LAKE BUENA VISTA, Flo. -- Change is inevitable. Change, as someone once said, calls the tune we dance to.
Baseball has often resisted change, far past the point at which a disinterested observer might have advised. There were two teams in Philadelphia and Boston and St. Louis well past the point when that probably made sense. There weren't any black players in Organized Baseball until 1947, and before you give too much credit to the National League for finally opening the doors (however slightly), please recall that the All-American Football Conference integrated in 1946. The Designated Hitter, interleague play, batting helmets, sanitary showers ... all these things actually happened long after they were first proposed.
But look at what's happening.
In 2014, it's virtually certain that Major League Baseball will inaugurate a new video-review system that comes into play in nearly every single game. The details aren't yet in stone, and there's still a great deal of signing off to be done, and the system we see in '15 won't be the system we saw in '14. But change is coming, and it's coming hard.
Also in 2014, it's quite possible that the only home-plate collisions we see will be against baseball's rules. Wednesday at the Winter Meetings, Sandy Alderson stood behind a podium atop a dais and said, "We will eliminate home-plate collisions." Which carries some weight, considering Alderson chairs baseball's Rules Committee.
Granted, there's not an actual rule yet. But the committee voted to make a rule, and make it fast. If the owners sign off -- and it's difficult to imagine why they wouldn't -- the new rule will move to the players. It's not difficult to imagine why they wouldn't sign off; after all, there are still a fair number of macho honchos in Baseball Land, and a fair percentage of them enjoy hard contact. And hey, what's a few concussions and wrecked knees among union brothers? But here's the wonderful thing: The players can't stop a rule forever. If the players don't approve a rule change for 2014, Major League Baseball can impose it unilaterally in 2015. Which would be politically awkward, but it sure sounds like that would happen.
I was just standing around in the press room when there was some rustling near the dais, and then Alderson and Joe Torre walked out. After Torre made a brief statement and answered a few questions about expanded video review of umpires' calls -- basically, the news was "no news" -- Alderson took over, and after describing some recent meetings, said some words I hope I never forget:
We will eliminate collisions at home plate.
Finally, and thank you.
Oh, but by the way, there's not actually a proposed rule yet ...
Alderson admitted that drafting language that will be practical and effective won't be a simple task.
"There are college and high school rules currently that address this issue," Alderson said. "It has to do with a number of different things: Positioning, intent, a variety of things that we are going to look at. Umpires will have some discretion, but at the same time, umpires have other things to do, deciding whether the run scores or doesn't score.
"So it's a little more complicated than it would appear," he said. "But I think ultimately what we want to do is change the culture of acceptance that these plays are ordinary and routine and an accepted part of the game, that the risks and individual risks, the costs associated in terms of health and injury just no longer warrant the status quo.
"So the actual detail, frankly the kinds of plays that we're trying to eliminate, we haven't finally determined. But what I would expect is to put together 100 of these plays and identify which ones we want to continue to allow and others that we want to prohibit and draft a rule accordingly."
... but it's coming. I'm actually a little surprised they haven't already put together those 100 plays. But there's a whole ton of smart, talented people working at Major League Baseball, and this really isn't a terribly difficult thing.
I've been writing about this issue for years and years and years; here's just a collection of pieces from the last few years, by me and my colleagues. So while I didn't bust into tears or anything, I did get emotional when I heard Sandy Alderson say those words that should have been said so long ago, and I felt privileged to be sitting just a few feet away.