On Wednesday, Scott Cousins of the Florida Marlins collided with catcher Buster Posney of the San Francisco Giants on a bang-bang play at the plate. The play totally sucked for Posney as not only did he drop the ball but he also broke his leg. His season is most likely over.
In the past couple of days, debate in the sports world has centered on the base runner vs. catcher home plate collision. The argument comes down to whether there should be any rule protecting the catcher from such situations. This is an issue that I followed with great interest on talk radio. It seemed that overwhelmingly, most people believe that these types of collisions are part of the game and enforcing any type of rule that could change a practice that has been allowed in professional baseball for well over 100 years would constitute complete blasphemy. I internally thought a lot about the whole dilemma in my head as well. In the end though, I could not go along with the baseball purists.
I love tradition as much as the next person, but something has to be done to prevent these collisions.
I understand that there are many other arguments besides the “it’s just part of the game” attitude that is in opposition to any rule that could eliminate the runner-catcher collision. Many fans contend that these collisions provide some of the best excitement during the game. Colin Cowherd said today that these crashes at the plate are rare and the event when a catcher gets hurt is even more rare so there is no need to implement a rule. Ray Fosse, an all-star catcher in 1970, questions what a base runner would be able to do if the ball beat him to the plate and a rule was implemented…“just stand there?” John Kruk said this is a debate that will just pass in a few days and we will move on.
I don’t care how long an accepted practice has been around, I don’t care how rare a play is, I don’t care if a base runner has to slide instead of ramming into a catcher, and I don’t care if everyone is going to forget about Buster Posey breaking his leg in a few days, if a player’s health and career is mindlessly jeopardized, something needs to happen.
Check this out: A player on third base is getting ready to tag up. The game is on the line. His run means something. He sees the ball land in the glove of the outfielder. Using third base to push off of and a whole bunch of adrenaline to propel him, the base runner uses the ninety feet he has between him and the catcher to reach a speed that carries with it violent force. A couple feet from home plate he lowers his shoulder and explodes his force into the vulnerable catcher. How is this safe?
You have to understand the position a catcher is in during these plays. He is crouched down, looking towards wherever the throw is coming in from. At that moment, his mind is entirely focused on receiving the throw. Once the throw comes in, the catcher must immediately turn his attention to making the tag. Crouched down, body exposed, and game on the line, the catcher has a split second to brace himself for a violent impact. Many times, the catcher does not even have the “luxury” of this split second. Many times, the throw is late or never comes in and the catcher is blindsided. No chance at all to brace himself.
In the past couple of days, players have tried to defend collisions at the plate by saying baseball is a contact sport. Really? Baseball is not a contact sport. Besides base runners running into catchers, batters do get beaned by pitches and sometimes outfielders lose the ball in the sun and collide into each other but it hardly makes baseball a contact sport. In a sport that is obviously not a contact sport, why do we allow such bush league collisions at the plate? It is out of place. More importantly though, it is unsafe. This is the one and only point I think that matters in opposing collisions at the plate.
Sure, people have said that collisions at the plate hurt the teams because it has the possibility of taking out arguably the most important player on the field, the player who is practically running the show on the field, the catcher. Yes, there is also the argument that home plate collisions suck for the fans because marquee players get hurt (such as Buster Posey) and then they are not able to watch them for the rest of the season. These arguments are so dense. Ending home plate collisions is not about saving the best interests of the team and it is not about making the fans happy (and returning to the ballpark) by insuring that their favorite players will be in the lineup each day. It is solely about the safety of the individual player. Besides, when the safety of the individual player is protected, the interests of both the teams and the fans will be protected.
Just like in high school baseball, I propose a “slide or avoid” rule with plays at the plate. If violated, the player running into the catcher is called out and is immediately ejected. Fines and suspensions will follow.
If we followed tradition completely, hitters would not wear batting helmets and Tim Wakefield would be able to add spit to his knuckleballs (could you imagine?). It is time for a change. Don’t Blink.