Cousins vs. Posey: Dirty play or not

The preliminary news is in on Buster Posey, and as we thought, it wasn’t good.

Posey has a broken bone in his lower leg. He underwent an MRI this morning to see if there is additional ligament damage. Until then, we won’t have a clear idea of how long Posey will be out. But Giants fans need to prepare themselves for news of a season-ending injury.

And while we await further news on Posey, the focus on Thursday morning focused on two points: Was the hit of the Marlins’ Scott Cousins on Posey a dirty play? Should there be some rule change to prevent future collisions and injuries at home plate.

We’ll tackle the first question first: Was it a dirty play?

The short answer is no. When Cousins decided to go and force a play at the plate, he knew that if Schierholtz’s throw was an accurate that he was going to be out unless he could dislodge the ball from Posey. Once he saw the ball come straight to Posey, Cousins made his line straight at Posey because he felt that was his best chance of scoring.

It’s a baseball play. It’s been an accepted play for a long while. All of the Giants players said as much. If any upset Giants fan thinks differently, just think back to another home plate collision involving the Marlins and Giants — the final play of the 2003 NL Divisional Series. Was J.T. Snow a dirty player when he crashed into Ivan Rodriguez? No, even though Snow was clearly going to be out, and his only hope was to plow Pudge.

The Giants' JT Snow collides with Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez on the final play of the 2003 NL Division Series.

That’s what Cousins was thinking, too. And here’s something interesting. When I was researching for this post, I found two photos of Scott Cousins sliding into home with the catcher in possession of the ball. He was out on both plays.

Cousins is hitting .158 this season for the Marlins, and he’s fighting to stay on the big league roster. In the situation, Cousins has to score, by any means available to him. So there’s no way he’s sliding home and getting tagged out.

Here’s what he had to say about the play:

The Marlins' Scott Cousins is tagged out at the plate by Braves catcher David Ross

“It’s a baseball play. It’s part of the risk of being a catcher. We’re trying to win the game also. I’m not going to concede the out by any means. I’m on this team to do the little things to help this team win and if that means going hard and forcing the issue because I have speed, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to concede an out.”

Cousins, who played college baseball at the University of San Francisco, said he left badly for Posey and left two messages for the Giants catcher. He also added that he didn’t sleep last night. Well, join the club.

We don’t fault Cousins for the play. We don’t think he’s a dirty player. He wasn’t trying to hurt Posey. He was trying to score.

Cousins is tagged out at home by the Rockies' Chris Iannetta

So that leads us to the second question: Should there be a rule change on plays at the plate?

I spent the morning looking over baseball rules. There’s a rule that states a catcher cannot block the plate if he is not in possesion of the ball. And there’s another rule that says a runner cannot intentionally come in contact with a thrown ball or cannot prevent a fielder from catching a thrown ball.

But apart from that, this play at the plate is sort of in a gray area.

As Mike Krukow said on Thursday’s pre-game show: “It’s anything goes (on a play at the plate) … and the catcher is at the mercy of the baseball gods.”

Peter Gammons tweeted Thursday about how Carlton Fisk changed his approach at plays at the plate after a collision in 1974, employing a sweep tag for the rest of his career.

The implication there is that Posey should not have been blocking the plate.

But he wasn’t.

Posey was out in front of the plate, but was caught by a short hop on Schierholtz’s throw, which caused him to back into the plate slightly. Still, there was a clear path between Cousins and the plate, and the collision occurred in front of the plate between the plate and the mound — not between the plate and third base.

That was the concern of manager Bruce Bochy, a former catcher. Should a runner be allowed to blow up a catcher who is not blocking the plate?

It’s a valid question, and it’s something Major League Baseball needs to look at.

It’s not about changing Major League Baseball into Little League Baseball. It’s about keeping baseball players on the field, and not on the trainer’s table.

1 Comment

The Snow-Pudge hit was the first thing after reading Sabean’s comments today.

I don’t recall Sabean’s fury that day.

Marlins fan in SF. (And yeah, if I wrote that sentence last June, the world would have yawned)

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