ORLANDO, FLA. (AP) - Home plate collisions could become a thing of the past, along with blown calls on the bases.
As the offseason market for trades and free-agent signings gets underway, Major League Baseball is considering some pretty radical changes for next season.
Expanded instant replay for umpires’ calls is virtually certain to be in place by opening day, and there’s a chance a rule could be adopted to prevent runners from bowling over catchers at the plate.
“There’s a pretty good possibility that something eventually will happen,” MLB Executive Vice President Joe Torre said Tuesday on the second day of the annual general managers’ meetings. “Whether it’s going to be soon enough to have it done this coming year, that remains to be seen. But I don’t think it’s impossible.”
Outside the formal meeting room, outfielder Marlon Byrd and the Philadelphia Phillies agreed to a $16 million, two-year contract, a huge step up from the $800,000 he earned this year from the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates.
And catcher Brayan Pena finalized a two-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds worth $2,275,000. They were the first of the 168 major league free agents to switch teams this offseason.
Talk of limiting contact at the plate was the day’s most interesting development, one that could make Lou Brock’s shoulder-to-shoulder collision with Bill Freehan during the 1968 World Series and Pete Rose’s bruising hit on Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star game relics of baseball history, like the dead-ball era.
Torre said a written proposal will be developed that will be discussed when GMs gather again during the winter meetings, to be held at Lake Buena Vista from Dec. 9-12.
“There are college rules where you have to slide. I’m not saying that’s what you’re going to do,” Torre said. “The players are bigger, stronger, faster. It’s like in other sports. They’ve made adjustments and rules in other sports for that reason, to protect people.”
Torre said collisions when pitchers cover the plate on wild pitches and passed balls also are an issue. He planned to discuss the matter Wednesday with baseball’s rules committee. A change for 2014 would need the approval of the players’ association.
“Suffice it to say, the players have some thoughts of their own regarding home-plate collisions as well as a number of other topics,” union deputy executive director Tony Clark, a former All-Star himself, said in an email to The Associated Press. “We’ll be addressing them all when we meet next month.”
Torre said agreements with players and umpires on expanded video review should be in place by January.
“We expect to be all on the same page by the time we need to have it,” he said.
Virtually all umpires’ calls other than balls and strikes, checked swings and some foul tips will be reviewable. The system was tested last week during Arizona Fall League games, with two major league umpires reviewing video and making the final call.
Baseball started using video review in 2008 but limited it to home run calls. Owners likely will give their go-ahead Thursday for funding and then approve the rules when they meet in January.