Baseball is a tough game, and among its toughest players are catchers.
A new rule going into effect in the major leagues this season protects catchers – to a great extent, not completely – from unprotected collisions at the plate.
Why protect these guys wearing shin guards, chest protectors, cups, helmets and masks? Why take away what traditionally has been a sometimes intimidating part of the baserunners’ arsenal? Is baseball going soft?
No. The sport’s keepers are acknowledging modern realities, some physical, some common sense and some financial.
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Thirty years ago, players such as Dave Parker were baseball rarities, huge, fast men whose physiques stood out among the relatively slighter builds of players who preceded the weight-room era. Now, even smaller players are built like running backs, meaning just about every player rounding third presents a threat to catchers waiting to handle throws – rarely one-hop perfectos – with arms outstretched and the baseline roughly bisecting their stance.
Even the toughest linebacker could be undressed in an unprotected collision with a 200-pounder at ramming speed.
The cost of such collisions has become prohibitive, too. Good catchers are hard enough to find and develop, great ones rarer still. Nobody – catchers, teammates, the players’ union, owners – wants these guys vaporized for the sake of an old-school macho ethos. Plays at the plate are exciting enough without injury.
Big-league catchers won’t say so – because they are, you know, catchers – but one can bet they see wisdom in a move that will help keep them on the field and more or less in one piece.
– Brian Blomster
Is baseball right in protecting its catchers from home-plate collisions?
• Yes, it makes sense
• No, it’s a part of the game
Vote above, or go to www.sacbee.com/sports
If the 49ers’ head-coaching job opens, whom should they hire?
• Vic Fangio: 10%
• Greg Roman: 15%
• David Shaw: 45%
• Jim Tomsula: 15%
• Other: 15%
Total votes: 200