Mehno: Replay, plate collisions big changes in MLB

PITTSBURGH – Baseball usually changes at a glacial pace, but the game will have a different look this season.

Expanded replay will become part of the process. The Pittsburgh Pirates will have six exhibition games with the new replay rules in place.

Manager Clint Hurdle will probably use those games to fully experiment with the new rules. Nobody is quite sure how it will all work out until there is some practical experience on the field.

What does it mean? Is it the end of nose-to-nose arguments between managers and umpires? Will that be replaced by a quiet request to check the replay?

We don’t know, and we probably won’t have a handle on this for a while.

MLB has also announced plans for a one-year modification of the rules governing home plate collisions between base runners and catchers.

Those have been part of the game. A runner barrels down the third base line and braces for contact. So does the catcher, who tries to minimize the impact while holding on to the ball and protecting home plate.

Catchers wear a lot of protective gear, but the collisions are still dangerous. When Dave Parker was in his prime with the Pirates, he put two catchers out of commission by running them over.

Johnny Oates of the Philadelphia Phillies was never the same after he broke his collarbone in a full-blast knockdown from parker.

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Steve Yeager also got the worst of a run-in with Parker.

“With Parker’s speed, Steve would have stood a better chance against a pickup truck,” Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda observed.

Catchers got their revenge when Parker came away with a broken cheekbone after a collision with John Stearns of the New York Mets. Parker’s face slammed into Stearns’ shin guard.

Momentum for a change started when San Francisco Giants’ star catcher Buster Posey suffered a broken leg on a play at the plate in 2011.

The rule really seeks to end two things: Catchers blocking the plate before they have the ball and runners going out of their way to run into a catcher.

Some catchers have become adept at stationing themselves in front of then plate, and using a sweep tag. Some contact-shy runners try to slide around a tag rather than engaging the catcher.

With concussion awareness increasing, it was a natural modification. There will be less mayhem but more finesse in plays at the plate.

That’s not a bad trade-off.

Fizzing out

The war on obesity may hurt some school districts.

There is sentiment to ban advertising that promotes nutritionally-dubious products on school property. That would include soft drinks.

There are a lot of scoreboards bearing Coca Cola logos because that’s the company that paid for the scoreboard. In exchange for the advertising space, they pick up the tab on a scoreboard that might otherwise be too expensive for a school.

Banning vending machines on school property is one issue. But prohibiting advertising is a different matter altogether.

Tread carefully on those policies. They could do more harm than good.

Mehno can be reached at