There's a couple of big changes coming very soon to the game of baseball, and both have been very polarizing and controversial: the possibility of reviewing plays using instant replay, and the banning of home plate collisions.
I'll start by saying that I personally agree with both of these changes, and I'm really looking forward to their implementation. However, last night, there was a very interesting play in the Venezuelan Winter League, that made me think a little harder about how these changes will affect the game. Before you watch the video, let me give you some background information on the play and the game that was being played.
In the LVBP (Venezuelan League of Professional Baseball), the playoffs consist of a 5-team round robin (all-play-all) in which the best two teams advance to a 7-game final series. In this particular game, the Leones del Caracas were trying to hang on to a 2nd place tie with only 4 games left (out of 16). They were playing the Aguilas del Zulia, who were just hanging on for dear life, as they were facing virtual elimination.
The play came with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, with a man on second and the home team (Zulia) trailing by one. The batter rips a line drive to right field for a base hit. Game's tied, right? Well, the problem was that Bobby Abreu, who had 136 outfield assists in his 17-year carrer as a Major Leaguer was playing Right Field. The throw was perfect, one bounce and to the catcher's chest. Henry Blanco, a very good defensive catcher, didn't quite block home plate, and the runner slid feet first. Blanco applied the tag but not on the runner's feet, but on his chest. In my opinion, the runner was safe (and I'm a lifelong Caracas fan, so no bias there), but the umpire called him out and Caracas won. Please judge for yourself, here's the video:
If and when a play like this happens in MLB, it will most certainly be reviewed. And in my opinion, it will be overturned and ruled safe. The interesting thing is that most plays in home plate will be very similar to this one after the rules banning home plate collisions are enforced, and this is where it gets a little concerning.
I think it's safe to say that Henry Blanco is a plus defensive catcher (in fact, that's the only reason he's been a Major Leaguer for so long), and it's obvious that the throw beat the runner. So, does this mean that instant replay and the no-collision rule combined are going to result in less outs at home plate? I think it will, at least in the first few years as catchers adapt to the new rules. This will be a loss, as I consider outs at home plate one of the most exciting plays in baseball.
This does not change my stance on either of the changes, I still think both of them will do more good than bad to baseball. But it's definitely something to think about, especially for those who will be drafting the rules for avoiding collision at home plate.