Only Pete Rose Could Hate MLB's Ban on Collisions

Kavitha A. Davidson is a former Bloomberg View columnist.
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Call it the Buster Posey Rule: Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that it would outlaw home-plate collisions in the interest of player safety.

The MLB Rules Committee voted for the changes, which would prohibit catchers from blocking home plate and require runners trying to avoid a tag to slide into home. The exact rule needs to be written, but ESPN's Buster Olney reports that it could be implemented as early as next year, should the committee decide to fast-track the changes.

Plays at home plate would be subject to umpire review and violators open to punishment, which could include fines and suspensions and would require amending the collective bargaining agreement. That means the Major League Baseball Players' Association must approve the rule, which could push the changes until the 2015 season.

Calls for the collision ban began in 2011 after the injury to San Francisco Giants' catcher Buster Posey, who was forced to miss 100 games with a broken leg after then-Florida Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins barreled into him. Support for the rule change has gained steam as fans become aware of the short- and long-term health effects of concussions on athletes.

So professional baseball is catching up to the sport's amateur levels, which have banned home-plate collisions for years. It's a major shift for MLB, which tends to invoke "tradition" to prevent the game from changing, even for the better. Some players are still clinging to the past, including one of the most famous colliders, Pete Rose, who famously (and legally) bowled over Cleveland Indians catcher Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game. Rose expressed his dismay at the new rule to the Associated Press.

"What's the game coming to? Evidently the guys making all these rules never played the game of baseball," Rose said. "Since 1869, baseball has been doing pretty well."

Tell that to Fosse, who is still reeling from Rose's hit more than four decades later. Fosse's shoulder was fractured and separated, but the injury wasn't diagnosed until a year later and didn't heal properly. The chronic pain hampered his career and persists to this day. Or tell that to Joe Mauer, Alex Avila and Ryan Doumit -- catchers who were placed on the disabled list with concussions last season.

More catchers are making the move the first base earlier in their careers to maximize their production and stay on the field longer, including Mauer, who sought medical advice after the concussion ended his season in August and caused symptoms that stayed with him until October. If the best catchers are forced to flee their position to extend their careers, that will have a bigger effect on the quality of the game than ending home-plate collisions. The rule change isn't just good for players -- it's great for baseball.

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