Daily Dispatches
Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona
Associated Press/Photo by Ross D. Franklin
Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona

The case against changing sports rules to increase safety

Sports

Yesterday I reported St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny’s view that home-plate collisions should be banned, and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski‘s contention that fans should not be allowed to charge onto basketball courts to celebrate home team victories.  

But many fans have argued against Krzyzewski’s suggestion, and several current and former players have disagreed with Matheny’s position. 

Terry Francona, manager of the Cleveland Indians, believes that home-plate collisions should not be banned. He explained that if base-runners are not allowed to charge the plate, they could be injured by a catcher’s block or tag. 

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"You're going to get more baserunners hurt,” Francona said. “It's unfortunate when a catcher gets hurt, but it's kind of part of the game. I guess every organization can do what they choose. I don't think you can ever institute a rule."

Red Sox catcher David Ross, who was briefly knocked unconscious after a serious home-plate collision in 2007, agreed with Francona’s sentiments. Leave the rules alone.

"I've gotten run over and gotten a concussion before, and it's obviously not fun," Ross said. "But you learn that it's part of the game. Would you like not to get run over? Sure. That'd be great if that wasn't an option. But it is an option, so you kind of have to accept it, and you know that going into the game—or into your career—that that's part of it.”

Finding a balance between competition and safety has proven tricky for several major sports. 

In 2011, the NFL expanded restrictions on tackling in order to combat the publicized dangers of concussions. While many players appreciated the steps towards safety, others thought the rules damaged the physical nature of the game. 

“It’s taken away from the brute physical violence that fans like to see,” then-Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt told Sporting News. “It’s the one thing in the world where physical violence is legal. I understand, obviously, that it’s all about players’ safety and players being able to play with their kids after they’re through playing. But you can also go overboard with it, too.”

NASCAR has seen ratings drop over the past years for a variety of reasons, including the notion that the races may be “too safe.” While viewers do not root for crashes, many do enjoy the element of danger that exists during high speed races.

 “The speed and the element of danger has always been a little intriguing even to the fans out there,” the 1999 Sprint Cup champion Dale Jarrett told The New York Times in 2010 after NASCAR officials publicly encouraged drivers to be more aggressive. “You don’t want to see [crashes] happen. But has it just gotten too safe for everybody and so it’s not quite as exciting?”

For Matheny, the only concern is keeping his players safe. While he has always been a fierce competitor, as both player and manager, Matheny knows competition has its limits. And for him, home-plate collisions are past that limit. 

"I understand old school, and I consider myself an old school player, as far as the way I go out and the way I was taught the game. I just don't see the sense in [home-plate collisions]."

Zachary Abate
Zachary Abate

Zachary is a sports fanatic working as a WORLD intern out of Purcellville, Va. He currently studies at Patrick Henry College.

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