Thursday, May 26, 2011

Maybe They'll Finally Protect Catchers

After Buster Posey became the latest victim of a collision at home plate, we're suddenly hearing an outcry that the rules need to change to protect catchers. Buster Posey's agent called for the rule change today, and Buster Olney (showing his infamous Buster favoritism) led the way with a post on

Nationals fans will remember Jesus Flores being taken out by Chase Utley, who launched himself into Flores's knee in a move more appropriate for a pro wrestler than a baseball player. There wasn't much outcry then.

Carlos Santana suffered a season-ending injury last year on a similar play--that's arguably the two best catchers in baseball going down in consecutive seasons in completely preventable injuries.

It's irritating to me that a star athlete has to get hurt to put this issue on the radar, but if this finally prompts a revision of the rules (or more accurately enforcement of the runner interference rules already on the books), that will be a good thing.

There was a time, early in the last century, when baseball was truly a contact sport. Pitchers threw at hitters. Baserunners would sucker-punch shortstops rounding second base. What we call "breaking up a double play" today would have been considered pansy stuff back then.

Today's game has changed, but one artifact of the old days remains. It's still perfectly acceptable for a catcher to block home plate and for a baserunner to plow into him head first.

First basemen can't block the bag on a close play, and runners can't try to block the first baseman from catching a throw. But for some reason when it's a close play at home, baseball turns into ultimate fighting.

The rule should have been changed a long time ago, and hopefully now it finally will.


Harper said...

Here's are tangents that I'm not comparing to the catcher situation. They just popped in my head when thinking about other avoidable injury situations in baseball and I was wondering what you think.

Would you advocate forcing all players to wear full helmets (let's face it the vision thing isn't as important as players always make it out to be)?

Would you make changes in the OF wall that would virtually insure no injuries upon collision but would also deaden all balls hit to it?

Would you outlaw headfirst slides knowing that they do not increase the speed in which you reach a base? What about for the dumbest play ever - sliding into first?

Nets in front of the dugouts?

Steven said...

Maybe the wall. There isn't a bright line--it's a matter of of degree. The relative degree of injury risk. A runner can completely blindside an defenseless catcher (gear notwithstanding), and the injury risk is very very high.

Harper said...

That's why I would be for the helmet change. A pitch to the face can kill a person let alone a career. Rare as it is there's no reason outside of player pride that keeps it from happening. Hockey didn't get worse with new helmets. Football didn't. Baseball won't (as long as it's brought up from the low levels so the new players are used to it.)

I'd also outlaw headfirst slides into first. I'm all for outlawing dumb. But not in general. There are advantages to the slide that makes it worthwhile

The OF wall would change the game. The dugout thing seems too rare to matter.