New collision rule is good news for Yankees and McCann

Spring Training Game Thread: Baseball's Back
FOX announces 2014 broadcast schedule, reduced blackout restrictions

In my opinion, the single biggest upgrade the Yankees made this winter was replacing Chris Stewart with Brian McCann behind the plate. They paid top of the market dollars for that upgrade — McCann’s five-year, $85M deal is the largest ever given to a free agent catcher by more than 60% — but the impact on the field will be enormous. Few things in the game are as valuable as a catcher who can hit while playing above-average defense.

Like every other long-term contract, McCann’s deal carries quite a bit of risk. It’s unavoidable. Catchers are riskier than other position players because the position is just so demanding. Squatting behind the plate day after day in the summer heat and humidity sucks enough — between the regular season and playoffs, McCann already has over 9,000 innings at catcher on his legs, most of them in the Atlanta summer — but then you have to add the foul tips and everything else on top of that.

Thankfully, the risk associated with McCann’s contract went down earlier this week. MLB and the MLBPA announced their new “experimental” rule regarding home plate collisions, a rule that eliminates needless contact. The runner can still run into the catcher if he has the ball and is blocking the plate, but that’s it. He can’t run out of his baseline to target the catcher and the catcher can’t block the plate without the ball. Reducing the number of collisions means reducing McCann’s injury risk.

“I don’t know if it’s going to [be hard to adjust to the new rule],” said McCann to Chad Jennings. “As long as you give the guy the plate before you have the ball, it’s kind of the same rule. … We’re taught to be in the right position so if you do get run over, you’re not going to get hurt from it. When you catch the ball, you do have to be in the right position because you are vulnerable for ACL [injuries], you’re vulnerable for concussions. You don’t want to see anybody miss time because of that.”

McCann, 30, has been remarkably durable (for a catcher) throughout his career, but he did miss about a week with a concussion following a collision with Shane Victorino back in 2008. We watched Frankie Cervelli suffer a concussion when he was run over by Nick Markakis in September 2011 (video) and Mark Teixeira send Bobby Wilson to the DL for more than a month with an April 2010 collision (video). Wilson, who didn’t even have the ball, suffered a concussion and a severe ankle sprain. The runner doesn’t even have to be running at full speed for a collision to inflict serious damage.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about the new anti-collision rule — it will take some getting used to, if nothing else — but the league wants the game to be safer, so it’s easy to understand why the ban was implemented. Given all the money the Yankees committed to McCann this winter, anything that can potentially keep him healthier is a big positive. Catching is still going to be crazy dangerous, but eliminating unnecessary collisions may help the team’s new backstop stay healthier and more productive deeper into his contract.

Spring Training Game Thread: Baseball's Back
FOX announces 2014 broadcast schedule, reduced blackout restrictions
  • vicki

    sigh. the new nanny state of pro sports. and after sci-fi promised me ever more violent gladiatorial combat.

    • jjyank


      Collisions will still happen. Just not the unnecessary ones.

    • Preston

      This kind of thinking doesn’t bother me at the professional level, they get paid handsomely to sacrifice their health. But concussions are a real problem. And when coaches at the high-school level feel this way it’s a real problem. On my Freshman football team our starting fullback had five concussion in a ten game season, he shouldn’t have been allowed to play. He quit halfway through Sophomore year (after getting two more) and my coaches berated him for being a coward and being “soft”. That’s unconscionable. I don’t need to see collisions at the plate to enjoy baseball, and hopefully MLB’s stance trickles down to the lower levels. I like that they’re being proactive about it, while the NFL buries their head in the sand while former players off themselves left and right.

  • Mike

    Didn’t Cervelli break his wrist due to a home plate collision in Spring Training?

    • vicki

      elliot johnson, that bitch. then shelley duncan goes spikes-high into second in retaliation.

      • pat

        And Jonny Gomes tried to blindside Duncan by tackling him, only to bounce off like a little bitch. I’ve hated him since then.

  • http://riveravenueblues Mississippi doc

    Does anybody get the impression that Mike did not think that Chris Stewart was a good catcher for the Yankees?

    • Poconos Adam

      When didn’t you get that impression?

  • Eddardo Nuney

    But it’s bad news for baseball. I hope the players continue to take matters into their own hands and I think they will. When they’re going into home plate with the ballgame on the line they aren’t going to think well what about that new collision rule, I better slow up here and not try to dislodge the ball from the catcher. A WS berth is on the line but I don’t want to get a fine. That ain’t gonna happen. The players will police themselves.

    • jjyank

      I try to refrain from responding to you, but I’m compelled this time. No runner is going to slow down with the game on the line. Collisions are still allowed if the catcher has the ball and is blocking the plate. If the catcher does not have the ball, he cannot block the plate, but that’s a non-issue for the runner. The players will not police themselves. You’re an idiot. Please stop commenting, like you promised you would last year.

  • handtius

    Jeeze, did anyone rewatch that Cervelli hit? Markakis pretty much did a flying elbow into Cervi’s face, like some sort of Mortal Combat finisher move. I’m not surprised he got concussed. I am surprised his head didn’t pop off and blood wasn’t spurting of his headless neck.

    • Poconos Adam

      Tex’s hit (as the Angels announcer noted) seemed a bit unnecessary. Watch that one…..Tex crosses the plate to pound Wilson.

      As a fan, I loved it, but when you think that it can destroy a guy and most of the time it’s really not a good baseball play….good rule change.

      • handtius

        I agree, tex’s was bad, but the difference is he want feet, semi first. Markakis went full dive. But yeah, both were too much.

  • Brandon W

    I like the new rule. I get the idea of getting into the game and putting it on the line for the win, but seriously. These kinds of impacts have major potential long-term health ramifications. Forget the game for a minute, they’re still people with real families and a whole life beyond baseball.

    Remember a few years ago when the research came out that showed the extreme similarities between the effects of repeated concussions and Lou Gehrig’s disease? I’m sorry, I don’t think a chance at a single out/run is worth that kind of risk. Especially not during the regular season.

    This rule finds a good middle ground and is a good step towards protecting the players from the senseless impacts while still allowing them to block the plate if the situation is right for it. I like it.

  • TWTR

    I remember Posada being hit hard in a collision by Tex in 2008 when he was on the Rangers. I think Posada was looking for payback, but then they became teammates, so it had to be over.

    • Steve (different one)

      My memory may be off, but didn’t Posada get payback in the same game?

      Wasn’t it the game where the yanks were down 9-0 and Posada capped the comeback with a walk off?

      • TWTR

        Oh, maybe. My recollection from hearing Posada talking about it afterward is that he wanted physical payback.

  • Mike HC

    I think the rule is good for everyone. Finally, we can chalk one up in the win column for MLB.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Anything that reduces decapitation in sports is a good thing.

  • Darren

    I had to spill out my coffee cause the milk was bad, so I may be a little slow right now (no jokes!), but the two elements of the rule seems to do nothing to try and prevent the majority of collisions.

    Runners don’t usually swerve to try and hit the catcher, do they? A don’t most collisions occur not because the catcher was blocking the plate before the ball was there, but because the runner and catcher collided after the catcher caught the ball?

  • monkeypants

    “The runner can still run into the catcher if he has the ball and is blocking the plate, but that’s it.”

    I don’t understand at all why even this is allowed. I mean, if the catcher has the ball and he’s standing there waiting for the runner, why can the runner try to obliterate him (when, if he did the same thing at any other base, he would be tossed from the game)?

    In any case, this rule is certainly a step in the right direction.

    • Dalek Jeter

      It doesn’t happen at any other base because I’m pretty sure that at every other base blocking the runner from the base is obstruction.

      • Hawkeye

        It is my understanding that by rule it should have always been obstruction at home to block the base without the ball- for some reason, umpires let catchers get away with obstruction, so runners retaliated by running them over.

    • TWTR

      My guess is that it should give catchers an opportunity to be in a set position, so MLB may think it reduces the chance of injury while preserving what they think should remain a part of the game.

  • Dicka24

    I just saw on MLBTR that the D’backs are looking for a young catcher, in a trade for one of their young SS’s. I wonder if JR Murphy (Gary Sanchez?) would be to their liking. I’m not sure if Didi Gregorious has the bat to stick, and know little about Chris Owings. Anyone more up to speed on either player, and their value/projection? Not saying I’d do it either way. Just curious considering we’ll need a SS next year, and we just signed a catcher long term. Thoughts?

    • Hawkeye

      Cervelli, he wants to be a starter and is out of options.

      • And in merrie olde England

        Not gritty enough for the D-backs

    • Poconos Adam

      I was thinking the same thing.

      You’d thinking Murphy for one of their young SS guys makes sense….

      Owings has pop and some speed. His 2nd half #s last year were bad, included a hammy injury, but he was the ROY in the PCL. Hit 18 in A and AA in 2012.

      Better than any infielder in the Yanks system. Personally, if they’d go even up for Murphy, it would be hard to say no.

      If they’d take Cervelli and a pitching prospect, that would be better for us, but Towers isn’t a total idiot.

  • Bats

    The first and foremost thing about Axisa’s post is this,…. he might say that the Yankees upgraded Stewert and Cervelli with McCann, but this would never have happened if the Yankees did what he suggested last year and keep Russell Martin and his puny-PUNY offensive numbers.

    I would take a catcher who hits .260/.350 with 10 homeruns over a one who hits .220/.300 with 25 homeruns…ANYDAY.

  • Jose F.

    Will Brian McCann still be allowed to momentarily impede runners rounding the bases after a home run, should he deem their trot too slow?