May 29, 2011

Sunday Question

The injury to Buster Posey this week sparked a debate around baseball on whether rules should be changed regarding runners headed for home.

Florida Marlins' reserve Scott Cousins propelled himself in Posey as he was attempting to catch the ball.

Posey ended up with a broken leg and ligament damage in his ankle from this collision. He'll likely be out for the season.

I've made my opinion on the matter (and even had a Facebook poll, if you want to vote). I think rules regarding how runners attempt to score on close plays should be examined and, hopefully, changed. I feel too many players have been injured in these types of plays. Besides Posey, think of Carlos Santana from last season or Angels' catcher Bobby Wilson. Wilson made his first big league start when Mark Teixeira smashed into him. Wilson suffered a concussion and hurt his leg.

Who has forgotten Ray Fosse?

I think the way the NCAA handles such situations is better than MLB. If catcher are not blocking the plate, runners should try to avoid contact and get into a sliding lane. If the runner does barrel over the catcher and the umpire deemed it unnecessary, the player is out.

I know there are many people who don't agree with my opinion,  but that's why we have the Sunday question. What do you think MLB should do regarding home plate collisions?

There are people who say it's how baseball is played, but there are plenty of rules that change over time - such as the DH, wildcard and replays. I think this is one that certainly needs to be examined.


  1. My feeling is they can change this rule when they get rid of the DH in the American League.

  2. I always tend to "worst-case-scenario" a situation when it comes to contemplating rule changes.

    Would you want a Game 7 World Series to be decided by an umpire's subjective call as to whether or not they deemed it necessary for a runner to bowl over a catcher? Would you want a Championship Series decided on this type of call? What about a shot at the playoff?

    Injuries to any athlete are unfortunate and naturally we would hope them to be preventable. In this case you are messing with the sole purpose, the entire essence of the game, scoring runs. A base-runner has just as much right to crossing homeplate as the catcher does to preventing a run from scoring. Sometimes this results in some nasty confrontations. However, these plays are also some of the most memorable because they perfectly encapsulate the nature of Baseball.

    Catchers are a breed entirely different from any other. They belong in the same class as Hockey Goaltenders and drummers. You have to be somewhat off-centre to play the position. The toughest balance to attain today, in any sport, is the one between safety and impeding the natural play of the game.

    I like the current state of the game. If a player is seen to excessively injure another MLB has mechanisms in place to deal with it. Adding a subjective element and asking an umpire to make such a decision in the heat of the moment is only inviting problems.

    Great question.

  3. I think there is a two sided solution here: treat home plate like every other base and make it illegal for the catcher to block the plate and illegal for the player to barrel into the player. There's no reason that home needs to be a special case.

    If people are insistent on keeping things the same, they could stand to enforce the existing rules more stringently, which would include prohibiting the catcher from blocking the plate without the ball and prohibiting the runner from interfering with a player in the act of receiving the ball.

    The Posey situation is a great example. Posey didn't have the ball and shouldn't have been blocking the plate (which he was wasn't really even doing.) Cousins should have slid anyway, as it appears as though he would have had an even better chance of scoring with a slide. As he interfered with the catcher who wasn't blocking the plate and was receiving the ball, the runner should have been out.

    It's not like the players would be incapable of doing this. High school and college already have "must slide" rules. It's not until they get to the pros where the contact is ok (which may be part of the problem, as they are not taught proper technique for making or taking contact as home).

    I think a change would be fine and would minimally impact the game.

  4. I don't know, I'm just not horrified by this as some people are.

    I think it's a little difficult for the runner to determine what the catcher is doing when he's running home on a close play attempting to score -- it's like when linebackers get penalized/fined because they hit a quarterback above the shoulders or after he threw the ball -- or hitting a receiver who is out of bounds. The game is going very fast, people are moving, they're very focused on a very specific task, and sometimes it's a little difficult to make the "right" decision, whatever that may be. (Personally, I think barreling over the catcher is over the top, but that's what the runner thought he had to do).

    I'd hate to see baseball end up like football in this case. Sometimes I think we end up in the business of legislating against life and that's not good.

    Enforcement of the rules already on the books seems like the best move.

    I agree with Tunguska, the less opportunity we have to have a game decided by an umpire's judgment call, the better.

  5. It's funny you give the examples of DH, wildcards, and replays. Probably three of the worst rule changes in the sport. Interleague play would be in there somewhere too.

  6. It's certainly a shame that Posey was hurt, but I fall into the camp that these are the risks you take when you decide to become a catcher. I do think that runners should consider barreling into the catcher as the last option.

    I guess I've always thought of home plate collisions as in the same category as a hard slide into second to break up a double play - you don't purposely try to hurt the guy, but you do what you gotta do to help your team win.

    As a general rule I tend to be against changes that take the physicality out of sports unless I see a really good reason for it. For example, I have no problem with plunking a hitter on purpose (though they should never throw at a guy's head), and I hate that umpires are so quick to give warnings these days. I also think batters shouldn't be allowed to wear all that armor at the plate - they should have to stand up there and take their chances, just like catchers do. And don't even get me started on how you can't even breathe on a quarterback in football....

    I also agree with maine mariner's idea. :)

  7. Collisions are part of baseball... If you don't believe that then you are out of touch with what real baseball is. Next you are going to want mandated pitch counts, and outlaw balls hit in the air. We should also all go out for ice cream after the game too.

  8. It's terrible that Buster Posey got hurt, but I don't see a reason to change the rules.

  9. This hits close to home (pun intended).

    I am a catcher...not in baseball, but in competetive fastpitch softball--16+ year's worth. I caught in college and still catch in leagues now. I feel Posey's pain, I've had runners barrel into me. Once I had a runner try to JUMP over me to try to score. That didn't work out too well, as I got cleated in the throat and knocked out. It's a heck of a feeling to know that you are going to get pummeled many seconds in advance of it happening. You have to brace yourself physically and mentally.

    I don't think changing the rules will do too much. One can argue that the catcher is better protected because they have the equipment on, and the runner is more vulnerable. I'm on the fence here because I don't know how much of a difference changing the rules would make, except for the fact that the players will 'hold back' if you will, due to the fear of being called out for sliding too hard, or the wrong way, etc.

    I am definitely in the camp of those who do not want umpires deciding the games. That would be very bad for the game.

    My season starts this week...I'll be thinking of this as I'm behind the plate!

  10. I agree, if the catcher isn't blocking the plate the runner has no business running over the catcher.

    I thought it was interesting in tonight's Braves/Reds game the play at the plate in the 8th inning. It seemed that Braves' catcher David Ross purposefully didn't block the plate with the runner bearing down on him. Possibly due to what happened to Posey earlier this week? He had to reach out to tag the sliding feet first runner. It was a very close play. If he had blocked the plate I'm sure it wouldn't have been a subjective call.

  11. Change the rules?? NO WAY!! If the catcher is afraid to get hurt than play a different game. THey shouldn't make a rule so people can play half ass.

  12. No way they should outlaw collisions at home plate. The NFL has made QB's chicks and almost have did away with quarterback sacks. MLB should not go turning baseball catchers into chicks through rule changes.

    Giants are stupid to put Posey at catcher - he's one of the best bats on the club and Posey is getting far fewer AB's in a season than he should have been getting - assuming you are talking about a full healthy season behind the plate. Plus you have the injury risk from collisions, foul tips, etc. and shortened career for screwing up your knees with all that squatting.

    Catchers should be those with solid defense but can't hit a lick because their offense won't hurt you as much with the fewest at-bats per season behind the pitchers, the pinch-hitters and the 50/50 use platoon players.

  13. p.s. great to see a lot of catchers are already thinking of Posey. Look at a few plays this weekend where the catchers were gunshy! they'd catch the ball away from Home Plate and then dive in with the tag. In the two plays I remember, I think the baserunners were safe so the catchers are going to have to learn to be quicker or go back to doing the play fundamentally.

  14. I'd just like to direct attention to an NBC HardballTalk article from yesterday that shows the Rangers beating the Royals because the runner intentionally slid.

    I don't think that collisions need to be made illegal, but the reality is that in most situations sliding is the correct baseball play and it is ignored almost completely because collisions at home have become so accepted. Enforce the existing rules more stringently and you should find that the most dangerous collisions (like the Posey blind-side) are avoided completely.

  15. I don't think that the rules need to be changed or modified. The questions come up, as they should, whenever a popular guy gets taken out like this, essentially robbing him of only a little bit of career, we hope.

    Various thoughts:

    1) It's lucky for MLB that this happened against the Marlins. If this were an in-division opponent like the Padres or the fast-rising Diamondbacks, accusations of trying to rob a team of one of its better hitters with DL time would have been front and center, and changed the complexion and urgency of the debate.

    2) Posey didn't help himself much in that situation. Frankly, I think he's a little undersized to be playing a brick wall frequently. He should have tried for a more controlled, even elegant tag. He's not a 230lb immovable lump, with a tendency to fight back, like A.J. Pierzynski.

    3) His equipment sabotaged him. I'm no doctor, but it sure looked like his shin guard acted like a fulcrum that offered a pressure point upon impact. Hi shin guards, I believe, are mainly there to prevent bruises and other injuries from pitched balls and foul tips--not as collision padding. Just like when you use your knee for leverage to break a stick in half, it appears that the edge of his shin guard did the same thing, helping turn a routine collision into a season-ender.