With the baseball season — from the grassroots on up to the pro ranks — being paralyzed by COVID-19, we won’t get to see many of the elements of the game that make it special. As MLB veers towards player safety and concussion prevention, it has limited contact between runners and fielders at every position, especially behind the plate.
Some proponents of concussion prevention are all for it. Baseball purists, however, think home plate collisions are an exciting part of the game that only occurs once in a blue moon anyway. There has to be a perfect sequence of events for a classic collision to go down.
Black Knight Matt Kemp is an MLB OG who finished second in the National League MVP voting in 2011. By 2018, Kemp had been in the league for 12 years, so Texas Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos should have known better than to block the plate when Kemp tried to score from second base on a single to shallow centerfield.
That’s like Eddie trying to take Empire from Luscious and Cookie.
Benches clear in Rangers-Dodgers game after Matt Kemp, Robinson Chirinos involved in collision at home plate. pic.twitter.com/FZcJoeCb89
— MLB (@MLB) June 14, 2018
Kemp is not the one to initiate a confrontation with if you aren’t prepared to finish it — at the plate, on the streets or at some point during an at-bat. He turns up when guys act like they want some smoke.
By rule, unless he is in the act of catching the ball, Chirinos has to give Kemp a clear path to the plate. He didn’t. The veteran catcher made a rookie mistake and he got trucked.
To Chirinos’ credit, he held onto the ball and completed the out, but he was vexed and shoved Kemp. Kemp retaliated with a shove of his own and a bench-clearing brawl ensued and both players were ejected.
Back in the days, plays like this were common, but rule changes provide the catcher with more protection on plays at the plate. The act of blocking the plate accounted for most of the physical contact and in-game injuries in MLB prior to the 2014 season, when it was outlawed except when the catcher already has possession of the ball. By the rules of baseball, a runner has the right to an unobstructed path to a base.
Fortunately, Chirinos wasn’t hurt in the collision. He’s a tough backstop to crack. The collision reminded me of some violent home plate encounters that have occurred throughout baseball history.
Here are 5 of the most devastating collisions in MLB history.
Pete Rose annihilates Ray Fossey In 1970 MLB All-Star game (this hit is so foul)
Jim Edmonds wipes out catcher Mike Matheny. It looked like both these dudes were roiding. You could hear the collision in the cheap seats.
Chase Utley wipes out Dioner Navarro and sends him to the showers early.
Eugenio Suarez gives Cameron Rupp a vicious head rock, but still gets thrown out.
Chipper Jones kept it real old school when he debo’d catcher Erik Kratz.