Citing Concussion Concerns, Pro Baseball To Ban Home Plate Collisions

Major League Baseball plans to eliminate home plate collisions, among other rules changes. For more on what the changes will mean for the game, Melissa Block speaks with Mike Piazza, a former MLB catcher with several professional teams and author of Long Shot, an autobiography.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

It's one of the most exciting plays in baseball and one of the most dangerous, the collision between a waiting catcher and a base runner charging for home plate.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPORTSCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: In the air but certainly not that deep, Schierholtz, a great arm, tagging...

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: And coming to the plate is (unintelligible) and he scores. He clobbers Posey...

BLOCK: In that collision, in 2011, Giants catcher Buster Posey suffered a broken leg and torn ankle ligaments, injuries that nearly ended his career. Well, as early as next year, you probably won't see plays like that anymore. Citing concussion concerns, Major League Baseball plans to ban home plate collisions. I talked about that with former all-star catcher Mike Piazza. He agrees that players should be protected, but...

MIKE PIAZZA: You know, I'm sure it's going to cost a lot of controversy because there are a lot of fans that, you know, look at it as where it is an exciting play and it is - there's been many plays throughout history that baseball is remembered for, collision at the plate. And I've had many collisions at the plate. I don't know if a full-on ban is what the solution is. I don't like that extreme sort of thing because then, what is next?

Want to take out sliders at second base on a second base pivot - then are you going to ban that as well? Unfortunately in baseball, there's contact. And so I think it's a little frustrating to at least have a total ban. But, you know, unfortunately, if that's the solution, then that's what it is.

BLOCK: You played for 16 years in the majors, nearly 2,000 games, how many collisions do you think you had?

PIAZZA: I probably have a good two or three a year. I mean, I would say major collisions. And then there was probably a lot of minor ones that I was able to sort of mitigate. I mean, I think if you are going to be a catcher, you should know how to block the plate effectively and know how to make the play. There are things that you can do to at least alleviate some of the risk from behind home plate.

BLOCK: Do you understand the thinking of Major League Baseball here? I mean, there's so much more focus now on the risk of concussion now than there was during your playing career.

PIAZZA: No, I do understand the risk. And I do believe that, you know, those risks are there. And, you know, I think where we get into the other debate is at one point do you sort of, I guess, lack of better words, pacify the sport so much to where you, you know, sort of over control it to where you take some of the excitement out of it. And I don't know what that answer is.

BLOCK: You mentioned you don't want to see them pacify the sport. Would you miss seeing home plate collisions or do you think the game will be just as exciting without them?

PIAZZA: Oh, I think the game will be just as exciting. Look, there's been a lot of collisions at home plate where the guy slid, and actually really slid into me hard as well, and sort of snowplowed me almost off to the grass. So just because you can slide, that does not mean there's not going to be contact.

BLOCK: Mike, how do you think catchers of your generation would've reacted if baseball had tried this ban on home plate collisions, say, 20 years ago?

PIAZZA: Oh. That's a good question.

(LAUGHTER)

PIAZZA: It's tough to say.

BLOCK: Yeah.

PIAZZA: I don't think the quote/unquote "old school" would have received it well. I really don't. But it's tough because it was a little bit of a generational thing. Unfortunately, you know, we didn't have the research that they do today about head injuries and possible risks of injuries as well. But believe me, from a lot of the old time guys I know, it would be frowned upon.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: Well, Mike Piazza, it's good to talk to you. Thanks so much.

PIAZZA: I enjoyed it very much. Have a good day.

BLOCK: That's former catcher and 12-time all-star Mike Piazza.

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