Friday, May 27, 2011

On Buster Posey and Blowing Up Catchers

Two days ago, after an improbable 4 run rally in the 9th inning, Scott Cousins absolutely leveled Buster Posey on a play at the plate. After the momentary yelling in excitement about what just happened, the scene became one filled with fear and silence from the onlookers at AT&T Park. Of the 40,000 plus who stayed until the bitter end, they witnessed a severely injured Posey clawing at the dirt in sheer agony. He was helped off the field by two trainers, and never even placed his left leg on the ground as he hopped into the dugout and into the abyss of the clubhouse.

The Giants are going to miss Buster Posey's production, and will probably win a few less games without him, but the season is not lost. San Francisco and the people who watched a young baby face catcher do what Mays, Marichal, McCovey, and Cepeda could not, are probably more devastated. He was their leader on a team filled with so called castaways and misfits. It's a terrible tragedy that could have career altering consequences to one of the best young players in the game.

And inevitably, when something so terrible happens to one of the stars of the game, the world takes notice. ESPN and MLB Network and countless other television and online news networks have made this their top story. First, let's talk about the play itself. As the rules stand RIGHT NOW, the play was legal, it was clean, and it was within his right as a baserunner to try and pry the ball lose. Sure Posey wasn't exactly blocking the plate, but it's within the baserunners rights to do anything he can to not be out. The real question is whether this type of baseball is necessary.

I'm all for playing hard. I wouldn't watch the game if the players didn't play hard. We get on players for not hustling, for not legging out that double, for not diving for a ball. But the fact of the matter is that every level of baseball except for the Major Leagues does not allow blowing up the catcher on a play at the plate. They manage to find a way to play hard and not compromise the game.

People have often cited the "Well this is how the game has always been played!" mantra in defending the barreling of the catcher. In my opinion, this is the worst argument that anybody could make. Tradition is great, as long as it makes sense. Following tradition blindly is where we get into trouble. Shirley Jackson's The Lottery is an extreme example of this. So why are tons of people all for the blind following of tradition just for the sake of tradition? It doesn't make any sense. Blowing up the catcher is good for baseball? Posey's career doesn't appear to be threatened, but how is keeping exciting players out of the game good for baseball?

Also, most people are arguing that "The Giants are making a big deal about this because it's their star player! If it was Joe Schmo nobody would care!" Well, yeah. But isn't that how most change is brought about? People recognize that an issue needs to be addressed when it happens to someone worth recognizing. It sucks that less high profile athletes had this happen to them and nobody said anything. But if this incident to Posey is what needed to happen to make sure that no catcher is forced to retire, then it will have been worth it from a big picture standpoint.

In terms of actual concrete rule changes, if I may make a suggestion. The catcher must provide the runner with a lane to slide. That's it. The runner is forced to take that lane and make the most of it. If the catcher blocks the plate, it's interference and the run scores. There simply is no need for bowling over a catcher. If I wanted to watch players tackling each other, I would watch football.

Get well soon Buster.


Anonymous said...

complete bs. giants/posey's agent are only making a big deal out of this because he got hurt. the play was completely legal and i'm tired of professional sports changing rules to make the game for pussies. this is a man's game, and a real man should be able to deal with that shit.

Ryan Irwin said...

a real man should be able to deal with a broken ankle and torn ligaments? Its not making the game for pussies either. In the late 1800s spectators were allowed to pepper the ground around outfielders with bullets to try and distract them. Baseball got rid of that, does that make the game for pussies? Please. Its just tweaking the rules for safety. The NFL made it so that you couldnt hit a defenseless receiver. How is this any different? Is it gonna take a broken neck, paralysis? What is it going to take?

Sean Devlin said...

It's part of the game. Always has been. Always will be. If this isn't Posey getting hurt, no one makes a big deal of it. If you can't block the plate, that takes a huge element out of the game.

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