Earlier this week, MLB announced a rule change that will ban a catcher from blocking home plate in hopes of eliminating home plate collisions, possibly as soon as next season but no later than by 2015. The objective is to cut down on concussions and improve player safety.
The reaction around the league is mixed and many current and former players have voiced strong opinions on the rule change, including Sandy Alomar Jr.
“I was just watching TV and they posted a new rule that in 2015 they’re going to start playing baseball with tennis balls,” Alomar told 92.3 WKRK-FM when he was asked to share his thoughts on the plate-blocking ban.
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The former catcher and current Cleveland Indians first base coach is clearly not a fan.
“I think blocking home plate is part of the strategy of playing catcher and I understand guys getting hurt and high-priced players being out of the field, but the bottom line is that’s their choice and the choice is being taken out of the players hands.”
Alomar explained that blocking the plate is just part of a catcher’s job and it’s an assumed responsibility when you play the position.
“Back when I played if the catcher didn’t block the plate, you heard it from other players,” Alomar said. “This is the way I always knew and I feel like something is being taken away from the catching position.”
While the specifics of the rule are still unclear and the exact wording won’t be revealed until the MLB owners meetings in January,
Alomar thinks there’s one very important factor being left out. The
“When the game is on the line and a guy is going home, you basically can’t do anything. You’re going to have to phantom tag a guy when your glove is not made for that,” he pointed out.
“A catcher’s mitt is good for a long hop or a ball in the air and it’s not good for in-between hops. Imagine having a second baseman trying to catch an in-between hopper with a catcher’s mitt — he’s not going to catch it. That’s one thing Major League Baseball will have to take into consideration and they’ll have to make adjustments for that.”
Alomar added that catchers won’t be the only ones that have to make changes to the way they play the game. He feels the entire game will be affected, from players to coaches.
“[The rule] involves many changes. It involves infielders making better throws, it involves the coaching staff’s decisions to send guys home and it involves the runners learning how to slide.”
It will be interesting to see how the one-time catcher will have to adjust the way he teaches Indians catcher Carlos Santana how to improve his defensive skills — rule change aside, that task is already one tall order.