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Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Chase Utley are three big names that came off the Disabled List this week. But the story this week though has been who is going on the DL. Star and Ace of the Florida Marlins, Josh Johnson was placed on the DL, and could be a big loss for the Marlins as they try to keep pace with the reinvigorated lineup of the Phillies. The young slugger for the Braves, Jason Heyward has now also been placed on the DL. The biggest injury story though has been that of Buster Posey, the young catcher for the San Francisco Giants. Last year’s National League Rookie of the Year helped lead the Giants to a world championship but is most likely done for the entire 2011 campaign.
The play that injured Posey took place in the 12th inning of a game against the Florida Marlins. Scott Cousins was racing home trying to score the go-ahead run as Posey received the ball on a throw from the outfield. Posey was in front of the plate, and Cousins collided with him, trying to dislodge the ball that Posey could never get a handle on. The Marlins scored the run and won the game 7-6. Posey’s legs got caught underneath him and an MRI confirmed Posey had a fractured left fibula and three torn ligaments in his left ankle and is likely done for the season.
Posey’s agent, Jeff Berry was extremely upset after the game, believing the play warranted a change in the rules because it leaves catchers too exposed at the plate.
But this is really a no issue. Berry is upset because Posey is done for the year, and he is a great part of baseball but this is part of the game. Remember when Tom Brady was gone for an entire season? The game played on.
The simplest solution to the problem is for the catcher not to block the plate. No players can block the plate at any of the other bases, so if the catcher just straddles home or stands in front or behind the base, the collision will only take place with the catcher’s glove. Posey was doing what he has been taught to do but he wasn’t protecting himself at all. He could have easily caught the ball in front of the plate and reached back to swipe Cousins before he scored.
Baseball won’t overreact. Berry was just looking out for his own guy like any other agent would do, but there is no systemic problem with plays at the plate and collisions in baseball. Too often emotions get the best of people, and if we were to react in every situation all the sports we love could potentially be ruined.
Berry compared the play to helmet to helmet collisions in the NFL, but this is a rather unfair comparison. Catchers are wearing some protective gear but the runner has nothing but a helmet on. The runner may be the one creating the contact by barreling down on the catcher, but the catcher does not have to be in front of the plate, in fact he can’t be unless he has the ball or is in the process of receiving it. Helmet to helmet hits in the NFL are often instinctual, and they are an attempt to tackle the ball carrier. They happen on every play at the line of scrimmage, but nobody talks about that.
The other issue that has arisen from this situation is whether young stars in baseball should change positions if they are a catcher. Being a catcher wears down players, and it often takes away from the offensive numbers of players. But playing catcher is no more or less dangerous than any other position on the field. Pitchers can have a line drive come right back at them from just 60 feet away. First and third basemen could have the same thing, or even broken bats headed their way. Middle infielders constantly have to deal with players charging at them trying to break up a double play, and in the outfield there is always a chance at a collision with either the wall or another player.
Posey has been great offensively and in taking command of the pitching staff. To have one of your best players behind the dish is just an added extra. Changing his position might help his offensive numbers some, but it isn’t increasing his chances of staying healthy by too much, and it is taking away his leadership role of commanding the Giant’s defensive unit. Posey will heal eventually, and maybe next time a runner bears down on him he’ll put his body in a better position, and put an end to this rule-change discussion.