Ban on home plate collisions could be coming soon

77 Comments

Home plate collisions like the one we saw between David Ross and Alex Avila in Game 5 of the ALCS on Thursday may soon be a thing of the past.

ESPN’s Buster Olney was told by team officials that they expect the topic of banning home plate collisions to be raised again in meetings this winter. While it’s no sure thing that a rule change is made for 2014, it sounds like it’s just a matter of time before they are eliminated from the game for good.

Given how quickly sentiment within the sport about collisions is shifting — particularly as information about concussions has come to light, including the cost of concussion-related lawsuits faced by the National Football League — some officials talk of change as inevitable and predict that it could come swiftly.

“At this point, I don’t know who would argue to keep it, or what their argument would be,” said one team official who believes general managers will address the topic at their meetings next month. “There is no reasoned argument to keep it [in the game].”

This is nice to hear, as plays like we saw between Ross and Avila — who both missed time with concussions this year — are unnecessary and dangerous. Avila ended up leaving Game 5 with a strained patellar tendon, but things could have been much worse. Here’s another look at the play:

Olney was told by team officials that the rule change will likely reflect how the play is used at every level below professional baseball, namely that the baserunner is given an avenue toward the plate and is not allowed to target the catcher. And that sounds reasonable enough. There are plenty of managers and executives on the side of banning home plate collisions, including Mike Matheny, Jim Leyland, and Bruce Bochy, so let’s hope logic and safety prevails. And soon.

Major League Baseball orders balls stored in climate controlled rooms for some reason

Getty Images
2 Comments

Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reports that Major League Baseball will mandate that teams store baseballs in “an air-conditioned and enclosed room[s]” this season. He adds that the league will install climate sensors in each room to measure temperature and humidity during the 2018 season, with such data being used to determine if humidors — like the ones being used in Colorado and Arizona — are necessary for 2019.

This move comes a year after Major League Baseball’s single season, league-wide home run record was shattered, with 6,105 dingers being hit. It also comes after a year in which two different studies — one by Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman for The Ringer, and another by FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur — found evidence that baseballs were altered at some point around the middle of the 2015 season which coincided with home run numbers spiking in the middle of that year, quite suddenly.

Also coming last year: multiple player complaints about the baseball seeming different, with pitchers blaming a rash of blister problems stemming from what they believed to be lower seams on the baseballs currently in use than those in use in previous years. Players likewise complained about unusually smooth and/or juiced baseballs during the World Series, which some believe led to a spike of home runs in the Fall Classic.

To date, Major League Baseball has steadfastly denied that the balls are a problem, first issuing blatantly disingenuous denials,  and later using carefully chosen words to claim nothing was amiss. Specifically, Major League Baseball claimed that the balls were within league specifications but failed to acknowledge that league specifications are wide enough to encompass baseballs which could have radically different flight characteristics while still, technically, being within spec.

Based on Verducci’s report, it seems that MLB is at least past the denial stage and is attempting to understand and address the issues about which many players have complained and which have, without question, impacted offense in the game:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that MLB commissioned a research project after last season to study the composition, storage and handling of the baseballs. He said that investigation is not yet completed. “I’m not at the point to jump that gun right now,” he said about the findings.

The investigation is not yet completed, but the fact that the league is now ordering changes in the manner in which balls are handled before use suggests to me that the league has learned that there is at least something amiss about the composition or manufacture of the baseballs.

Major League Baseball is a lot of things, but quick to impose costs and changes of process on its clubs like this is not one of them. There is likely a good reason for it.