PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Jim Leyland wasn't a Major League catcher like several current managers, but he was a Minor League catcher before he got into coaching. He also has managed long enough to see several nasty collisions at home plate.
He read what Mike Matheny said recently about pushing to forbid collisions at home plate, and he agrees with the reasoning. However, Leyland sounded cautious about setting rules in situations where throws home draw catchers into the path of the runner.
"I think you have to define what's a collision, first of all," Leyland said Thursday morning. "Is a collision something where the catcher has the ball waiting for [the baserunner] 10 feet away and he goes full speed and tries to run over him? Or is it a bang-bang play at the plate that couldn't be helped?
"If the catcher has to react to a throw from right field and it's down the third-base line, [the runner] might happen to be there. You can't ask the runner to jump out and maybe turn an ankle or something, either. I think some of them can't be helped, but I do agree with this -- if you've got a guy out at home plate by 10 feet, I don't think he should be able to try to run you over. I do agree with that."
At the same time, Leyland sounded hesitant to completely remove a catcher's right to block the plate when a throw comes in.
"I think it's OK to block the plate," Leyland said. "I don't think there's anything wrong with blocking the plate."
Leyland's view brings up the question of a judgment call for umpires in terms of intent or distance, whether a catcher has control of a ball and has established position in front of the plate, or whether a runner has enough time to avoid a collision. That's all a debate for another time.
Leyland could end up being an influential voice on this topic. He sits on Major League Baseball's special committee for on-field matters, which has recommended several rules changes that have been adopted over the past few years. He has not lost a catcher to a home plate collision in recent years, but he has seen what has happened to others, such as Yadier Molina and Buster Posey.