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    Giants Baseball Experience

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    Protect the catcher!

    Brad Mangin's excellent shot of the tag that Buster Posey applied to Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies in Game 4 of the 2010 NLCS.

    I want to see a rule change. And I’m not alone.

    I want to see catchers protected from home plate collisions.

    Buster Posey may be out for the year, just because baseball says it’s all right that Scott Cousins of the Florida Marlins came barreling down the third base line at top speed and, instead of sliding, dove at Posey like a linebacker in hopes of jarring the ball loose – a ball, it turns out, that Posey wasn’t even holding in the first place.

    The Giants had told Posey not to block home plate. They told him no run, no single game, was worth the damage he could do to himself, to his career. He got it right last year in the NLCS – as important a game as he’d ever played in to that point, applying a sweep-tag on Carlos Ruiz to nail the runner yet stay out of harm’s way. Indeed, even in the Marlins game, Buster Ballgame was in front of home plate, toward the mound, taking the throw and then trying to turn into Cousins to apply the tag.

    I don’t fault Cousins. He was within the rules, written or otherwise. But baseball has rules to prevent runners from creaming middle infielders in the same fashion. Hockey has rules to protect the goaltender. Football protects the quarterback. Major sports are getting more sensitive to injuries, especially concussions.

    The Giants have already lost Mike Matheny to a similar play. Joe Mauer is continually banged up in Minnesota. The tools of ignorance are hardly protection for an athlete running right at you like a freight train.

    Evan Brunell summarized the situation very well over at CBS Sports, noting that Posey’s agent and his manager have also called for a rules change:

    Posey’s agent, Jeff Berry, said he was planning on calling Joe Torre, the new leader of on-field operations, in the hopes of changing the rules that allow runners to barrel into catchers.

    “You leave players way too vulnerable,” Berry said. “I can tell you Major League Baseball is less than it was before [Posey’s injury]. It’s stupid. I don’t know if this ends up leading to a rule change, but it should. The guy [at the plate] is too exposed.

    “If you go helmet to helmet in the NFL, it’s a $100,000 fine, but in baseball, you have a situation in which runners are [slamming into] fielders. It’s brutal. It’s borderline shocking. It just stinks for baseball. I’m going to call Major League Baseball and put this on the radar. Because it’s just wrong.”

    “It’s part of baseball. I understand that,” Bochy said in a news conference on Thursday according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “Guys run into catchers. Being a catcher, I’ve been in a few of them. You’re in harm’s way there. I do think we need to consider changing the rules a little bit because the catcher’s so vulnerable — and there are so many who’ve gotten hurt, and just a little bit. I mean, they’ve had their careers or shortened. And here’s a guy that’s very popular in baseball. Fans want to see him play. Now, he’s out for a while. I’d like to see maybe something considered here where we can protect these guys a little bit more. They just don’t have the protection to take a guy coming in full speed, with that kind of force.”

    Bochy said he had previously spoken to Posey about not getting out in front and blocking the plate — and to an extent, Posey tried to honor that.

    “He was not completely in front of the plate. He was in a position where he could make a tag without being hit, too,” Bochy said. “He just got himself in a tough position there because [the way] his leg was situated. He was down on one knee, and ideally, you’d like to have the foot pointed that way to protect you a little bit. But, again, you’re trying to handle a throw. You don’t have time to get set up perfectly. That’s what hurt him was his leg was tucked underneath him when he got hit.”

    It should have been changed years ago, when Pete Rose wrecked Ray Fosse in the All-Star Game. But just because it’s late doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen. Let’s do it now. Call it the Buster Posey Rule. And protect the catcher!

    Oh, and when Buster does come back? Put him at third base. First base. Anywhere but behind the plate!

     

    Beat L.A.!

    This is the weekend we’ve been waiting for. The Giants are in Los Angeles for a three-game series with the Dodgers, the first of 2010. The Dodgers are the defending division champs, but the Giants are the team in ascendancy, and I have to say, I like their chances, especially with Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito pitching games two and three, and no one on the hill for the Dodgers who  looks particularly able to stop the Giants’ hot bats.

    But anything can happen when these two teams meet, given the history of bad blood. I’ve got a chapter in “Giants Past and Present” devoted to the long and sometimes bloody rivalry, and I talk about it in this new video on my YouTube channel. (Please subscribe!)

    I’d love to get your thoughts on some of the greatest moments in the rivalry. I personally savor Dodger-killing homers — Joe Morgan in 1982, Brian Johnson in 1997, and Barry Bonds, pirouetting at home plate the day before Johnson’s blast. How about you?