With the end of the baseball season last week, fans of the game are now looking forward to a 2014 season which will introduce expanded video review of close and controversial calls. In 2013, umpires were allowed to see video only to review home run calls — whether the ball actually cleared the fence and/or was fair or foul.
Next year, opposing managers will be allowed one challenge each in the first six innings and two each from the seventh inning on. Oddly, rather than having the umpiring crew in place go under the stands to look at a monitor — as has been the case, the final call next year will be made by personnel at MLB headquarters in New York.
I'm all for getting things right but baseball has more pressing concerns.
First and foremost should be the health of its players and the integrity of the game. On those fronts, MLB — much like the offensive part of the game — has been largely hit or miss.
Starting at home plate, one of the key plays of the ALCS was the collision in the second inning of game five between Red Sox catcher David Ross and Tigers catcher Alex Avila when Ross was a baserunner attempting to score. Ross was out by a mile but that didn't stop him from running over Avila hoping to dislodge the ball. Avila held on but not without straining the patellar tendon in his left knee and probably suffering a concussion.
He was clearly stunned after the incident but remained in the game two more innings only to take a couple of foul tips off his facemask. The Tigers initially denied concussion was an issue but later admitted “testing” was done.
Avila returned for Game 6 but his movement behind home plate was clearly impaired.
In the wake of Avila's injury, all concerned asserted Ross made a “clean” play but MLB officials acknowledged they may very well ban the home plate collision in 2014.
As well they should. Catchers shouldn't be allowed to block the plate. Runners should not be allowed to run into catchers — or any defensive player anywhere on the base paths. The pads worn by the catcher are to protect him from baseballs not from a football-style hit from a baserunner — who is wearing no pads at all.
Keep in mind, though, that in the wake of multiple hits from batted balls to the heads of pitchers in 2012, MLB officials vowed to have protective headgear in place for hurlers in 2013. Never happened.
While pitchers are at risk from a baseball coming back at them, they are at greater risk from throwing it in the first place. And the structure which seems to fail most often is the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow.
Once strained it requires surgical repair. Always. Still, that doesn't stop star pitchers from futilely trying the rehab route first. Mets ace Matt Harvey (9-5, 2.27) was the latest to attempt the impossible for two months before giving in to the inevitable early last month. When will they learn?
About as soon as the likes of Alex Rodriguez learn to give up on performance enhancing drugs. As long as A-Rod and his ilk are allowed to remain in the game, the accomplishments of all players will remain in question.
John Doherty is a certified athletic trainer and licensed physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT.