Prior to the start of the 2014 season, MLB banned baserunners from being able to initiate contact with the catcher in response to several home-plate collisions that caused serious injuries.
As a result, catchers are no longer permitted to block the runner’s path to the plate unless he is in possession of the ball. When receiving a throw, backstops will often provide a sliding lane into home plate for the runner to lower the possibility that they will be called for violating the rule.
In an effort to continue improving player safety, MLB is reportedly considering a ban on infielders being able to block bases, via Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated:
Major League Baseball is in talks with the players association about closing a loophole in playing rules: why are infielders still allowed to block bases when the catcher is not permitted to block home plate? The two sides are exploring whether to prevent the practice of infielders dropping to a knee to take away the base from the sliding runner, a tactic that can present danger, especially to runners sliding hands-first. They also are taking another crack at clarifying the running lane rule to first base, a regular source of controversy. They are not considering its elimination.
Over the years, there have been several instances of players getting spiked while sliding into a base, which is something MLB wants to prevent from happening going forward.
The league has implemented a multitude of rule changes in recent seasons that were designed to improve pace of play, increase action and reduce injuries.
Among the new changes coming to the sport in 2023 include a pitch timer, a ban on defensive shifts for infielders and the use of bigger bases.
Prior to the start of the 2022 season, MLB introduced a new on-field technology called “PitchCom,” which facilitates communication between pitchers and catchers, as well as teammates.
PitchCom was used on a voluntary basis by all 30 teams and allowed pitchers to receive signals from the catcher instantaneously. It was created in an effort to combat sign stealing and to help mitigate violations of the new pitch timer.
After a successful trial, MLB will allow pitchers to experiment with a PitchCom remote during 2023 Spring Training games.
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