Monday, May 30, 2011

Debate over collisions at home

Posey's season ending injury
There has been much talk in the last week over collisions at home plate between catchers and baserunners. Buster Posey, a budding superstar and catcher for the World Series Champions, was run over at home plate by Florida's Scott Cousins. Posey suffered a leg fracture and torn ligaments that will cost him the rest of his season. The play was a hard hit but it was by no means a dirty play. Posey was the NL Rookie of the Year and a spark plug for a team that fought their way to a World Championship. The Giants are fighting for the top spot in the NL West but they will be forced to do it without the services of Mr. Posey.

In the days since this rough collision, the debate has come up about whether these hard take-outs at home should be allowed. The catching position can be one of the most important on the field. The Twins have spent millions of dollars on Joe Mauer to be their catcher over the next decade. Teams like San Francisco and Minnesota rely on the offense, defense, and control of the pitching staff that each of their stars provide. Each team will suffer in all of these areas with their stars not on the field.

The catcher position is the only one on the field that allows a player to wear various forms of protection on his chest, legs, and head. This protection does not stop catcher from getting blind-sided by a runner before he receives the ball. If a catcher is going to line-up in front of the plate and attempt a block, there is a good chance that a collision will occur. It is part of the game but should it still be part of the game?

These hard hits at the plate have been allowed in the game of baseball for decades. One of the most famous collisions occurred in the 1970 All-Star Game when Pete Rose bowled over Ray Fosse.  Fosse's left shoulder was injured on the play and he, at age 23, was never the same player again.  He was an All-Star at a very young age and had hit 16 HR in the first half of 1970. In the years after the collision, he would never hit more than 12 HR in a season. 
Fosse would never be the same after this run-in with Rose
What if Posey's career is never the same because of this collision? Will his name be mentioned in the same sentence as Fosse?

During this season, the Twins are seeing what life can be like without Joe Mauer in the middle of their line-up. What if a collision happens with Mauer after he regains his health and returns to the line-up? There would be an outcry from fans for a rule change to be made. Especially with the amount of money that the Twins have invested in their hometown star. 

I feel that the collisions at home-plate will continue to be part of the game. As a Twins fan, I remember how valuable a collision can be to the spirit of the team. At the end of July in 2004, Torii Hunter leveled White Sox catcher Jamie Burke on a play at the plate. The rivalry between these two clubs only increased from this point. The play also spirited the Twins for the rest of the season and pushed them to their third consecutive AL Central Division Championship.
Hunter's collision against the White Sox
Baseball is very tradition oriented when it comes to rules changes and it will take a lot more than one fluke play for these types of hard hits to be taken out of the game. If more catching stars continue to be injured, there will be an outcry from the fans for this rule to change. Policing a change to this rule could be a hard shift for some players. I doubt a major change will be happening in the near future. 

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