Collision at the Plate
May 26, 2011 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Last night, in a 7-6 loss to the Florida Marlins, the San Francisco Giants suffered what could potentially be a devastating loss when their prized catcher, 24-year old Buster Posey, in an attempt to block the plate and prevent a run from scoring, injured his leg in a gruesome collision (somewhat graphic mlb.com video). Following the game, his agent is questioning MLB rules surrounding home plate collisions. Analysts across the game are (ESPN Insider, subscription required) also wondering...is it time for a change? Some historical context on collisions at home plate. It's also just recently been reported that Posey has broken his leg and torn ligaments, which is a shame for such a promising and exciting player.
posted by arm426 (93 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
For anybody not sure if they want to watch that graphic video, it's not like you see a leg bend the wrong way or anything nauseating like that, but the catcher does do a bit of pained writhing, which IMO is the most discomfiting part of the video. To his credit the runner who plowed into him immediately starts attending to him.
posted by entropone at 9:01 AM on May 26, 2011


Yeah, I was about to say: if your standard of "gruesome" is hockey- or American football-level gruesome, with body parts going the wrong way (or, god forbid, a Malarchuk situation) you will find this relatively tame. That said, his writhing made me feel terrible for the poor guy.

Good post on what is literally inside baseball, thanks. I felt like I really understood the context even though I have seen exactly on baseball game in my life.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 9:05 AM on May 26, 2011


From the historical context link, a bit about my favorite LA Dodger:
Former Dodgers catcher Mike Scioscia, a 220-pounder, might have been the best at becoming that brick wall. Scioscia stood his ground well and knocked a few baserunners silly during his 13-year career.

"Scioscia was the best ever at blocking home plate," Brenly says. "He had it down to an art form, and he was a big enough guy that he could hang in there and take a hit. Usually, he would end up giving a lot more than he got."

In 1985, Scioscia was knocked unconscious yet hung onto the ball in a head-on collision with Cardinals first baseman Jack Clark, whose knees buckled as he headed toward the dugout. Clark had to be helped off the field.

Somehow, that collision wasn't Scioscia's worst, and it wasn't the worst for a baserunner against him. His best licking was saved a season later for Chili Davis, who charged Scioscia and came away with a separated shoulder.

"That was the hardest I've been hit, including my years of playing football," Scioscia says. "It was a heck of a collision. He was out that time. We were both out."
Tougher than your average ballplayer. Almost tough enough to be a hockey player.
posted by notyou at 9:07 AM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


The catcher wasn't holding the ball. That was perfectly legal. If you're gonna block home plate the runner has a right to take you out.

In one infamous incident, Cleveland Indians catcher Ray Fosse suffered a separated shoulder when Pete Rose intentionally collided with him on a play at the plate during the 1970 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Rose was roundly criticized, since firstly, the game was an exhibition, and secondly, he could have easily slid around Fosse rather than colliding with him. Ultimately, the incident served to help build Rose's "Charlie Hustle" reputation and Fosse, who had been having a phenomenal rookie season, was never quite the same after the play.

Rose's reasoning: that's one guy who will think twice before trying to to keep me from scoring when it does count.
posted by three blind mice at 9:08 AM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I was expecting worse, and kudos to the other player for immediately tending to him. You don't usually see that in football. Plus he just sort of ran into him, no Mortal Kombat flying kick you'd see from Ty Cobb. Pretty sure I remember a photo of Ty Cobb sliding into a baseman, metal cleats high in the air just looking to bust open someone's thigh. Man, Ty Cobb was an asshole.
posted by geoff. at 9:09 AM on May 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


It seems like (a) umpires need to be more agressive about keeping the catcher off the base (although in this particular case the catcher was legally making a play for the ball), and (b) home plate should be treated like any other base, where baserunners can't forcibly interfere with the defender.

It's sort of a vicious cycle - catchers want to prevent the run if at all possible, so they camp out on the plate hoping the ball will get there. Runners want to make the run, so they feel they have to run through the catcher because they have the right to.

TLDR: It's ridiculous that home plate is the only place where the runner can be safe if they knock the ball out of the catcher's glove. That's not baseball.
posted by muddgirl at 9:10 AM on May 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


The tricky thing about saying that baserunners can't forcibly interfere with the defender is that since it's home base, they're allowed to run through it - like how a runner trying to get to first can run through first.
posted by entropone at 9:12 AM on May 26, 2011


three blind mice: I wasn't contending that it was an illegal play by Cousins...just that maybe with some rule changes, injuries like that can be prevented. As muddgirl points out, I just don't think that's baseball.

Here's an analysis/overview of the current MLB rules on collisions.
posted by arm426 at 9:16 AM on May 26, 2011


But I'm pretty sure you can't be safe by knocking over the defender at first and hoping he drops the ball (because of the force-out rule).

Like I said, catchers need to follow the rules and get their asses off the plate, like other defenders do. And runners need to somehow be prevented from intentionally knocking over catchers, as they currently have to.
posted by muddgirl at 9:16 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Interestingly, the 2003 Marlins won the Divisional Series (against the Giants, even!) on a play where Pudge Rodriguez held on to the ball at home plate to get JT Snow out, the first time a postseason series ended with a potential tying run thrown out at home.

The 2003 Marlins were really an amazing story overall, and I've thought about making an FPP about them, but it's hard to find a lot of sources from back then. And of course, it'd just make Cubs fans really really sad.
posted by kmz at 9:16 AM on May 26, 2011


If you watch the video all the way through, you do get a view of his leg bending in a way that human legs don't bend unless they are hit in a way when a spike is lodged in the dirt. It is almost Joe Theisman like.

I saw this as both a legal and clean play. As for changing the rules, to what? I guess you could require a slide if contested, but that gives a big advantage to the catcher if he is still allowed to block the plate. Maybe you require a slide and the catcher cannot block the plate.

Maybe the solution is for the catcher to have a longer term perspective than just that run trying to score. Posey is a great player likely lost for the rest of the year. I would bet big bucks that both he and Bruce Boche the manager of the Giants would trade allowing that run in order to have Posey for the rest of the year. Posey's WAR rating has to be large.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:17 AM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is the first baseman allowed to block the runner from getting to first?
posted by smackfu at 9:19 AM on May 26, 2011


I'm with muddgirl -- can anyone justify why home plate is the one place where these violent collisions are allowed?
posted by Etrigan at 9:20 AM on May 26, 2011


Is the first baseman allowed to block the runner from getting to first?

It's never necessary because he can simply step on the base to put the runner out. And the question presupposes that the he's closer to the base than the runner is.
posted by Trurl at 9:21 AM on May 26, 2011


Given the layout of the field, it's much less likely that a first baseman would need to stand in the runner's way to catch a throw to first.

And at 2nd and 3rd, the runner has to stop on the base to be safe, so running at it full tilt would be a bad idea.
posted by straight at 9:22 AM on May 26, 2011


As a kid in Alabama, I saw plenty of other little kids (and junior high kids, and high school kids) get all messed up doing football, and occasionally in baseball as well. Broken arms, legs, collar bones, etc. were surprisingly run-of-the-mill, as I recall, throughout my 60s school years. I thought those kids going out for football were effin' crazy, and (besides my general lack of interest in team sports) I saw enough serious injuries to put me off of it. I just said no to broken bones.

Anyway, seems like injuries are part and parcel of sports, and if you don't want 'em, don't go for a career in sports.

Those of you who are all into sports will perhaps disagree with me on that...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:22 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Collisions = ratings. Just like fights in hockey and wicked hits in football.

That's why I like MMA---at least they're upfront about the goal.
posted by TheRedArmy at 9:23 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not an expert, but I am pretty sure you can collide with the baseman pretty much any time there isnt a force out (first base is always a force out) . It is done all the time to break up double plays.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:23 AM on May 26, 2011


Of course, collisions at first base are also pretty common, so maybe there's no real solution. However, at least the guy at first is standing up.

Anyway, seems like injuries are part and parcel of sports, and if you don't want 'em, don't go for a career in sports.

There is a huge difference between incidental injuries and a set of rules that encourages injuries. We recognize that all injuries can not be prevented. The goal is to minimize as much as possible.
posted by muddgirl at 9:24 AM on May 26, 2011


Is the first baseman allowed to block the runner from getting to first?

No, if a baseman is in the base path the runner is allowed to flatten him.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:25 AM on May 26, 2011


You can't say "that's not baseball".

This is certainly part of the game, and the rules have always allowed for catchers to block the plate and runners to attempt to break through their block.

And yes, home plate rules are different from the rest of the base rules - it's where the runs are counted.
posted by gnutron at 9:26 AM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just throw a wicked elbow or knee to their face a few times and they won't try to run through you anymore...that's what my (admittedly vicious) teammate in 8th grade would do. The ump would ask him not to throw his elbow out anymore, so he would use his knee...we were not a very nice team to play.
posted by schyler523 at 9:27 AM on May 26, 2011


And at 2nd and 3rd, the runner has to stop on the base to be safe, so running at it full tilt would be a bad idea.

Infielders do purposely use their legs/feet to block slides in some cases, in the same way that catchers try to block the plate on slides into home.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:27 AM on May 26, 2011


You can't say "that's not baseball".

Well yes, I can. The rules of baseball change all the time - they've never ever been set in stone. As a baseball fan I can declare that it's against the spirit of baseball, and as (presumably) another baseball fan you get to disagree.
posted by muddgirl at 9:30 AM on May 26, 2011


I'm with muddgirl -- can anyone justify why home plate is the one place where these violent collisions are allowed?
posted by Etrigan at 12:20 PM


Homeplate is allowed to be blocked because its where the run scores and where the run scores and makes it count. Also theres no other base that the runner has to go to after home. Where as first, second and third baseman can't obstruct the base path because the runner is allowed to run to the next base. Infielders sometimes do try and block the bases but they don't have any padding like the catchers so if they are smart they stay out of the way.

Its also not a raised base like first, second and third is so its a little hard to keep your foot on the plate while waiting for a throw.

While this injury is horrible, I don't see a way that they can protect the catcher at home without giving the catcher an unfair advantage.
posted by lilkeith07 at 9:31 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


...or giving the runner an unfair advantage.

It has to be one way or the other, and like the height of the pitching mound I'm fine with a little tinkering to get the right balance.
posted by muddgirl at 9:34 AM on May 26, 2011


It's never necessary because he can simply step on the base to put the runner out.

I was thinking if he doesn't have the ball yet, blocking first would add time for the runner and might let him get the ball in time.
posted by smackfu at 9:41 AM on May 26, 2011


Homeplate is allowed to be blocked because its where the run scores and where the run scores and makes it count.

One could as easily say that, since the runner can't get to home plate without going through second and third base, those should be allowed to be blocked more as well.

Where as first, second and third baseman can't obstruct the base path because the runner is allowed to run to the next base.

That would make sense only if the infielders weren't allowed to obstruct the next base path.

Its also not a raised base like first, second and third is so its a little hard to keep your foot on the plate while waiting for a throw.

This isn't really a factor -- no one runs down the catcher to avoid a force out.
posted by Etrigan at 9:42 AM on May 26, 2011


Talk about being able to hold two things in your mind at once. Reading this, I thought immediately -- "of course, Posey's agent is right" and then kmz reminds me of this: "Interestingly, the 2003 Marlins won the Divisional Series (against the Giants, even!) on a play where Pudge Rodriguez held on to the ball at home plate to get JT Snow out

which is one of my favorite moments watching a baseball game ever (admittedly not a large list, but still...)

It's a complicated issue that I'm not sure you can regulate as easily as you'd like. People like to think of baseball as a non-contact sport but that's bullshit. But then I hate to see stuff like this happen. So though I feel like I have a strong opinion (leave the rules alone and let professional adults make decisions for themselves), I can't argue for it knowing the possible consequences and assuming pressure a player would be under.

kmz

The 2003 Marlins were really an amazing story overall, and I've thought about making an FPP about them, but it's hard to find a lot of sources from back then.
"

Don't waste your time: there used to be plenty of awesome stories about the 2003 Marlins, but then the owners traded all the links away.

posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:44 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Collisions = ratings. Just like fights in hockey and wicked hits in football.

Nobody watches baseball for collisions. They're reasonably rare, and usually more unpleasant than exciting.

That said, I don't know if there's an answer here. I'm inclined to say, "that's the game," because, well, it is, but at the same time, I don't like to see people getting hurt like that.

And, on the one hand, it's in everybody's best interest to play cleanly. They're playing 162 games in not-very-many-more days, they have relatively-long careers (for big bucks, these days, but still), and they get traded an awful lot. The guy you plow through today could be your teammate tomorrow or next year or five years down the road.

But, of course, in the heat of the moment, anything can happen, and if you want the behavior to stop, you've got to make a rule about it.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:46 AM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Reading the rule, I could see where you could change it by saying the catcher may not block the plate and specify that the runner must slide if the catcher is holding the ball or if the play will be close. It would be the job of the on-deck batter to inform the runner approaching home whether or not he should slide.
posted by zzazazz at 9:48 AM on May 26, 2011


Dang it, Posey's on my fantasy roster.

I was a catcher in Little League. Had my fair share of collisions, but back then players weren't 200-lb beasts and I had full body armor. The worst I had to expect was dirt in my face and my mom using spit to wipe it off.

Fast forward to high school and I'm glad I got transferred to the outfield.

I also intentionally collided with other catchers and even first basemen when they crossed my run path. It was tolerated and encouraged, so long as you weren't trying to throw elbows or punches or push people. You had to make it look like all you wanted to do was run to the base.

One game I got scolded by some parent (not mine) because I had knocked over a girl who was covering first base. I'm pretty sure I sassed back that if she didn't want to get hurt she should have stayed on "her side" of the base and not mine.

Collisions can happen at any base whenever a tag is required. A third baseman, for example, can block third base when s/he's trying to tag a sliding runner. It leaves no room for doubt when you have the ball in your glove and the runner has no body part touching the base.

And collisions can happen on plays at first, too. Typically it's on short grounders that either the pitcher or first baseman picks up, and since they're closer to the oncoming runner than the base, they try for a tag. Sometimes they tag just because they're already moving towards the runner. Justin Smoak and Felix Pie had such a moment back a couple weeks ago.

I don't know if there's a quick and easy answer to preventing collisions, at least not such that would drastically change the game. I'm not saying changing baseball is bad, but any perceived notion of change will get the purists riled up.

I might prefer that the runner is entitled to a part of the base and therefore complete blockage would be illegal, but we might have to balance that by saying the runner cannot willingly step out of the direct path to the base (ie no hook slides to put more distance between them and the fielder who's allowing space).
posted by CancerMan at 9:54 AM on May 26, 2011


Seems to me the change needs to come from coaching and management. It seems ridiculous to risk such an important and valuable investment (especially considering the dearth of top flight catchers out there today) to prevent ONE RUN. Teach your catchers to either make a swipe tag like a second baseman trying to catch a stealing runner or to give up the run. In the grand scheme of the franchise/season/game, the risk of a career-altering injury is not worth the reward of one less run and one more out.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:56 AM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's ridiculous that home plate is the only place where the runner can be safe if they knock the ball out of the catcher's glove.

Not true -- if the ball comes out during any tag, it's not a tag. [Rule 7.08(c), see the first approved ruling.] The difference between home and the other bases is that the moment the runner safely touches home, the run scores. You can afford to charge, because if you overslide or overrun the base, it doesn't matter -- the run counts and the runner can no longer be put out (because he's no longer a runner.)

On the other bases, an overslide means you're probably going to be tagged out.

Reading the rules on the face, if the catcher is waiting for the throw and gets hit by the runner, the runner is out on interference. If there's nothing to field, the catcher has committed obstruction (Definition: Rule 2.00) --- and this is true if the hit comes *after* the attempt to field has failed. (Runner coming in, throw coming in, throw goes by the catcher, if the catcher blocks after the ball passes, obstruction.)

However, once the catcher has caught the throw, he's no longer fielding the ball. Here, the rules say nothing about right to the basepath or right to field -- a fielder in control of the ball is allowed to block in an attempt to tag the player. A runner has the right to the basepath (except if a fielder is *fielding* the ball) and thus can charge through, and if the catcher misses the tag or drops the ball during a tag, the runner is not out and scores if he touches home plate. If he doesn't, assumes he does, and just walks off to the bench, a fielder can retrieve the ball, stand on home plate, and appeal. If the umpire agress that the runner did not touch home plate, he's out. (7.08(k), note the comment that states this applies only if the runner is walking off.)

Home isn't the only place collisions happen. You'll often see the hard slide at 2nd to try to break up a double play -- he knows he's out, he slides hard to try to throw off the fielder. However, there's a fine line between hard play and interference, and if you come up with your spikes high, you may find yourself walking to first later on 6.08(b).
posted by eriko at 10:01 AM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


By the way, the catcher is not actually allowed to block the plate without the ball. Rule 7.06(b): The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score. The base line belongs to the runner and the catcher should be there only when he is fielding a ball or when he already has the ball in his hand.

So it's just as much a question of enforcing the current rulebook as changing it.
posted by dfan at 10:02 AM on May 26, 2011


In defense of the Giants, it was the go-ahead run in extra innings. I don't think even Posey would have done it differently even if management would have preferred he not. I believe most players, especially at the professional level, err on the side of 100% effort than the chance they could be injured.
posted by CancerMan at 10:05 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but how often does an injury like this happen out of all the times there are collisions or the catcher blocks the plate? One run might not be worth it, but if this happens ten to fifteen times a season, that's a win, win and a half.

I agree that this sucks, but I'm cautious about making new rules from exceptional situations.

(At least when I played catcher in RecEd, there just wasn't enough body mass to cause much harm and we were pretty padded.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:06 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Home isn't the only place collisions happen. You'll often see the hard slide at 2nd to try to break up a double play -- he knows he's out, he slides hard to try to throw off the fielder.

There's a distinct difference between a hard slide and barreling in, elbows up, knowing that the only way you make that base is if you hit the catcher hard enough to make him lose the ball. That's a forced fumble, not "throw[ing] off the fielder."
posted by Etrigan at 10:14 AM on May 26, 2011


It's a shame that this happened but there shouldn't be a rush to change the rules.

As far as it being one of the highlights of baseball games, not a main one, but something notable enough that there was a video game commercial that had a catcher and a player converging like freight trains.

In closing, Matt Holliday never touched home.
posted by drezdn at 10:16 AM on May 26, 2011


if the ball comes out during any tag, it's not a tag

...except if the ball is deliberately knocked out by a player, as happened recently with A-Rod.
posted by muddgirl at 10:19 AM on May 26, 2011


I just want to say that I love this post (and all of the comments) -- nominally newsfilter but not really because it's so chock full of detail and context. Great stuff.

Posey's a major asset to the Giants and the loss of his gung-ho attitude will be also be a huge loss to the team's bottom line, not to mention its morale.
posted by blucevalo at 10:22 AM on May 26, 2011


"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."

Yes, it's stupid. But I'm not sure what sort of rule change would have any effect.... Catchers are still gonna block and runners have the right to the base. ??

I mean the only rule that could possibly help would be to say "the catcher can't block the plate" (if he does the runner is automatically safe) or "the runner can't hit the catcher if he is not blocking the plate" (which may already be a rule.)

But I still don't think a minor rule change would stop this injury from occurring. You'd have to change the whole way home plate works.

Posey's WAR rating has to be large.

Surprisingly, his WAR rating for 2011 is only 1.5 (where 2+ = starter?!?!) (Ah, I suppose it's low because we've only seen 25% of the season? That would put him at ~6 for the year? Is that how it works?)

The Giants lineup was already anemic. Now it's downright pathetic.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:24 AM on May 26, 2011


Surprisingly, his WAR rating for 2011 is only 1.5 (where 2+ = starter?!?!) (Ah, I suppose it's low because we've only seen 25% of the season? That would put him at ~6 for the year? Is that how it works?)

Yes.
posted by dfan at 10:26 AM on May 26, 2011


My first thought after seeing the video was that Posey should have backed off blocking the plate when he missed the relay. Without the ball, he has no right to block: it is catcher interference if he does, and the run scores anyway.

THe lapse of time between his missing the throw and getting hit, however, was too short for him to be able to stand up and back out, even if he had wanted to. The result was a tragedy for the former FSU star. I hope his terrible injury (for a catcher, for sure) does not end his very promising career.

At least he and the Giants did win the Series last season.
posted by rdone at 10:30 AM on May 26, 2011


On the other bases, an overslide means you're probably going to be tagged out.

Except at first...isn't the runner allowed to overrun the base without being called out?
posted by Melismata at 10:34 AM on May 26, 2011


On the other bases, an overslide means you're probably going to be tagged out.

Except at first...isn't the runner allowed to overrun the base without being called out?


Keerect!
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:36 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've seen two really bad injuries at 2nd base due to sliding. Morneau took a blow to the head as he was taking out the infielder and Nishioka had his leg broken by the slider as he was throwing. I'm pretty sure there are more injuries from this than there are at home, simply because more plays happen at 2nd base.

I don't favor changing the rules, but rather the culture. Baseball has self-enforced rules all over the place and they work pretty well (e.g., use of the beanball as mentioned above by eriko).
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:40 AM on May 26, 2011


As a Giants fan and a Buster Posey fan (with the t-shirt to prove it) I am really sad about this.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:48 AM on May 26, 2011


Yes, it's stupid. But I'm not sure what sort of rule change would have any effect.... Catchers are still gonna block and runners have the right to the base. ??

Give the umpire discretion to call a "foul" like referees do in basketball, and if a foul is called (based on some criteria for acceptable contact, etc.) it's an automatic run for the at-bat team, regardless of whether or not the runner got to home plate. The umpire already has a ridiculous amount of non-appealable discretion over stupid things, so it shouldn't matter that the rule would be capriciously enforced and would affect outcomes all the time.

My son's team (he's 7) just played in the final game of the playoffs for his league a couple days ago in a game that was way too intense for little kids, where no fewer than 4 kids were injured bad enough that they couldn't continue playing, and where the adults' response to those injuries - two of which were home plate collisions - was to argue about the technical rules of baseball for far more time than they spent helping the injured kids. My enthusiasm for youth baseball was significantly diminished by that stupidity (which had not manifested itself earlier in the season). (My son was the catcher, fwiw.)
posted by The World Famous at 10:53 AM on May 26, 2011


Baseball has self-enforced rules all over the place and they work pretty well (e.g., use of the beanball as mentioned above by eriko).

Yup. Kevin Youkilis of the Red Sox had some enlightening things to say about that
here, following the awful beaning of Marlon Byrd.
posted by Melismata at 10:56 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're allowed a path to get to the plate (or any base). When you have the ball, you're allowed to block the runner's path.

The problem is that there's a judgment call on what "allowed a path" and "block" means. Runners will fly out of the basepaths in order to break up a double play. And catchers don't care -- if they can block the plate in the split second before the ball arrives, they will.

This is one of those cases. Cousins could have tried a hook slide, but you can see he aims squarely for Posey, regardless of where Posey actually is. Posey doesn't have the ball, but he clearly is already blocking at least some of Cousin's path.

So, it's an umpire judgment call.

And MLB umpires are the worst human beings in the world.

Seriously, it's like they think they're landed gentry. Lords of their domain. There isn't another referee in any sport that are allowed and encouraged to deliberately seek out and engage in extended conflict with players and coaches. There isn't another sport where the referees deliberately ignore the rules, as umpires do with balls and strikes. It just doesn't happen anywhere else.

We can talk about this in endless circles. Nothing will change in this area unless the umpires change. Seriously, and I'm not saying this to be facetious -- every single one of them should be fired and MLB should start fresh.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:03 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]



And MLB umpires are the worst human beings in the world


Baseball broke my heart for a variety of reasons I won't elaborate on (mostly Bonds and steroids), and every year I think "well maybe I'll start watching again." Last year that poor pitcher (can't remember his name) got robbed of a perfect game and even though it was unequivocally clear that the call was wrong the Umpires would not reverse it. I mean what the fucking fuck. And please, I don't wanna hear any bullshit excuses, that was wrong. Period. And it should have been overruled. I love baseball but some things about it make me so incredibly angry that it's hard for me to watch it. So yeah, I agree, umpires definitely need to change or else we need more instant replay.
posted by MattMangels at 11:10 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


the referees deliberately ignore the rules, as umpires do with balls and strikes

This is absolutely ridiculous. The strike zone is subjective and 99% of players and fans are totally fine with that.

For all the Jim Joyce brouhaha, in no other sport are umpires/referees any better or less disruptive to letting the players on the field decide the game.

please, I don't wanna hear any bullshit excuses, that was wrong

So what? I say that as a longtime Tiger fan and Galarraga fan. I actually prefer what occurred and the aftermath to another perfect game. Sure, perfect games are rare, but how fucking rare is a 28-out perfect game that showcases good sportsmanship!

How did it affect the game. It didn't. Compare to the "tuck rule" decision (hi, Raider fans!)

How many NFL championships have been decided by botched calls? Every other NCAA football game is decided by a bad call. How many times did Michael Jordan travel or get a bullshit foul call b/c he was Michael Jordan?

Eric Gregg aside, baseball umpires are at the tops among professional referees, imo.

Baseball broke my heart for a variety of reasons I won't elaborate on (mostly Bonds and steroids)

Barry Bonds took steroids?! He was already the greatest left fielder in the history of the game. Why on Earth would he take steroids? (I can't wait for the 2013 Hall of Fame votes...)

I hate sports fans who are purists. Even worse are the actual fanatics.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:21 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm a huge Giants fan, and a big fan of Posey, but I wouldn't change the rule in any way. I didn't see anything malicious in Cousins' actions. He was trying to score the go-ahead run. This injury is awful, definitely, but such injuries are rare.
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:26 AM on May 26, 2011


This sucks for Buster Posey and the Giants, and perhaps there's a way to minimize this happening in the future, but still occasionally something like this will inevitably happen anyway and people will say, "we need to change the rules."

Strictly speaking, Posey shouldn't have been blocking the plate, and Cousins didn't need to slam into him shoulder-first. But that's all because a split-second before the collision it looked as though Posey WAS going to have the ball (he was already made-up to turn and block home) and Cousins saw it exactly that same way. They were both ready for the collision and expecting it before the throw to home came in sloppy.

And in that split second, Posey was no longer prepared to take the hit, because he didn't have the ball. And everyone seemed to understand that at the plate once it occurred. Had Posey caught the throw, he probably would have retained enough composure to take the hit, or at least withstand it without injury. So yeah, this was just something that sucks. I don't think a rules changes makes a lot of sense here.

But sense it's probably too thin for a post of it's own, last night Wilson Valdez of the Phillies earned his first Win in a 19-inning marathon game. This is mostly impressive because Valdez is a second baseman.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:26 AM on May 26, 2011


There is one rule change that I can imagine would fix this -- but I don't think it'd be popular.

The reason catchers block the plate is because they have to tag an unforced runner. The guy wasn't being forced off 3rd in this case, so he had to tag him, and because of that, he had to be prepared to block.

If there were a line after which a 3rd base runner becomes "officially forced" even if not being forced off 3rd (a "no going back" point 1/2 or 2/3 down the line from 3rd to home), the catcher in that place only has to have a toe on the plate, and blocking becomes moot.
posted by chimaera at 11:27 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Basically, make home plate the same as first base. First basemen only have to have a toe on the base because a batter is by definition being forced (and they're allowed to run through). Since runners run through home, a point at which, no matter what the base position of other runners, the 3rd base runner becomes forced might alleviate this sort of thing. And I doubt it would seriously impact the sport, because how many 3rd base runners get nearly to home plate and go all the way back?
posted by chimaera at 11:29 AM on May 26, 2011


There isn't another sport where the referees deliberately ignore the rules, as umpires do with balls and strikes. It just doesn't happen anywhere else.

Cool Papa Bell, I know you know far more about sports than I do, but don't NBA officials do the same thing with star players?
posted by drezdn at 11:31 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chimaera, what would happen when you have two guys around 3rd at the same time (a faster runner running up the back of the lead runner)?
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:35 AM on May 26, 2011


Kafkaesque -- that's a forced runner situation anyway, and the catcher wouldn't have to tag the runner, just have a toe on home plate (and have the ball) before he gets there.

One thing my proposal would change is no more 3rd/Home pickles.
posted by chimaera at 11:36 AM on May 26, 2011


don't NBA officials do the same thing with star players?

I would agree with that, yes. However, I would say that most NBA calls are more judgmental than baseball. It's one thing to say "Was that too much contact?" and another to say, "I'm never, ever going to call it a strike if it's above the belt, even though the rulebook very clearly states otherwise."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:37 AM on May 26, 2011


In Little League (age 11 or 12) I flattened a catcher trying to steal home. I don't remember if I was safe or out, but I do remember that at the coaches meeting that week they changed the rules to make the runner automatically out in the case of a home plate collision. It's really one of the highlights of my otherwise mediocre Little League career :)

BTW, I was a catcher.
posted by COD at 11:38 AM on May 26, 2011


that's a forced runner situation anyway

Oh, duh. I stand enlightened.
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:39 AM on May 26, 2011


Well mrgrimm I was young, only 11 years old when Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001, and I was incredibly proud of him as a San Francisco native and a baseball fan. Then I found out the whole thing was a farce and I felt so stupid and young and naive for believing it was real and I became incredibly cynical about the whole enterprise. So that is why baseball broke my heart in a nutshell; it's certainly not because I am a purist.
posted by MattMangels at 11:40 AM on May 26, 2011


Since runners run through home, a point at which, no matter what the base position of other runners, the 3rd base runner becomes forced might alleviate this sort of thing. And I doubt it would seriously impact the sport, because how many 3rd base runners get nearly to home plate and go all the way back?

It would certainly reduce scoring, in that it would seriously lessen the chances of scoring from second on a single or from third on a sac fly. You'd end up with a greater fraction of runs being scored by home runs and fewer by guys speeding around the bases. I think that would be a net loss.
posted by dfan at 11:46 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Reading the rules on the face, if the catcher is waiting for the throw and gets hit by the runner, the runner is out on interference. If there's nothing to field, the catcher has committed obstruction (Definition: Rule 2.00) --- and this is true if the hit comes *after* the attempt to field has failed. (Runner coming in, throw coming in, throw goes by the catcher, if the catcher blocks after the ball passes, obstruction.) "

Heh. This still pisses me off — I was in a RecEd softball game as an adult, playing third, and I was outside of the basepath waiting for the throw from left field on a fly, you know, with my glove up. The runner deliberately went outside of the basepath to run into me, but I saw him coming and set my feet (with my glove still up for the ball). The runner slammed into me, then fell to the ground, and the ump advanced him to home. I thought it was clearly interference (since the throw did come to me and I was outside the basepath, and would have tagged him if I hadn't gotten hit), but the ump basically told me if I argued it, I'd be thrown out because the runner has the right of way no matter where he goes.

It didn't much matter — they mercied us anyway — but they were a bunch of pricks and I'm glad that I at least taught the guy he couldn't run me over.
posted by klangklangston at 11:54 AM on May 26, 2011


There is no way the basic rule ever changes; it is too ingrained into the sport. However, some things could be done to reduce injury such as instituting a no launching rule like they have in football such that the runner cannot leave both feet prior to contact.
posted by caddis at 11:59 AM on May 26, 2011


[I am not unaware of the irony of having to referee arguments in a sports-rules thread. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 12:00 PM on May 26, 2011


I was at a meetup last night, at a bar without a TV, and so was only keeping up with the game in a vague sort of way on my phone. Then I saw the news this morning and wanted to throw up. I hope this isn't a career-ender for Buster, who is completely awesome.
posted by rtha at 12:03 PM on May 26, 2011


It would certainly reduce scoring, in that it would seriously lessen the chances of scoring from second on a single or from third on a sac fly.

I think it would only reduce scoring by the amount of people who pass third, then pass the halfway mark to home plate who THEN turn back. Which as far as I know is negligible. Or are you concerned about a chilling effect?
posted by chimaera at 12:08 PM on May 26, 2011


I think it would only reduce scoring by the amount of people who pass third, then pass the halfway mark to home plate who THEN turn back. Which as far as I know is negligible. Or are you concerned about a chilling effect?

Many runners who now score on a sacrifice fly would now not run at all, because of the much greater chance that they would be declared out at home. It would be much harder to score on a sac fly if the catcher just had to touch home plate while holding the ball.
posted by dfan at 12:27 PM on May 26, 2011


However, some things could be done to reduce injury such as instituting a no launching rule like they have in football such that the runner cannot leave both feet prior to contact.

Watching the video again, there appears to be no launching. Also a big part of the launching in football, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that you're using your helmet like a battering ram.

This was just a collision gone wrong. If the throw had been better, Posey wouldn't have had to adjust and would have taken the hit fine. This sort of situation is rare enough and there are so many games in a season, there's no reason to put a catcher in this kind of situation. No need to change the rules, coaches just need to tell their catchers not do that unless you're in the last game of the World Series you're down by a run and you're too damn old to be playing the game for a team that wasn't even supposed to break a 100 losses as you were a washed up has-been up until this moment and with two outs you see your arch-enemy running down third base everything is in slow motion, you turn to block the base as the ball seems to come in just short, you take a huge hit and it isn't clear that you caught it and after some tense moments where the camera shows your girlfriend and the coach you hated but are now best friends with looking on anxiously, you raise your mitt in triumph, revealing the ball and the umpire goes, "He's out! He's out!" and the announcer is shouting, "They did it! They did it! Unbelievable!"

For a Marlins-Giants matchup in May? Not really necessary.
posted by geoff. at 12:34 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Then I found out the whole thing was a farce and I felt so stupid and young and naive for believing it was real and I became incredibly cynical about the whole enterprise.

I realize that everyone has their own reactions to this stuff, but to me finding out that many MLB players used performance-enhancing drugs was a surprise on the level of finding out that teens drink and have sex, or that many adults who seemed on the surface to be law-abiding sometimes smoke weed. I just can't bring myself to be that shocked about it.

It probably didn't help that I had already read Ball Four, which documents baseball PED abuse back in the 1960s.
posted by dfan at 12:37 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well mrgrimm I was young, only 11 years old when Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001, and I was incredibly proud of him as a San Francisco native and a baseball fan. Then I found out the whole thing was a farce

I guess my only advice would be don't take it all so seriously. I've been a Giants fans since I moved out here about when (ugh) you were born. ^_^ I absolutely LOVED 2001 and 2007. Hell, after sitting through most of the '90s watching Barry hit a single, steal second and third, then get sacrificed home to win 1-0 at Candlestick, the 2000s were a godsend (excepting games 6 and 7 of the 2002 WS!). Whatever steroids "controversy" exists, I honestly can't really care too much.

As soon as 1998 happened, and Sosa and McGwire were getting calls from the president and showing up on the news and late-night talk shows, I just KNEW Bonds was gonna get in on that action. And he did, post-haste, pretty much from 1999 on. He changed his swing, started bulking up, and swung for the fences every time out. I wasn't sure it would work, but boy did it.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:51 PM on May 26, 2011


I don't think even Posey would have done it differently even if management would have preferred he not. I believe most players, especially at the professional level, err on the side of 100% effort than the chance they could be injured.

I realize that, but that is exactly the mentality that needs to be changed. Even from a strictly selfish perspective, I wonder how much money over the course of his career that one play cost Posey. Could be millions.

Yeah, but how often does an injury like this happen out of all the times there are collisions or the catcher blocks the plate? One run might not be worth it, but if this happens ten to fifteen times a season, that's a win, win and a half.

I'll bet you folding money that Posey misses at least 2 wins worth of WAR with the time he will be out from this one play. He's already at 1.8 over 45 games.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:51 PM on May 26, 2011


For all the Jim Joyce brouhaha, in no other sport are umpires/referees any better or less disruptive to letting the players on the field decide the game.

No officiating in the top four US professional sports leagues sucks more than NBA. I mean, if you had to reverse engineer the rules by observing the officiating of NBA games, you would be screwed. Couldn't be done.

Outside the US, futbol refs are the worst. I mean, what do they think they're doing out there? Try to figure out what obstruction is by watching the calls. It seems to depend upon who's doing the obstructing (i.e., popular striker vs. hated defender).
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:28 PM on May 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Serendipitously enough, I went to my first Giants game this afternoon. (It's still going on (barely), but I had to get back for "work" ...

That was the fastest first 5 innings of a game I've seen in a looong time (maybe since Candlestick ;). They were through 6 innings in an hour and 10 minutes.

Without Posey, the Giants may have the worst batting lineup in the majors. Audrey Huff at cleanup?!

Granted, today was against a top pitcher and Sando will be back soon, but I have a feeling it's gonna be a long summer of 1-0 and 2-0 losses for the Giants....

(in fantasy news, I took the opportunity to snatch Brandon Belt (for a long-since faded Sam Fuld) just in case ...)
posted by mrgrimm at 2:43 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Collisions = ratings. Just like fights in hockey and wicked hits in football.

So not true in baseball. I've watched a lot of games over a lot of years -- live and on various screens -- and there is a bi-partisan hush when a player takes a hard hit, much relief and a cheer when they dust themselves off and resume. And I'm in NYC, yo.
posted by thinkpiece at 2:47 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the flip side, Scott Cousins is a lifelong Giants fan who played for USF. This week was supposed to be a homecoming for him.

In brighter Giants news (and brighter fantasy news for me), Ryan Vogelsong is turning into a pretty great story of his own. Despite a few well-knocked doubles and 1 run manufactured from one of the doubles, he was impressive today, despite likely taking his first loss.

I am also somewhat amused how "tweet" has become an accepted term for everyone.

Q: Sandoval tweeted that Buster was out for the season ...

A: We're getting ahead of ourselves. I talked to Pablo. He didn't have any information to tweet that.

posted by mrgrimm at 3:02 PM on May 26, 2011


Except at first...isn't the runner allowed to overrun the base without being called out?

Yes, as long as the runner continues down the base line or curves off the line, away from the field of play. If, however, the runner overruns first and then turns away from the base line toward the field, then he can be tagged out.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:40 PM on May 26, 2011


i've watched the play several times and the real problem is this - you can't block a runner when you're well in front of the baseline - posey had to twist and turn to try it and it just doesn't work - he should have just tried to get the tag on the runner without blocking him

not the runner's fault - he's just hauling ass to get to home, nothing deliberate about it - posey was off balance and had no hope of accomplishing anything by trying to wheel into the runner's path

the right move was to move forward just a bit, wheel and try to tag him - blocking's only going to work when you're right in the runner's path and he wasn't
posted by pyramid termite at 9:42 PM on May 26, 2011


Considering NFL officials have way more to keep their eyes on, PLUS using replay, PLUS frequently admitting officially that they were wrong (not that that does any good, but it's nice to see them 'fess up), I would put them miles ahead of MLB officials, who, imho, are the most imperious, useless, combative, stuck-up, haughty officials in all of officialdom. And --excepting perhaps the Galarraga incident-- I don't think I've heard of a baseball official admitting their mistake. Or even that they can make a mistake. Reality is what they say it is and that's as close as they care to come to it. Reality doesn't really concern them. Plus I have sen numerous instances of football officials correcting each other if the play is wrong. Baseball officials will ALWAYS back up their guy, even if he's clearly wrong and they know it. Very noble and tribal....except for how it negates their entire worth and reason for taking up field space.

NBA officials? What? They're just there to make sure every high-profile series goes to the maximum number of games for TV. "My God, who would have thought the series would come to a final deciding game!?" Everyone. It's basketball. It's not like it's a legitimate competition with rules the players (well, all players) have to follow. I don't even know why they play, they could just issue a score before the game and it would have the same drama, excitement, and effect on me.

But baseball....Hey, I'm a baseball season ticket holder; I love baseball. But baseball officials are Fat Popes: they do little good and their authority, however destructive or useless, will not be infringed. I wish they were all replaced by whatever they use to officially determine that tennis balls are out of bounds in the pros. Why can't we use that technology more?

And re: the slide: a fine play. Bet he thinks twice about blocking the plate on him next time. And that's the point.
posted by umberto at 7:41 AM on May 27, 2011


i've watched the play several times and the real problem is this - you can't block a runner when you're well in front of the baseline

I think the "real problem" is more fundamental than that (though I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "well in front of the baseline").

The real problem makes the entire situation even more painful. It's mostly Posey's fault. He's in a horrible position, and to make it worse, he has his foot under his ass and then drops to his knees. He dropped the ball, didn't know he dropped the ball, tried to tag the runner anyway, realized he dropped the ball, then got badly hurt. That's how 10 seconds turns into a bad year.

Honestly, all that said, and though I said earlier a rule change wouldn't fix anything, I think Cousins should be required to slide in this situation. I think a rule like that could be implemented, with a fair amount of change in enforcement in catcher interference as well.

In this case, Cousins would slide and if Posey, blocks him off the plate, Cousins would be declared safe because Posey dropped the ball.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:56 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't find a clip of it, but I remember vividly a situation where Joe Mauer was rounding third with the catcher firmly in place blocking his path to the plate waiting for the throw to arrive. Mauer correctly judged that the ball would get there about the same time he did, so he slid feet first to a position about a foot and half behind home plate, lengthening the time to make a tag just enough so he got past the catcher's sweep, reaching with his left hand to tag the plate after he had passed it. It was a startling display of base-running finesse and gave me an appreciation for just how much baseball is crammed into that head of his.

Now, if he would only get health and play again.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:02 AM on May 27, 2011


I wish they were all replaced by whatever they use to officially determine that tennis balls are out of bounds in the pros. Why can't we use that technology more?

I don't have cable TV anymore so I don't get to watch much baseball (which sounds odd, now that I say it), but I think they essentially have this technology with video tracking by now.

So, in essence, these umps are getting judged by that sort of technology that they use in tennis. But yeah, all secret and frat like. And I don't expect to see that technology in actual game use in my lifetime, though it wouldn't surprise me that much. People are pretty anal about sports and rules.

I'll certainly give you the attitude and perhaps cultural problem (doesn't it apply to all of major league baseball?), but as far as performance, I can't complain too much about MLB umps.

Baseball umpires also seem less vulnerable to fixing games, as compared to futbol (penalty!), basketball (foul! ... charge!) or football (no touchdown that was holding!), just by the nature of the sport. It's certainly possible for the balls/strikes umpire to favor one pitcher, but the obsessive nature of the fans makes me think they'd get busted. It seems very hard for a baseball ump to hide that sort of behavior, compared with other sports (tennis excluded ;) There are very very few "judgment calls" in baseball (outside the (already noted and critical) balls and strikes). The ball either hits above the home run line or below it.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:34 AM on May 27, 2011


Billy Beane to Kurt Suzuki: Don’t Get Hurt
posted by Rock Steady at 2:15 PM on June 2, 2011


Something's been nagging me for the last few days. Forgive me if this has been addressed above in this thread, but why is it considered better or more effective to block the runner's path when tagging him out at home plate rather than simply catching the ball and then tagging him as he runs past?
posted by The World Famous at 2:59 PM on June 2, 2011


Something's been nagging me for the last few days. Forgive me if this has been addressed above in this thread, but why is it considered better or more effective to block the runner's path when tagging him out at home plate rather than simply catching the ball and then tagging him as he runs past?

Because to just tag him out, you need the ball before you tag. If you block the plate, the ball can get there a split second later and you can still tag him before he touches the plate. If you just swipe tag, you could miss or he can beat the throw. If you block the plate and you drop the ball, you may even be able to regain control, etc.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:43 PM on June 2, 2011


Because to just tag him out, you need the ball before you tag. If you block the plate, the ball can get there a split second later and you can still tag him before he touches the plate.

Wait. Don't you need the ball before you tag if you block the plate, too? It seems to me like it would be virtually impossible to catch the ball during or after the collision between runner and catcher. Are there actually situations where the catcher has caught the ball after the runner has collided with him? If so, how often does that happen?

If you just swipe tag, you could miss or he can beat the throw.

Can't he beat the throw if you block the plate?
posted by The World Famous at 8:53 PM on June 2, 2011


Blocking the plate gets an out in the situation where the catcher catches the ball at their torso a split second before the runner gets there and the runner runs into the catcher's glove in front of him. There is no tag motion needed, you just need to hang onto the ball when he runs into you.
posted by smackfu at 6:10 AM on June 3, 2011


If the Catcher just tries a swiping tag, it's still possible for the player to easily dodge the tag or knock the ball out of the catcher's hand (and unlike other places on the basepath, it's not frowned on at home).
posted by drezdn at 6:28 AM on June 3, 2011


Off-topic, but yesterday Joe Mauer played 3 innings of extended spring training baseball and reported feeling "fatigued" afterward. A light bulb went on when I read that, as I remember that several teammates had come down with "flu" around the time his troubles started. Is it possible Joe contracted a virus that, in some people, can cause chronic-fatigue-like symptoms and that that is the reason for his extended DL time? This would explain the coyness about describing his problem and the long recovery time. This would not be a condition a ball player would like to disclose. I'm sure curious, because neither he nor the team have been clear about what his problem is beyond the vague and uninformative "bilateral leg weakness."
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:00 PM on June 3, 2011


The catcher blocks the plate to force the runner off of it so that he has extra time to tag him out. A common technique is to block the plate with a foot so that a slide (hand or foot) is pushed off/outside the plate. That's why they get run over.

New comments from Giants GM Brian Sabean:
If I never hear from Cousins again or he never plays another game in the big leagues, I think we’ll all be happy. He chose to be a hero in my mind, and if that’s his flash of fame, that’s as good as it’s going to get, pal. We’ll have a long memory. Believe me, we’ve talked to (former catcher Mike) Matheny about how this game works. You can’t be that out-and-out overly aggressive. I’ll put it as politically as I can state it: There’s no love lost and there shouldn’t be.
"In equally strong comments, Cousins' agent, Matt Sosnick, told The Chronicle that the hit was neither dirty nor intentional, and part of the game. He also said the Marlins had to get Major League Baseball security involved because of death threats to Cousins.""

(MLB operations manager) Joe Torre will call Brian Sabean

The hypocrisy of Brian Sabean. I hope Torre slaps him around a little bit and makes him apologize.

Ray Ratto: Only Posey can defuse Cousins situation

"The Giants are giving off an aura as unbearable whiners"

Amen. I say that as a Giants fan and a baseball fan. This sort of juvenile posturing is embarrassing for those of us who enjoy the game.

Indeed, protocol may even require him to finally reach out to Cousins, although we suspect he won’t be there for awhile yet.

I really don't understand this at all. I was similarly and unintentionally hurt by a automobilist and if he ever got the balls to call me up and apologize ... I shouldn't return his call? That seems extremely immature.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:26 PM on June 3, 2011


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