MLB Just Banned What Ken Caminiti Did to Greg Olson

There are other headlines one could write about this rule change, but that was the one that seemed appropriate. Here you go:

1. A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate). If, in the judgment of the Umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the Umpire shall declare the runner out (even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball). In such circumstances, the Umpire shall call the ball dead, and all other base runners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision.

Rule 7.13 Comment: The failure by the runner to make an effort to touch the plate, the runner’s lowering of the shoulder, or the runner’s pushing through with his hands, elbows or arms, would support a determination that the runner deviated from the pathway in order to initiate contact with the catcher in violation of Rule 7.13. If the runner slides into the plate in an appropriate manner, he shall not be adjudged to have violated Rule 7.13. A slide shall be deemed appropriate, in the case of a feet first slide, if the runner’s buttocks and legs should hit the ground before contact with the catcher. In the case of a head first slide, a runner shall be deemed to have slid appropriately if his body should hit the ground before contact with the catcher.

2. Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the Umpire, the catcher without possession of the ball blocks the pathway of the runner, the Umpire shall call or signal the runner safe. Notwithstanding the above, it shall not be considered a violation of this Rule 7.13 if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in order to field a throw, and the Umpire determines that the catcher could not have fielded the ball without blocking the pathway of the runner and that contact with the runner was unavoidable.

I think that this is good for baseball, even though some of the old-fashioned hard-nosed ex-players are bound to disagree. In the future, kids may watch the last scene of A League of Their Own and wonder, “Could a runner really bowl over the catcher to try to knock the ball loose? Also, did women play professional baseball?” and we’ll have to tell them, yes and yes, but no longer.

37 thoughts on “MLB Just Banned What Ken Caminiti Did to Greg Olson”

  1. Guys there’s a consensus about the Heyward contract in the poll, that any of the above would be just fine and then some.

    (I’m the only vote.)

  2. @6

    You now have company, if you didn’t before. All of those options were too much. We can revisit after this season, but as of right now, there isn’t any way I’d pay him more than Freeman.

  3. @8 Is it as of now? If it is as of now, I don’t think anyone of us would offer any of those contracts. I am sure Jason would take any one of them.

  4. @9

    I’m pretty sure there are a lot of people on here who would throw one, a couple, or any of those contracts at him right now. I just happen to disagree with them.

  5. I haven’t posted in awhile but now I think is the prefect opportunity to share my story on the Greg Olson/Caminiti thing.

    I fell in Love with the Braves and Baseball during the 1991 season – as did most of my peers who were growing up in ATL. I was 7 years old and I remember the sign-up for the local little league that year was the busiest it had ever been. My dad had to camp out over night to make sure I got on a team.

    Dad was running a car dealership on Cobb Parkway at the time and a lot of the Braves players would go get their vehicles there. My dad would usually hook the rookies up in exchange for them doing advertising and such. He became pretty good buddies with Greg Olson whose father in Minnesota held a similar job to the one my dad had, Greg liked to hang around the dealership a bit. I remember after a game one day when I had won a trophy my mom took me over to the dealership and Greg Olson was there in my dad’s office. He instantly became my hero. He shook my hand and signed my glove and talked to me about being on the Braves and was just a really cool, likable dude.

    Greg ended-up giving my dad a lot of his tickets to the games throughout the pennant races in 91 and 92. He would invite me to go down into the dugout and I’d get pictures with some of the other players. It was really a great thing for me, I would have Loved the Braves and baseball either way but this was really special for a kid growing up in ATL especially in during those magic early 90’s seasons.

    And I still remember it more clearly than dinner last night. Greg had given my dad his family seats for the game against the Astros. We were sitting next to Alejandro Pena’s family – who did not speak english but would proudly point at the “Pena” embroided on their Braves jackets.

    The seats were right on the third base line and we had a perfect view of third base and home plate. It was a great place to watch the game and I had a great view of my favorite player, Greg Olson.

    I know Caminiti was on third, and I know that Armando Reynoso had come in for relief. I know that someone flew to right, to Justice. I know Sid Bream was playing first. I remember seeing the mulleted Caminiti – who for some reason I already loathed about as much as a prepubescent boy could loathe a guy on the Houston Astros and not really have a great reason to (yet).

    I remember the crowd rising to their feet and screaming as the throw came in to home plate, and I remember Caminiti charging in hard – at that moment I wanted nothing more than Greg to put the tag on him. When it happened everyone fell silent. I couldn’t see too much because people were standing in front of me but I knew it was bad. I felt sick. I remember my dad saying something under his breath. I remember my mom calling Caminiti a name I’d never heard her say before. I remember trying not to cry. When they put Greg on the golf car and drove him towards the outfield he started doing the Tomahawk Chop to the crowd, I think I may have lost it a little but kept trying to think he would be okay. At some point I had figured out that what had happened was not good for a ballplayers career.

    I think my dad may have taken us home early that night. Sometime in the next few days I went to my big album of Donruss cards and took out all the Ken Caminiti’s. From then on – no matter how close I was to a complete set the Ken Caminiti’s would disappear. I hated the bastard. I hated him even more when he had those steroid years in San Diego. By the time he was on the Braves as a pinch hitter I had seen enough of baseball to realize what had happened was a part of the game – or folks said it was. I don’t know. I never got to that level. I like the intensity. I don’t like replaying what happened to Greg in my head. When Erstad almost murdered Jonny Estrada, I had flashbacks. It was all just part of the story of being a long-time fan by then.

    After awhile I started to get over the loathing of Caminiti. I just remember seeing his career go and become the rise and fall that it was; him becoming an all-star, MVP, admitted steroid-user, drug addict and a tragic, sad ending. A guy who played with Caminiti in San Diego once told me that the man was quite troubled, that when his own brother was having issues with drugs he went to Ken for advice, and Ken was very open about his own struggles and very caring about it. I also heard that he played the game the way it was supposed to be played – hard. I still see those highlights from his years in SD, diving into foul territory and gunning the ball so quickly to first.

    When this whole issue came up about possibly banning home plate collisions I was actually against it. But maybe the way that it’s been written out works – if the ballplayers are for it it’s probably the right thing. It’d be interesting to have seen if Greg Olson – who wasn’t really the All-Star he was selected to be in 1990 – could have had a few more years playing back-up for somebody. Or maybe if Jonny Estrada could have continued to be the ballplayer he was (it also would have been interesting to have seen Julio Franco whoop Erstad’s ass like he was threatening to do). There’s been so many catchers hurt over the years and with what we know about concussions today I guess it is time to stop it and I’m alright with that.

    Hope I didn’t clog up the feed to much y’guys you know most of my friends don’t wanna hear about this. haha. cheers.

  6. If $20 million is too much, pick the first option in the poll.

    dnalkcirts, I think a lot of us were struck speechless when that happened. I just think that if there’s any way to prevent that kind of injury with this kind of rule change, then it needs to be done.

  7. #12
    Nice story.

    FWIW, even though I was on both ends of those collisions when I played as a kid/teen, I’m curious to see the new rule in action. If we can avoid getting catchers maimed, I think I gotta be for it.

  8. @12

    If I wasn’t sold on the rule change before I read your post, I am now…. Got to the “heart” of the matter.

  9. I think there ought to be more of a penalty than just the safe/out call. Or is there such a penalty and I missed it?

    I’m thinking like a 2-3 game suspension for seriously dangerous play as judged by the commissioner’s office or something along those lines.

  10. @16. Not necessarily saying I disagree with this, but MLB is soundly frighteningly more like the NFL with each passing day. Replays…coach’s challenges…helmets for pitchers…arbitrary fines/suspensions for unnecessary roughness calls.

  11. What happens if the catcher blocks the plate without the ball AND the runner “deviates from his path” and knocks him out?

  12. Chip will botch the explanation of this rule the first time a collision occurs in a Braves game, right?

  13. Is there anything he doesn’t botch?

    Unnecessary roughness has no place in any sport, rather obviously. The difference is that, unlike the NFL, MLB has a concussion policy that actually works now, and MLB hasn’t spent decades inducing doctors to lie about it. Also, really? You have a problem with pitchers wearing helmets?

  14. @12,

    Beautiful post. But, dammit, you are too young. :)

    I really don’t think there is any need for these collisions at the plate. They rarely are successful unless the runner gets there just as the ball arrives. All they do is subject the catcher-and maybe the runner-to unnecessary punishment. The rule is, I’m sure, not perfect, but baseball players don’t need to act like football players, Pete Rose be damned.

    Football fans like to make fun of baseball as not being a “tough” sport. All I know from my very limited experience is that it takes a special kind of person to stand in when a pitcher is throwing the ball hard as hard as he can or, for that matter, standing in front of a screaming ground ball. Players don’t need to prove they are tough by bowling over the catcher for no reason. If you’re out, you’re out.

  15. Braves Journal Fantasy League has one spot available. Email me at cothrjr at Hotmail dot com if interested. We have 13/14!

  16. @4- I was at the Erstad game too. Dude was a preening, posing jackass the entire game after doing that, like beating his chest and Hustle Plays(TM) would somehow prove his worth more than his usually tepid numbers (696 OPS in ’05). I always liked that he was one of the people Fire Joe Morgan would come down the hardest on:

  17. The Braves agreed to terms with Evan Gattis, Luis Avilan, Alex Wood, and the following guys:

    Others on the list included right-handers David Carpenter, Cory Gearrin, David Hale, Juan Jaime, Aaron Northcraft, Wirfin Obispo and Anthony Varvaro; lefties Ryan Buchter and Carlos Perez; infielders Ernesto Mejia, Tyler Pastornicky and Elmer Reyes; outfielders Jose Constanza, Todd Cunningham and Joey Terdoslavich; and catcher Christian Bethancourt.

  18. @17 You can’t say you something is becoming “frightingly similar” to something else, and also say you don’t disagree with it. If you don’t disagree with it, why does it frighten you so much?

    Resonable rule changes designed to prevent injury is a good thing. Getting the call right when the whole world knows whether or not the player was safe or out 30 seconds after the play on the field is a good thing. It’s called progress. Looking at evidence and attempting to make things better.

  19. @26. I agree with the changes, from instant replay to the player-safety initiatives. I think the word “frighteningly” was more a reference to the pace of these reforms. There have been several big changes to the sport this offseason, and seemingly most of them, whether in concept or implementation, have some sort of linkage with how the NFL does things. Just an observation on my end.

  20. I understand there’s some similarities to the NFL, but that’s simply because sports tend to share issues anyway. Accuracy of officiating and player safety, for instance, are two issues that exist in almost any sport. The only thing frightening is that it’s taken the NFL and MLB so long to actually 1) take care of its player and 2) get the dang call right.

    Baseball has changed exactly one rule since 1975 before this offseason. When we couldn’t get basic calls right until now, that’s frightening.

  21. I think the big difference between NFL rule changes and MLB rule changes are that some of the NFL changes will probably cause more injuries. I don’t see how the catcher interference rule change will be anything but positive and will prevent injuries.

  22. I thought Buster Olney’s analysis was fascinating.

    Yes, they’re protecting catchers with the new rule, and unquestionably the catchers need the protection the most because they have tended to be prone targets. But now it’s the runners who could be at a serious and dangerous disadvantage on the plays at the plate.

    Now, given how the rule is written, catchers will essentially be permitted to do what they have done for years: move to block the plate. And in a swift, reflexive play, catchers are not going to wait to secure the ball before then dropping into the path of the baserunner; as elite athletes, they’re going to try to do it simultaneously. And runners are going to get crushed, whether the catchers actually possess the ball or not.

    Under the revised home plate rules, this sort of play appears to be permissible — and now that catchers are indemnified from being targeted, they could be fully emboldened to attempt to block the plate more often. Under the new rules, the catchers really have nothing to lose in blocking the plate. If they try to ward off the runner and the umpire rules they didn’t have possession of the ball and the run counts … well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    The pendulum could swing back against baserunners, heavily. The risk for catcher concussions may well be reduced, but now runners could be in greater peril. The bet here is that this rule will be rewritten again within a year.

  23. @31/32 – Maybe I should reconsider my statement above. At least on the surface it appears to protect from injuries. I guess the year ahead will illustrate the wisdom (or lack thereof) of the new rule.

  24. If runners are sliding feet-first instead of barreling into catchers, you’re not going to get the same types of injuries–whether or not the plate is blocked.

  25. Olney’s point is interesting, but seems to me that he’s wrong. If there’s a play at the plate and you think you have any chance to throw out the runner, you wouldn’t want to have the runner be automatically awarded home plate by blocking the plate on a play where you might have made the out. Especially if the umps will call the interference strictly and consistently as I imagine they will be instructed to do.

  26. Feet-first, and you probably won’t get injuries. Hands-first could be dicey, if the catcher is sliding his body armor in front of the plate at the last minute. The point is that the runner is not guaranteed a clear path to the plate. He clarifies by means of an example:

    “What occurs is the catcher plays possum next to home plate, and then at the last moment, as he receives the ball, he drops his foot in front of the base like a telephone phone. The target of a sliding runner suddenly disappears, and he mashes against a fully armored catcher. Jason Varitek was renowned for doing this (to be clear, nobody called Varitek a dirty player; they just didn’t like the tactic, which worked for Varitek repeatedly, like in the playoffs a decade ago against Eric Byrnes. Under the revised home plate rules, this sort of play appears to be permissible.”

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