Baseball’s new experimental rule aimed at protecting players from being injured in “egregious collisions” at the plate was met with mixed reactions Tuesday inside the Marlins clubhouse.
The same could be said when it comes to interpretation.
“I don’t think its defined enough to say this is going to constitute an out, this is going to constitute potential fines,” Marlins general manager Dan Jennings said. “It’s just a very broad brush right now.”
The new rule — tabbed Rule 7.13 — sets forth two big changes to the game.
One, a runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (he also can’t lower his shoulder or use his hands in a collision to dislodge the ball). Two, unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, he cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score.
In the event the runner or catcher is found to be in violation of those rules, the umpire has the right to review the call on the field or use instant replay.
“They’re trying to protect the catcher, eliminate the dirty plays basically. I’m for that,” new Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “From what I understand it’s basically going to be the same as it has been. You just can’t block the plate without the ball, which is how it should be. I always thought that was the rule to begin with.”
Manager Mike Redmond, who was in favor of not changing any rules and keeping the game the same, said he feels like baseball’s new rule has “taken away the aggressiveness from the runner, but still kept it on the side of the catcher.”
How do the Marlins plan to defend the plate? The same as they always have, Redmond said.
The Marins will give up the back of the plate as a lane so runners can slide into it or reach with their hand, but once catchers have the ball Redmond wants them to protect their turf. Saltalamacchia and the rest of the Marlins catchers participated in drills Tuesday using tackling dummies to simulate those bang-bang plays at the plate for the first time in camp.
“I don’t think it’s a huge adjustment for us [from a catching perspective],” Redmond said. “It’s probably more comfortable for the catchers now, because they don’t have to worry about getting run over. There still could be some contact there, but at the same time too you can’t lower your shoulder, push with your arms or anything. So the catcher is going to be able to hang in there a lot longer and not worry about the contact.”
Redmond said he loved the contact of the collision at the plate, and he’s sure fans are going to miss it.
“It’s going to look funny when the guy is out by that far and he slides halfway down the line, or just stops because he’s not going to be allowed to run into the catcher,” Redmond said.
The rule change will affect how the Marlins coach runners rounding third base. Redmond said the Marlins are also instructing runners they have to slide into home.
“You’re still going to send guys, but you’re going to make sure they have a chance to score,” he said. “Because you’ve eliminated the case where if it’s really close you can run over the catcher.”
The defending National League champion Cardinals, who share the facility in Jupiter with the Marlins, have taken a stronger stance toward the new rule. They plan on teaching their players to give up a lane and avoid collisions at all costs, general manager John Mozeliak said Monday.
Marlins veteran utility man Ty Wigginton — who once had a memorable collision at the plate with Redmond back in 2003 — said he’s reserving judgment on the new rule until he sees how umpires apply it in games. Baseball officials are expected to visit clubs throughout spring training to provide further instruction on the new rule.
“The way you always used to do it, the catcher lines up the plate and the foul line with his left foot,” Wiggington said. “As a runner, you kind of use that left foot as your gauge. If that left foot crosses over, he’s technically blocking the plate.
“We’ll see how it plays out. We’ve all got to play by the rules. I’ve always said that when rule changes happen, to me it’s always weird. It’s kind of like, Babe Ruth didn’t have it, why do we need it?”
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