Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association announced today that they have agreed to implement an experimental rule that is designed to eliminate "most egregious collisions at home plate." The official language of the rule, per the press release, is as follows:
- "A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate). If, in the judgment of the Umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the Umpire shall declare the runner out (even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball).
- Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the Umpire, the catcher, without possession of the ball, blocks the pathway of the runner, the Umpire shall call or signal the runner safe."
The rule, numbered Rule 7.13, does not bar players from colliding with a catcher if the ball is already clearly in the catcher's possession by the time the runner reaches home plate. Factors in determining whether or not a runner violated the rule will be whether or not he made an effort to touch home plate, lowered his shoulders or pushed through the catcher leading with his hands, elbows or arms. Runners who slide and catchers who leave a path for the runner to get to the plate will not be found in violation of the rule.
MLB and the MLBPA will form a committee of players and managers to review the rule as the season progresses, with an eye on full-time implementation for the 2015 season. Rule 7.13 plays will be reviewable under expanded instant replay.