MLB players talk home plate collisions

New York — The 2013-2014 MLB offseason has been a busy one. The Hot Stove was cooking early, Masahiro Tanaka finally chose a team, and MLB has announced several rule changes for the 2014 season, including expansion of instant replay and the elimination of home plate collisions. We had a chance to talk about some of the hot topics of the game with several current and former MLB players at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel before Tuesday night’s fundraiser dinner to support MLB’s Baseball Assistance Team initiative. Founded in 1986, B.A.T. is dedicated to assisting members of the Baseball Family through financial grants, health care programs and rehabilitative counseling.

Yesterday, we shared the players’ thoughts on the expansion of instant replay. Here’s a roundup of what they had to say about the new home plate collision rules.

Adam Jones (three-time All-Star center fielder, Baltimore Orioles); B.A.T. Board of Directors

“Sports are becoming a little softer nowadays I guess. I mean it’s part of the game, but I’ll just try to get to home plate a little bit earlier. I’m rounding third hard and hopefully the outfielder makes an inaccurate throw.”

“Catchers are always taught to give the runner a little bit of the plate. Old school catchers don’t give you none of the plate. If they give us the plate, then we gotta slide. If they don’t give us the plate, then you gotta do what you gotta do to score that run. If the catcher’s in front of the plate and I’m the one who’s scoring, if my only way to get to home plate is to go through him, that’s what I’ve gotta do and suffer the consequences. All I know is that it hurts to run into the catcher so hopefully that is [minimized] throughout the game.”

Steve Garvey (Dodgers, Padres, 1969-1987); B.A.T. Dinner Chairman

“Whether it’s good for the game I don’t think is my primary concern. My primary concern is that we’re doing so many things that probably will enhance the game but when you start tinkering with the inherent nature of the game itself, the reactionary part of the game, it’s going to be very subjective, very very difficult. It’s the one part of the game where you actually have collisions — though first basemen a few guys run into up the line there — I think it’s going to be very difficult to judge. I think more runners are hurt by catchers than vice versa. I don’t how many concussions there were last year, but I think we’re more in a concussive period in sports and that’s why everybody’s looking at this and they’re probably looking at it more from a legality standpoint than a reality standpoint.”

Bret Boone (Mariners, Reds, Padres, Braves, Padres, Twins, 1992-2005)

“No, it’s been a part of the game since the beginning of time. It’s part of it. Growing up with my dad [Bob Boone] being a catcher, it’s something he kind of prided himself on and it’s a whole different aspect of the game. The catcher’s got all his equipment on to block the plate. No, I’m a baseball purist. I like the old everything. I just like the way it’s been for 100 years and I don’t like to change simple things.”

Tim Teufel (Twins, Mets, Padres, 1983-1993; Mets third base coach, 2012-present)

“I think my instincts are going to stay the same [on whether to send a guy home]. I was very aggressive last year. I’m really not relying on a runner to take out a catcher when I’m sending him. I’m relying on an errant throw, a weaker throw, an off the line throw. I’m relying on a guy to catch a short hop possibly to put the tag on. I’m not really looking for a guy to bowl over a catcher. I’m weighing the odds, and looking up, there’s a lot of variables that go into my decisions but it’s a split-second thing. There’s a lot of data going on in my head before the play even happens — where it’s hit, how fast the runner is, how good the outfielder’s arm is, the angle of the ball that hit. All those things come into play in my decision and I’m going to stay aggressive. I’m not going to say, ‘There’s no collisions so I’m not going to send a guy.’”

Rusty Staub (Colt .45s/Astros, Expos, Mets, Tigers, Rangers, 1963-1985)

“I think if the catchers don’t try to block home plate, it’s good for the game. If the catchers try to block home plate, what are you going to do if you’re the baserunner? That’s why they have collisions.”

Cleon Jones (Mets, White Sox, 1963-1976)

“To me, [baseball is] seemingly discarding some of the fun things of the game that we all relished when I played. But it’s necessary. You play the game for fun and hopefully everybody can play the game whether it’s five years, ten years, fifteen years and can come out of it healthy. With collisions like that, chances are you have so many of those you’re not going to be healthy, you’re not going to be productive in the senior years. But those collisions, you’re bound to have them and I had a few of them while I played and I’m glad to see this.”

Jim Bouton (Yankees, Pilots, Astros, Braves, 1962-1978; author of bestselling book, “Ball Four”)

“I think that makes sense. I remember when I was rounding third and it was J.C. Martin at catcher and I was coming around third and I thought, ‘J.C Martin is standing in front of the plate waiting for a throw.’ I said, ‘I’m going to demolish that guy.’ Unfortunately, what happened was the ball arrived three steps before I got there, by that time, he had planted himself and it was the dumbest thing I ever — I plowed into him, I think you can see it on the highlight, he was up in the air, I had to come out of the game. All he did was limp a little bit, that’s what was really upsetting about it. I think that’s on a tape and see what an idiot thing it was for me to do. Fortunately, cooler heads have prevailed and now they’re not doing that.”

Photos via Marc Levine/B.A.T. Photos