MLB – VIOLENCE IN BASEBALL; SUGGESTED RULE CHANGES
When Buster Posey won the NL MVP this year, it reminded me of the debate regarding collisions with catchers at home plate.
I thought back to the horrific scene on May 25, 2011 when in the 12th inning, Posey was violently rammed into by opposing player Scott Cousins who was running from third to home. Rather than avoid a slide on the open part of the plate, Cousins decided to barrel into Posey as he waited for the ball from right field to help his chances of scoring. In the end, Cousins was safe and scored the game winning run, but Posey was left with a broken bone in his lower left leg, torn ligaments in his left ankle and was out for the remainder of the season. This is probably the most publicized and well known collision in the history of the MLB, because it affected the Giants 2011 chances of repeating a World Series win.
To me, the solution to help avoid collisions at home plate is easy. I propose either a rule change to avoid them from happening in the first place, or a rule addition to help thwart off violence from occurring in the sport altogether.
First, the rule change I propose is to treat home plate outs like force plays. Essentially, if the ball beats out the runner at home plate and the catcher (or other player catching the ball) is touching home plate, the runner is considered out, even if the ball becomes dislodged from the glove.
Isn’t it true that players ram into catchers on a play like Posey’s, because they know that if they can knock the ball out of the glove, they will become safe? If you remove this issue altogether, this would help to thwart off runners from running full tilt into the catchers. For example, Cousins had a choice on May 25, 2011 and it was driven by the fact that the ball was in the air and heading towards home plate. He could have slid and tried to beat the ball out, but he knew that he had a better chance to score if he tried to push Posey out of the way so that he would not catch the ball, or if Posey had caught it, he could use force to dislodge it.
Another suggestion is to put in place some kind of personal foul penalty similar to the NFL’s.
For example, if any player on either team shows intentional danger to another player via direct contact, that player would automatically be called out and subject to fines and additional penalties as the MLB could assess later. Take the May 25, 2011 game. Cousins had the opportunity to slide as mentioned before, but instead he decided to ram into Posey at full speed while Posey was defenseless. Cousins probably didn’t know he would hurt Posey so badly, but his intentions were clear: to knock Posey down to the ground to help his chance of scoring, which he admitted. Cousins said, “I got to do whatever I can to score… I’m not trying to end anybody’s season or anything like that. I just was trying to play hard and score the go-ahead run.”
Therein, lies the magic word. Cousins said, “I just was trying to play hard.” Well, how hard a player plays in the MLB is what this issue is about. If the MLB instills the personal foul penalty, it may be difficult and controversial for umpires to assess how hard the player was playing. BUT, if dangerous direct contact between players was deemed intentional, it should be called a personal foul and the player is automatically called out. Further, I would propose that this rule could be challengeable during the game by the folks upstairs.
Also, this particular penalty rule would help to encompass the dangerous slides occurring at second base during double plays.
We’ve all too often witnessed second baseman being taken out by a runner who tries to give their teammates a chance at being safe at first. But, if a second base slider intentionally tries to make dangerous contact with the second baseman in order to help himself become safe or his teammate, he should be assessed a personal foul and he and his teammate be called out.
In the end, this issue really isn’t a debate anymore. A rule change must happen and pronto.
Similar to the NFL, MLB players are bigger and stronger than they ever were. The NFL recognizes this and is proactively trying to help protect players against violence. Unfortunately the MLB remains silent on this front.
What will it take? What if Posey’s career had ended and he didn’t recover? Would something have been done then?
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