Florida Marlins catcher John Baker(notes) is writing an open-ended series of posts about his comeback from Tommy John surgery. Because he's someone who offers an informed opinion, we asked him to write about the recent Scott Cousins(notes)-Buster Posey play at the plate.
Since I haven't been with the team, it is difficult for me to watch Marlins games. It is even more difficult to watch them play the San Francisco Giants so near to my hometown. It is even MORE difficult to watch them play the Giants while Cody Ross(notes) wears No. 13 on his back. Fortunately for me, our cable stations love gore and injury.
This situation with Buster Posey has been a hot topic. What Scott Cousins did was in no way dirty, malicious, or outside of his rights as a baserunner. Second, what Buster Posey(notes) did on defense was exactly right. Both men put their respective teams before themselves and sacrificed their bodies in their attempts to win the game.
Without a doubt, the context of the game must be taken into account; this was the go-ahead run, and Cousins made sure it scored. While the injury is devastating, it is also the collateral damage of being a team player. I respect men who play the game hard and in this case, both did.
I know that Buster Posey is a rising star, but let's rewind to last season when Nyjer Morgan(notes) went out of his way to hit Brett Hayes(notes) (effectively ending his season and sparking an ugly brawl the next day) in what was clearly a dirty play. How come no one was on PTI arguing for a rule change then?
And if it wasn't Cousins who hit Posey, but instead someone like Tulowitzki, or Pujols, what then? Would the term "dirty play" be used? Apparently, to get some attention in baseball you have to be a star with a World Series ring. Don't worry Hayeser, I've got your back (so does Gaby).
I would also like to point out that had Buster caught the ball, tagged out Cousins, and not had his metal spikes stick in the ground, that play would have been in the top 10 on "SportsCenter" as more evidence of Posey's greatness. No one would have cried foul or demanded the rules be changed.
(Check out what happened with Humbero Quintero of Houston, getting run over by Arizona's Ryan Roberts(notes) on a play at the plate Friday night. Quintero's on the DL but thankfully, only for a sprained ankle.)
After Posey's injury, some have been arguing for a rule change: Force the runner to slide, the thought goes, and injuries will be prevented. This idea sounds great to reactive sports fans, especially Giants fans and Ray Fosse fans, but it fails to account for the safety of the baserunner.
I know from professional experience that we catchers can do a lot of damage to an unsuspecting baserunner who thinks he has a clear lane to the plate. Do you want to slide into home plate and have 230-pound Ronny Paulino(notes) or Mike Scioscia (back in the day) drop his shin guards onto your exposed forearm or shin? I didn't think so. Therefore, if the rule is changed it must be done in a way that protects the runner as well as the catcher.
The other side argues that the rule is fine as it is, and that contact is a part of the game. It is part of the game, but so were spitballs, hitters without helmets, segregation, head-hunting pitchers, steroids, amphetamines, outfield fences without padding, taller mounds and train rides on road trips. In other words, things can change for the better and the game can get safer.
We need to compromise, but I don't have the perfect answer. As someone who has been run over, I can say that it sucks. In Buster Posey's case it is devastating. I really do feel for him and his teammates (I also know a little something about getting hurt).
The best proposal I have heard is this: If the runner is forced to slide, then the catcher cannot be allowed to block the plate (like the collegiate rule). Because throws aren't always on line, contact still will happen, but I can't disagree that everyone would be safer.
Where else in sports can you get a 90-foot head start and run full speed into a grossly under-padded target looking in a different direction? Not the NFL, NHL, NBA, or even the fighting sports. In mixed martial arts and boxing, both combatants understand the rules. Buster Posey never even had a chance to "protect himself at all times."
It is unfortunate that this happened to him. Hopefully a change will be made soon and plays like this will be a thing of the past. It is sad that it takes an ugly injury to force change, but baseball has always been very stubborn, more reactive than proactive, always relying on its stars for guidance.
Once new rules are in place, catchers like Brett Hayes (on the right) won't worry about an impending impact that could end their season or career. Catchers will be assured that their safety is paramount and that the game has evolved from a direct portal into the spirit of baseball — the evolution resulting from two guys busting their asses as they fought for their teams.
Just wait: It won't be long until we witness the birth of "The Buster Posey Rule."
* * *
One more thing: A brief update on me. I got to play baseball again, and it was awesome. Unfortunately, my elbow decided that catching back-to-back days only 8 1/2 months out of surgery was not a good idea. Don't panic — I'm not. It should be a week or two before symptoms subside and I can get back on the field … hopefully this time for good.
Follow John Baker on Twitter — @manbearwolf — and follow Big League Stew all season for his inside look at what it's really like to be a baseball player rehabilitating from a serious elbow injury.