports, is evolving before our eyes. Players are getting bigger, stronger, faster and more athletic. Collisions are more dangerous now because of the overall physical dynamic that athletes now bring to the field.
But I really don’t care. They are paid hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate for that risk. And they risk their health everyday they walk on the field; an understood part of a profession players generally accept.
So, Mr. Commissioner, where are all the rules to protect the game? Fix the quality of umpires. Fix instant replay. But be very careful with the elements that have made this game so great for so long. The game is suffering more than the players, and what’s more dangerous than that?