Two thoughts about the elimination of home plate collisions

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In the wake of yesterday’s news that home plate collisions will now be outlawed, I have a deep thought: will players who used to bowl over catchers now be retroactively considered cheaters the way pre-testing PED users are? Like, will we hold it against them for knocking over catchers even though there were no penalties for doing so?

Just kidding.

But some people are serious about the topic. My exceedingly informal polling of Winter Meetings attendees last night shows that, at least among people in and around the game, the rule change is quite popular. Of the couple of dozen people I asked about it around the Winter Meetings lobby, all but one or two were sharply in favor of eliminating collisions. The couple who were less enthusiastic were still nonetheless in support of the rule change on some level — they acknowledged its utility and necessity — but offered some vague misgiving about not being able to see an exciting play like a runner knocking into a catcher.

The farther you are from the game, however, the more sharp one’s disagreement may be. Here’s an email I received last night:

I was stunned reading the headline of the Major League Baseball article about abolishing collisions at home plate. I started catching baseball and softball in 1952 and hung up my spikes in 1989.  I was run into many times over the years. It’s an integral part of the game.  It’s an exiting time for the catcher, the throwing player, and runner. What is wrong with Joe Torre? He caught for years and should have enjoyed the same exhilaration of the event . . . This new rule is childish. Today contracts mean more than risking your body. It’s an art for the catcher to end the collision play with success. If the players vote for this, they agree with me about their contracts.

That sort of thing makes me wonder if people think of ballplayers as actual people or as mere instruments of their entertainment. But I bet a lot more people feel that way about the matter than you think.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).