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  • Cutting Out Collisions Could Help Mauer

    One of the questions facing the Minnesota Twins and their fans this offseason is the future of Joe Mauer. The All-Star catcher and face of the franchise didn't play a game after August 19th because of concussion-related symptoms. With the Twins heading for their third straight 90-loss season, there was no need to rush Mauer back to the field.

    When the Twins head to Florida this spring, there will continue to be questions about how much time Mauer should play at catcher. Catchers are in the line of fire when it comes to repeated foul tips and collisions at home. In the past, Mauer has repeated his desire to keep catching but one has to wonder if Minnesota can continue to allow this to happen.

    Two home plate collisions in the American League Championship Series brought out continued concerns about the men wearing the protective gear. As concern, especially in sports circles, is increasingly raised about concussions and head injuries, reports have some baseball officials believing home plate collisions could be banned this offseason.

    Moving forward the Twins might be more likely to let Mauer spend time catching if the front office knew the play at the plate was banned. Both of the Twins catchers from the Opening Day roster, Mauer and Ryan Doumit, missed time this season because of concussion issues. Their symptoms were brought on by foul tips to the mask and/or helmet so even cutting out collisions might not be enough to keep Mauer catching.

    In the last month of the season, the Twins used a combination of Chris Herrmann and Josmil Pinto at catcher. Pinto was impressive, batting .342/.398/.566 with nine extra-base hits. His shoulder had been a concern throughout the minor league season but he fought through this issue to have an impressive September. Herrmann batted .204/.286/.325 with 11 extra-base hits over 157 at-bats this year.

    If there are any concerns with Mauer's concussion-related issues heading into spring training, the Twins will be forced to make a decision about his catching future. Even if collisions are out of the game, foul tips will continue to impact catchers until face mask and helmet technology can be improved. Minnesota has Mauer under contract until 2018 and they can ill-afford to have him on the disabled list for extended periods of time.

    Because of baseball's extensive history, it can be tough to change something, like collisions, that have been part of the game for so long. The time is right to ban collisions before another player gets seriously hurt. Catcher can be one of the most important positions on the field and it's time to protect them from future head injuries.
    This article was originally published in blog: Cutting Out Collisions Could Help Mauer started by Cody Christie
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      Nice article.
      This could be a tough sell, Codie.
      Runners will argue that a catcher blocking the plate deserves no quarter. Even as a former catcher I can understand that.

      Collisions should be few and far between, and they are.
      When they happen it is often because the catcher is trying to avoid letting the other team score. A catcher sees himself as the last possible line of defense.

      A dangerous choice, to stand in the way of someone with a full head of steam coming down the line. But with the results of a whole game on the line it is a choice that is made in the moment, and not always the practical one.

      Banning collisions may be the right thing to say.
      It ain't really that easy.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Sure it is. Ban them. If a catcher blocks the plate with anything other that his glove, toss him, and call the runner safe. If a runner changes course to run over a catcher, toss him, call him out also. In a few months the world will be better. Not really that hard. Rules change all the time in sports, this is a good rule to change.
    1. DJL44's Avatar
      DJL44 -
      The catcher, like any other infielder, should be allowed to block the base only if he has the ball or must go into the baseline to field the ball. Likewise the runner, like at any other base, should be called out for interference if he tries to knock the ball out of the catcher's glove. There is no reason to have different rules at home plate. The current rules lead to increased injury risk for the catcher AND the baserunner. Those rules have already been changed at lower levels (NCAA since 2002) to prevent injury.

      This is how Rule 7.06(b) reads currently

      "The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score. The base line belongs to the runner and the catcher should be there only when he is fielding a ball or when he already has the ball in his hand."

      Seems clear to me. Runners should be called safe if the catcher is obstructing. The only thing required is to clarify that running over the catcher is interference just like it is at any other base. I think running over the catcher should mean other baserunners can be called out as well because the runner is preventing the catcher from making a play on those runners.
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