MLB rule tweaks likely done for 2014, but expect offseason discussions
When it comes to additional rule adjustments, baseball probably is done tweaking for a while.
Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre, the sport’s executive vice president of baseball operations, told FOX Sports on Friday that the home-plate collision rule is unlikely to change this season.
Torre also said he was wary about making pine tar or another tacky substance legal for pitchers, fearing that pitchers would use the substance to gain greater movement on their pitches as well as to enhance their grips.
"I understand the concept of the ball getting slippery," Torre said. "But it is a foreign substance. You’re afraid if you turn it loose, who knows what might people do with it?”
Torre did not rule out considering such a change during the offseason if players and teams lobbied for it the way they did for a less rigid interpretation of the transfer rule, which baseball enacted on Friday.
But Torre added, “If (pine tar) gives your ball more bite, you might as well use a spitter. It’s tough to separate keeping the ball from slipping out of your hands or staying on your fingers long enough to cut, curve or sink … act funny.”
As for collisions, baseball will continue teaching catchers to catch the ball before positioning in front of home plate and working with umpires to call blocks properly, Torre and others in the sport said.
Tony La Russa, a Hall of Fame manager who now works in the commissioner’s office, told FOX Sports last week that catchers should be “required” to avoid blocking the plate as the runner rounds third and heads toward home, giving him a clear, visible path to the plate.
A catcher is permitted to block the plate only when he has the ball, making certain collisions unavoidable. Many clubs, however, already are teaching catchers to leave an opening for the runner at all times, so baseball is reluctant to rewrite the rule immediately.
“It’s going to be hard to do,” Torre said. “The Players Association didn’t want catchers to have to think about certain things they had to do and take away what had been an instinct. It’s going to take a little time, talking about it, encouraging (catchers) to do certain things.
“I notice more guys sliding, even though they don’t have to — we suggested that they do so in spring training. We recommended and continue to recommend that catchers give (runners) the whole plate when a play develops. Once you have the ball, you can move to the plate, use a swipe tag, do what you have to do.”
The collision rule, however, is almost certain to be revisited in the offseason. Just as with the interpretation of the transfer rule, the approval of the players union and umpires union would be required to make any change.