Backstops being trained in new plate procedures
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- An almost comical scene unfolded on a practice field at the Mets' complex late Friday morning, as general manager Sandy Alderson attempted to demonstrate what his catchers can and cannot do under Major League Baseball's proposed prohibition of blocking home plate.
All five catchers in camp watched as Alderson and bench coach Bob Geren discussed proper and improper blocking techniques. Though MLB has not approved any specific language on the new rules just yet, Alderson -- who is chairman of the Playing Rules Committee -- assumes that will happen within the next few days.
Even if it does not, Alderson said, the Mets are among a growing population of clubs instructing their catchers to stop blocking home plate anyway. The organization gave the injury-prone Travis d'Arnaud that mandate last spring in an attempt to keep him healthy and now has extended it to Anthony Recker, Taylor Teagarden, Juan Centeno and Kevin Plawecki, as well as every catcher in Minor League camp.
"We know more about concussions and so forth now than we knew 10 or 15 years ago," said Alderson, who traveled to nearby Jupiter on Thursday to discuss the issue with MLB executives Joe Torre and Tony La Russa. "We have to think about that. I'd rather be proactive than reactive."
Alderson expects a rule to be ratified soon requiring baserunners to slide into home plate on close plays and, by extension, requiring catchers to leave runners a lane to do so. But a gray area will exist in which catchers need to lunge across the plate to receive a throw, a situation that will be reviewable on instant replay.
It should be a learning process for both catchers and baserunners, but Alderson believes it will ultimately result in increased safety throughout the game.
"If you talk to former catchers, there are maybe one or two who voiced a different opinion," he said. "But the ones that I've talked to, or who have reached out to me, more or less to a man, they think that it's in the best interests of catching, and the game as well, to change the rule."