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On Ryan Freel, home plate collisions, and why Pete Rose is wrong about them

Al Bello

Last week, Major League Baseball made the controversial ruling to eliminate home plate collisions by the 2015 season. While the exact rule hasn't been written, it will be meant to penalize players who deliberately run over the catcher in an attempt to get them to drop the ball.

On the surface, it sounds like a move made to appease the namby-pamby soccer moms of the world who want to change the institution of baseball to prevent delicate little flowers from getting hurt. Personally, I think anything that can help to avoid this in the future is a good call, and we aren't talking about football here. Hitting a guy as hard as you can because a throw beat you to the plate isn't baseball.

Don't tell that to Pete Rose, though. He talked to Hall O' Famer Hal about it, and here's what he had to say.

First of all, if they can eliminate concussions, I’m all for that...

They can't "eliminate" them, but they can absolutely cut down on them by getting rid of the headhunting. Glad you're on the right track, Pete.

...but I’ve thought and thought about it. The only concussions I can remember recently in baseball is Justin Morneau, and he got that sliding into second base. I know this is mostly about Buster Posey, but he got hurt when he got his ankle caught and twisted it.

First off, Posey's happened because he got flattened at the plate by a runner who was trying to prevent him from catching a throw from the outfield. I don't see how that proves Pete's point.

Second, Pete must have forgotten about Joe Mauer, Alex Avila, John Jason, Carlos Corporan, Yorvit Torrealba, Salvador Perez, Ryan Doumit, David Ross, and Tommy Joseph... all of which happened last season.

But continue, Pete.

I’m a traditionalist... I thought the game has always been pretty good. About the only major changes they’ve made to the game since 1869 was when they lowered the mound after the 1968 season and the designated hitter. I mean, the game is going pretty good, isn’t it?

Sure it is, but Pete's a little hazy on the history of the game... unless we're still throwing underhand (overhand wasn't allowed until 1887) and still not wearing gloves or helmets. If gloves still weren't around, I think anyone trying to catch an Aroldis Chapman fastball might need nightly hand surgery. "Traditionalism" is no substitute for injury prevention.

That's what this is all about, isn't it? Pete himself said that this is good if it helps to eliminate concussions, even though he argued that they weren't really much of a problem.

Try telling that to Ryan Freel. Pete might remember Ryan Freel, as Pete was the player that Freel was compared to for his entire career with the Reds. Fans loved Freel's gritty toughness, and willingness to sacrifice his body to help his team win.

Little did he know that he was sacrificing his mind, too.

The report said that Freel was suffering from Stage II CTE when he died from a self-inflicted gunshot would on December 22, 2012...

...Freel is the first MLB player to have been diagnosed with CTE, which has been more commonly studied in athletes from more traditionally high-contact sports, such as football, boxing, and hockey. Freel suffered multiple concussions during his playing career, and was hospitalized in 2007 after colliding with another player during a game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Freel also struggled with depression, anxiety, and had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.

It seems awfully callous to me that Pete's making statements like this while a Cincinnati icon has been proven to have suffered from his concussion symptoms to the point where he felt it necessary to end his own life.

I'm not sure if the proposed rule changes will make as much of a difference as MLB hopes, but if it saves one ex-player from suffering from CTE, it'll be worth it in my book. I'm not sure why Pete feels differently.