New rule: Buster Posey, left, of the San Francisco Giants, slides safely into home with a run as Dodgers catcher Russell Martin takes the throw during their game back in 2010. Collisions at home plate have now, effectively, been banned. *MCT photo
New rule: Buster Posey, left, of the San Francisco Giants, slides safely into home with a run as Dodgers catcher Russell Martin takes the throw during their game back in 2010. Collisions at home plate have now, effectively, been banned. *MCT photo

One of the world’s least contact sports has pitched a new rule to ensure even less contact.

On Monday, February 24, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA) jointly announced the home-plate collision rule.

This new rule, labelled 7.13 was designed to reduce injuries on scoring plays and will be implemented on an experimental basis for the 2014 MLB season. All Major League teams have been instructed to assimilate themselves to this new rule during spring training. 

Talks initially began in December between the MLB and MLBPA and have just recently agreed upon the exact context and wording associated with rule 7.13.

The Rule

Essentially this rule will ban collisions at home-plate between the base-runner and the catcher.

Of course with all rules, there are many interpretations. Here’s a brief snapshot:

 A runner may not run out of a direct line to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher, or any player, covering the plate. If he does, the umpire can call him out even if the player taking the throw loses possession of the ball.

 The catcher may not block the pathway of a runner attempting to score unless he has possession of the ball.

If the catcher blocks the runner before he has the ball, the umpire may call the runner safe.

 All calls will be based on the umpire’s judgment. The umpire will consider such factors as whether the runner made an effort to touch the plate and whether he lowered his shoulder or used his hands, elbows or arms when approaching the catcher.

 Runners are not required to slide, and catchers in possession of the ball are allowed to block the plate. However, runners who do slide and catchers who provide the runner with a lane will never be found in violation of the rule.

 The expanded instant replay rules, which also go into effect this season, will be available to review potential violations of Rule 7.13.

With all that said, what does this mean for the game, the players and umpires? A lot of confusion, that’s what.

Even Tony Clark, executive director of the MLBPA, is not too confident on how this experimental rule will transpire as he stated: “We will monitor the rule closely this season before discussing with the Commissioner’s Office whether the rule should become permanent.”

The only sure things are you’ll definitely see a lot more sliding and an increased number of mangers leaving the dugout to challenge the home-plate umpire when the rule being executed.

But can managers challenge rule 7.13? Not according to MLB executive vice president of baseball operations Joe Torre, who added: “It’s going to be a little tricky because if the manager comes out and wants to question the safe-out call, then he uses the challenge.

“If he wants to check if he violated the collision rule, then that’s not a challenge. It’s like a home run; the umpire has the discretion to go.”

So along with logic, you can now throw consistency out of the ballpark. It’s a known fact every umpire sees each play differently and will subsequently call them as they see it. Now they will also be expected to determine if a base-runner is purposely deviating from their direct line to home-plate or if the catcher is too close to home-plate without possession of the ball.

Do they have to be a certain distance? Do they eyeball the distance during instant replay reviews?

As for the players, they’ll either love it or loathe it depending on what position they play on the field.

Rule 7.13 may not be the most rational solution, but at the end of the day the rule was created to protect catchers from the one-off head hunters who blatantly and violently crash into them to get to home-plate.

No one wants to see another Buster Posey, the San Francisco Giants catcher whose 2011 season was cut short after a brutal collision by Marlins’ Scott Cousins. So get your peanuts and popcorn ready baseball fans, the 2014 MLB season is about to get a heck of a lot more interesting! Play ball…

Follow Bobbi Singh on  Twitter @sportschickca.