Saturday, 21 December 2013

Why I don't watch baseball, part 2: Concussions, and now, a suicide

Former MLB player Ryan Freel committed suicide in December 2012.  Since then, he has the dubious distinction of being the first Major League Baseball player diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which has been diagnosed in dozens of dead ex-NFL players and some ex-NHL players.
Freel committed suicide last December at the age of 36.
Testing of his brain tissue after death -- the only way to definitively diagnose CTE -- found that he had Stage 2 CTE, which is associated with erratic behavior and memory loss. Stage 4, the worst possible expression of the disease, is associated with full-blown dementia, aggression and paranoia.

"It provides some solace that there is a reason now for Ryan having done what he did," [Clark] Vargas said. "Knowing that he's been suffering for 11 years and that CTE is a progressive disease, it gives explanation (for) some of the irrational things that he may have done. You know, he had a reason."
Major League Baseball is making changes in the name of player safety, though I'm sure you'll hear some calling it "wimping out" - and said by those who have never suffered that sort of collision, never taken a blow to the head.  It's easy to talk tough when it's not your body and brain at risk.

MLB Plans to Ban Home Plate Collisions
Baseball isn’t a contact sport, with one exception—collisions at home plate. But, base runners barreling into catchers will soon be a thing of the past, according to the Major League Baseball rules committee. On Wednesday, chairman of the committee, Sandy Alderson, said the committee voted to outlaw the collisions by 2015 at the latest. According to ESPN, there is a desire to have the new rule in place as early as the 2014 season. Concerns about player safety, particularly concussions, were major factors in the decision, the Associated Press reports. "The result of the vote was we will eliminate collisions at home plate by governing both catchers and runners in that situation,'' Alderson said. 
MLB is banning the deliberate targeting of catchers by baserunners, and banning catchers from blocking the plate.  Whether this works in practice remains to be seen.

The single biggest problem is the ever-growing size of players.  Most are over 180cm tall and over 90kg.  It's not only collisions at home plate or second and third base which cause injury.  Many injuries are caused by teammates colliding while chasing down balls, and they are often the worst because they're head-to-head collisions, not body to body as at home plate.

This doesn't go far enough as far as I'm concerned.  Play at the plate should be the same as in softball, a extension of the line from home-to-first base into foul territory.  The runner need only cross the line, not touch home plate.  And if the catcher controls the ball before the runner gets there, it should be an automatic out.  Eliminate the collision entirely.

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