Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Necessary Danger?

I wanted to write about the Posey situation right after it happened, but I held back.  I held back because I didn't want to write a purely reactive piece.  I wanted to let it sink in and think about it rationally.  If I was going to say that baseball should make changes, I wanted it to be because I thought it was needed and not because I had just seen Posey get run over a thousand times on TV.  So I took some time to take a step back.  In that time, I've read opinions saying that baseball should get rid of home plate collisions and I've read opinions saying that it's just a part of the game.

The reasons for why they should take it out have been pretty compelling.  Grant Brisbee's article noted that "it's the only element of contact in a non-contact sport. It's like the NFL using Scrabble to decide games that are tied after regulation -- it's the exact opposite of how the rest of the game is played."  An article written by Dave Cameron noted, "Major League catchers already endure enough wear and tear on their bodies as is. They break down in their early thirties and have the shortest careers of any position on the field. Why should we also expect them to have to stand in and take hits that no other player on the field has to take? Why do they have to be football players when everyone else gets to play baseball?"  That Cameron article also included a hilariously ironic quote from Kevin Millar about the A-Rod interference play from 2004.

As compelling as those reasons are, the reasons for leaving collisions in persuade me just as much that they're not necessary.  Basically, because I've yet to really find any good ones.  Here are the reasons for why things should stay the same: Because "it's just a part of the game," the catchers wear protective gear, and because scoring a run is on the line.  "It's just a part of the game" is the dumbest reason there is.  That's not a reason.  It's just a statement.  An observation of how things are is not a justification for why they should stay that way.  The catcher wears protective gear?  Is that really a valid reason to use, when a catcher has had a season-ending injury - as the result of a collision - for the second year in a row?  It sure is protective....just not from serious injuries.  Now we come down to the issue of a run being on the line.  The problem with this reason is that, technically, a run isn't always on the line.  A collision can happen when the catcher has the ball or is fielding the ball.  If you're colliding with a guy who he hasn't even secured the ball yet, wouldn't you have most likely scored anyway?  And if you're colliding with a guy who has secured the ball, wouldn't you most likely be out anyway?  How many times has a guaranteed out been undone by a collision? 

The problem with collisions is that they can be done "in case".  Plays happen so fast that a runner is not always going to be sure whether or not a collision is necessary to score, so they could end up running over the catcher "in case" they were going to be out.  Should we really allow catchers to get run over, because the runner may have been out otherwise?  Or when they could be out anyways?  A runner should risk a lot of harm for the little chance that it may benefit his team?  Is it really necessary to subject a catcher to a collision, where an out could stay an out or a run could stay a run, for the small chance an out could become a run?

Frankly, it seems like most of the arguments for leaving things the same are more of a resistance to change than a resistance to the results that the change would actually have.  What would the adverse affect be, if no home plate collisions happened?  What would the game lose?  If catchers couldn't obstruct the path to the plate and the baserunner was mandated to slide into home (when there's a play at the plate), how different would things actually be?  And any change that would happen, would it really be so much so that it negates the benefit of not subjecting the catchers to unnecessary punishment?

Player safety should be more important than this idea that somehow baseball would lose something if home plate collisions never happened.  People should stop focusing on the idea that baseball would be changed and focus on how things would actually be different.  If they did, I think they'd realize that they're fighting for way less than they think they are.  How often is a player at risk of injury during a collision?  Always.  How often is a collision unequivocally necessary to score?  Hardly ever.  Why on earth are people supporting such a high risk, low reward play?

The rarity of success that a collision brings should not be more important than the widespread danger it entails.  Make baseball safe.  Throw collisions out.


  1. Your view is "tainted" by the fact the injury occurred to Posey. Here's THE correct take, imo!

  2. It's not cause it's Posey. It has to do with safety. I'm for the NFL eliminating hits to the head, but I've never had a player I like get injured. I wouldn't be against the elimination of pop warner football and just having kids play flag football, but I don't know any kids that play pop warner. I view the dangerous aspects of sports in a risk-reward manner, and I don't think the danger of collisions is worth it.

    The "it's because it happened to Posey" line is exactly the same as "it's just a part of the game." It's a deflection. It ignores the real issue: why are collisions necessary?

    The Scioscia article doesn't even give a defense for the play. It explains why it happened the way it did. "Players have very little time to react in those type of situations. It's mostly your instincts that take over, and you can't say, 'This guy was wrong,' or, 'That guy was to blame,' on plays like that." So not only is it a dangerous play, but it can be done without lucidity?

    How is that alone not conclusive that collisions should be eliminated? Having dangerous situations is one thing, but having them when they're potentially unnecessary (like the Posey one) is insane. A guy's season was ended on a play that was completely unnecessary. How is that defensible? Why should a guy be done for the year, because a guy couldn't accurately perceive that a slide would've won the game too?

    None of that matters as much as this fact: I've yet to be given a reason why collisions are necessary. EVERY "reason" I've read is a defense of the play, not a defense of the play existing. Not one person has said what it would cost baseball to remove that play. Not one person has said why forcing catchers to not block the plate, and baserunners to slide, would be detrimental.

    No one has given a reason for collisions to continue to exist, let alone a convincing one. The lack of a convincing reason (or any reason for that matter) for them existing is why I think they're unnecessary. Not because it happened to Posey.

  3. The "it's because it happened to Posey" line is exactly the same as "it's just a part of the game." It's a deflection. It ignores the real issue: why are collisions necessary?

    Funny, in all the years I have known you, I have never heard you discuss this topic UNTIL it was Posey that got hurt! If the play had been reversed, and Ross injured the Marlin's catcher scoring the winning run, this topic would never have come up.

  4. You've deflected again. What does it matter whether or not I've ever talked about it before? The issue is not why I'm asking the question. The issue is the actual question. You're avoiding answering: why are collisions necessary? Is trying to discredit my motives the only way you don't have to deal with the question at hand? If "you only care about Posey" is the best defense of collisions, you've proved my point.

  5. No, I'm not deflecting, and you have yet to answer my question. If the play had been reversed, and a Giant player had won the game crashing into the Marlin catcher, this issue would have never entered your mind. How do I know this? Because it has never been brought up before. If I'm not mistaken, a Giant's player crashed into a catcher last year and ended that player's career. What did I hear from Jared or rabid Giant's fans all over NorCal? Silence.

    As far as your insistence that I answer the "actual" question, Scioscia answered that in the article, several times! Here's his last statement:

    "It's just not feasible to change the rules. I can understand why the Giants are so upset. He's a great, young player and means a lot to their team. But you can't overreact to an injury caused by a clean baseball play. And that's what it was — a baseball play."

    IT WAS A CLEAN BASEBALL PLAY......that's why you don't change the rule. You want to "ban" anything that "might" cause a player to get hurt, and you can see this same attitude around us everyday in the world. One kid gets hurt/killed doing something, and moms gather together to get whatever the activity was banned from our world, after all, it might happen again.

    What's your solution to stop collisions at the plate? After you answer, we can dissect whether or not it's even feasible.

  6. You don't know how I would've felt if the Giants ran over the Marlins catcher. I've never talked about helmet-to-helmet hits before. But if you asked me today, I absolutely think they should be illegal. I have no fondness for Mohamed Massoquoi, but the hit he received from James Harrison should be enough for any fan to realize the rules need to change.

    I don't recall the player whose career was ended, but that should help the case even more. A guy had his career ended and two guy's have had their seasons ended in the last 2 years, and you say they "might" get injured? This isn't one kid falling off a slide and trying to ban all slides. If kids were consistently getting hurt during one particular activity, OF COURSE THEY SHOULD BAN IT!

    "It's just not feasible to change the rules"? WHY? It's an empty claim with absolutely no defense. If it's not feasible, why is it so hard to explain why? Why didn't someone explain why it's not feasible on day one? Why has no one yet to say WHY changing the rules is not feasible?

    I mentioned my solution in the original post and again in the first comment. Why can't they change the rules to not allow catchers to block the plate and baserunners have to slide?

  7. Not one person has said why forcing catchers to not block the plate, and baserunners to slide, would be detrimental.

    For several reasons. First, you would be making an *exception* at home that is made at no other base. Currently, a runner can slide or not slide at every base, yet you want to make it mandatory that runners slide at home? Is this always, or only if it's a *close* play?

    Second, players can *already* block every base, provided they are holding the see this happen in virtually every game.

    Third, you want to make something happen (safety) that is simply not possible. This is what I mentioned in my last comment, what Adam Carolla calls the "pussification" of America. Baseball is a rough sport, get over it!

    Finally, if catchers were being knocked out of the game the way that NFL quarterbacks were, I might support some type of rule change, but since that has *never* been the case, there is no justification for changing the rule. Baseball is a sport of "tradition," and the rules should seldom be changed!

  8. If kids were consistently getting hurt during one particular activity, OF COURSE THEY SHOULD BAN IT!

    Do you wish to include driving, the number one killer of teens?

  9. By the way, do you know why Darren Ford is on IR?

  10. It would be an exception to what is already practically an exception. No one's getting tackled at any other base. You'd be making a rule only for home for a play that only happens at home. Obviously the rule would only be for plays at the plate. If a guy's crossing the plate when the ball's in the outfield, collisions don't happen then anyway. Most of the time, guy's already slide into home when there's a play at the plate. You're just eliminating the time they purposely go in high.

    The difference with blocking other bases is that the fielders aren't run over. Would you be fine with baserunners knocking over all fielders or swiping at their gloves to knock the ball out? Here's a quote from Cameron article I mentioned in my original post:

    "At no other position is a runner entitled to simply run over the defender hoping to dislodge the baseball before returning to touch the base safely. When Alex Rodriguez tried to swat the ball out of Bronson Arroyo‘s glove in 2004 – with his hand, offering no chance at bodily harm to Arroyo – he was roundly mocked and called out for interference. After the game, Kevin Millar said this:

    'If you want to play football, strap on some pads and go play for the Green Bay Packers.'

    There was very little violence in Rodriguez’s actions, but because he initiated contact to try and dislodge the ball, it was considered a football-like move. Meanwhile, Cousins literally threw his entire body weight into Posey at home plate, breaking his leg in the process, but that’s okay because he was wearing a chest protector?"

    How is A-Rod swiping at Arroyo's glove seen as a football play? The irony of that quote is off the charts. Baseball's a rough sport...but please don't swing your hand at my glove! Give me a break! Swiping at a glove is too aggressive, but running over the catcher isn't?

    As for the "pussification" of sports, what a stunted view. First, it ignores the fact that players are bigger, stronger, and faster. More importantly, it completely ignores a little thing known as 'enlightenment'. You know what Terry Bradshaw got from being tough? Memory problems. Quote from Tony Dungy's book:

    "Sixty-five percent of NFL players leave the game with permanent injuries."

    Trying to do as much as possible to decrease the likelihood of that happening is "pussification"? If so, then I'm all for it.

    Your point about baseball being a sport of tradition is exactly what I think this whole discussion is really about. The safety of the players is irrelevant. All that matters is that the sport we love never changes. That's exactly why I continued to ask "what would be so bad if it changed". It has nothing to do with whether or not it's feasible. It has nothing to do with whether or not the change would even be significant. It's only about the fact that it would technically be different. And we just can't have that!

  11. As for the teen driving comment, I wouldn't be against some type of rule changes. Whether it be an increase in the driving age or something like a license suspension for any speeding ticket over 10 mph.

    And the Darren Ford comment is apples and oranges. That would be like banning running because someone pulled a hamstring. Not even the same thing.

  12. As the rules NOW stand in baseball, ANY player can block ANY base, provided they are in possession of the ball. You want to make an exception at home plate, so a logical question is why make an exception for one base? Would you like to make an exception at second base to protect players from being taking out on a close play? If not, why not? If so, why stop there? Maybe we can keep players safe if we ban them from running into each other, or the outfield fence? And now that I think about it, many fans are injured by foul balls, maybe we should ban them, or at least put a protective shield around the park? Actually, I saw a kid was killed the other day playing baseball when he got hit in the chest while trying to bunt. Hey, chest protectors for ALL players!

    You keep comparing what happens to football players and baseball players, to use your favorite saying, that’s an “apples and oranges” comparison. You have yet to show me the “necessity” for changing the rule at home plate, and I have yet to hear a detailed answer on how a new rule might take shape. I say no rule is feasible because if you do something to protect the catcher it will do nothing to protect the runner, who would then be the most vulnerable. A play at the plate *is* a different play and one of the most exciting in baseball. You want to change that, and for what reason? Do we have an epidemic of catchers getting hurt? No, we only have one of *your* favorite players being hurt, which is fueling the whole controversy among Giant’s fans. That play was a “freak” injury, and your goal is to wipe out injuries. It’s not possible, and it’s the “wimpization” of sports and of AMERICA! Get over it!

  13. Why make an exception for one base? Because it's the ONLY base where collisions happen. And actually, they already make an exception at second base by not forcing guys to touch the bag on double plays.

    Why stop there? What kind of logic is that? Taking out collisions is going to lead to endless rule changes? It's not a drug. It's not like you can't stop doing it.

    The necessity for changing the rule is because guys have been seriously injured. Two guys have had their seasons ended in the last two years. Not missed games. Seasons ended. How is that worth it?

    How is the rule not feasible? Catchers don't block the plate. Runners slide. Who's vulnerable there? No one. And no, that wouldn't be less exciting. Was Huff's game-tying run not exciting, because he slid? No. It wouldn't have been more exciting if he had barreled into the catcher. When Ichiro or Schierholtz throw a runner out at third, is that not exciting because a collision doesn't happen? Of course not! Collision does not equal excitement. Close plays equal excitement.

    My goal isn't to wipe out injuries. It's to wipe out one very specific type of play that has a very high risk of injury, and a risk of serious injury at that. If catchers didn't block the plate and runners slid: there would still be close plays that are exciting, the players would be safer, and no it wouldn't lead to more rule changes.

  14. Why make an exception for one base? Because it's the ONLY base where collisions happen. And actually, they already make an exception at second base by not forcing guys to touch the bag on double plays.

    This is not true. Collisions happen at all bases, and it’s also not true that all umpires allow a player to “miss” second base. Shortstops and second baseman are crashed into at second on a daily basis. Collisions frequently happen at first as well.

    The necessity for changing the rule is because guys have been seriously injured. Two guys have had their seasons ended in the last two years. Not missed games. Seasons ended. How is that worth it?

    Players are hurt at EVERY position, you want a special *exemption* for home, I don’t.

    How is the rule not feasible? Catchers don't block the plate. Runners slide.

    Players are hurt sliding into bases all the times. Their hands get stepped on, their cleats catch the base, they jar their body every time they hit the ground. On and on it goes. What constitutes blocking the plate? You think an umpire can make a judgment at high speed on whether or not the catcher is blocking the base? Even people that *think* something needs to be done, realize that no rule would be enforceable in this regard.

  15. Are you really comparing the types of collisions that happen at other bases to the collisions that happen at home? Running into someone is not the same thing as trying to hit someone as hard as possible. When was the last time a collision at another base ended someone's season?

    You keep twisting the removal of collisions to mean "eliminate all injuries." You can't do that. It's impossible. But you can exempt one guy purposely charging a player at full speed, with the intention to drill him as hard as possible. THAT does NOT happen at every base.

    Yes, umpires should be able to judge if a catcher is blocking the plate. They're already supposed to be able to judge that, under the obstruction rule. You just eliminate "unless he's fielding the ball." Which actually makes the rule less ambiguous.

  16. Here’s the bottom line. There is zero need to change the rule unless you can prove (through stats) that catchers are getting hurt at far higher numbers (say 20-30%) than players from other positions. I don’t think you will be able to show that, hence until you do, keep your mitts off the rulebook!

  17. First off, there doesn't appear to be any tracking of injury statistics by position. And if there was, you wouldn't just do a position by position comparison. The issue isn't about how often catchers get injured. It's how often they get injured by collisions.

    While looking for statistics, I did happen to find some other catchers injured from collisions. Bobby Wilson received a concussion and an injured ankle, Brett Hayes separated his shoulder, and Humberto Quintero sprained his ankle. That is all from this year and last year, to go along with Posey and Santana having their seasons ended.

    The bottom line is actually this: you're supporting a very high risk play that, majority of the time, is completely unnecessary. You support guys getting seriously injured on plays that literally did not affect the outcome of the game. You support a serious injury on a play where an out can stay an out and a run can stay a run, for the chance that an out could become a run.

    Why is it necessary to keep a play where the probability of injury is greater than the probability of necessity? Three scenarios a player can get seriously injured. Only one scenario does it actually matter. How is that worth it?

  18. I don't want to keep going around and around on this, but again, here's the bottom line. If the percentage of catchers getting hurt (NO MATTER THE REASON) is no higher, or only slightly higher, than any other position, than your argument falls completely apart, and the discussion is over!

    Think of it like this.....injuries end the vast majority of player's careers, i.e. very few players careers end due to "natural" causes. This ending can and does occur from elementary school age, up to the late 30s early 40s. There is no way to protect any player from being injured no matter the sport or the position....and this is why your desire to change the rule book is out-of-line, and totally unnecessary.

  19. How does my argument fall apart, when you're the one who equates twisting an ankle or pulling a muscle to being a sitting duck for a full-speed collision? That's not even logical! Everyone gets hurt, so let guys take vicious hits? As long as the purposeful injuries don't outnumber the accidental ones, there's no problem? Because there's things we can't control, let's not even try to control the things that we can? That's insane!

    "Injuries happen" is the lamest reason for allowing full-speed collisions. Outfielders happen to run into each other. Outfielders happen to run into the wall. Fielders happen to get hit by the ball. You can't stop those from happening. But you can stop condoning and encouraging to players to PURPOSELY collide.

    Injuries just happen. Home plate collisions don't just happen. Rationalizing purposeful danger with accidental danger is illogical and foolish.

  20. Just because collisions happen at the plate is no reason to change the rules, until or unless you can show that catcher are being hurt at higher rates than players at other positions. Since you can't, this case is closed and the current rules stand. Period.

  21. Again, all injuries are not equal. You can't rationalize purposeful danger with accidental danger. And you can't pretend that severity doesn't matter. Sandoval being injured does not mean it's ok Posey got injured. Zito being out for a couple months doesn't mean it's ok that Posey's out for the year. The situations are not the same, just because both guys are injured.

    If the rule forces you to rationalize purposeful danger with accidental danger, and severe injuries with minor injuries, then it's a an indefensible rule that has no business remaining.

  22. This is my last comment, because frankly you don't have a leg to stand on except your desire to *try* and protect players. This is NO reason to change the rules, because if this was the reason to change rules then I submit that we need to have pitcher pitch under-hand, since this would prolong the life of pitchers to a great degree.

    When the NFL changed the rule to protect QBs, it was because so many starting QB's were being injured. If no injuries were occurring, the NFL would never have changed the rules. Such is the case in MLB, since there is NOT an epidemic of catchers being hurt, there is NO reason to change the rules.

    My suggestion to you is to work to end ALL football games because studies show that many players' brains are being turned to mush, so there is no way an "injury focused person" could support such a thing.

  23. "Try"? Not allowing collisions WOULD protect players. That's an indisputable fact. I have no leg to stand on? Have players been injured from collisions? Yes. Would a rule change prevent that? Yes. Would the new rule be enforceable? Yes (and my new rule is less ambiguous than the current one). Would that new rule discernibly alter the game? No.

    Would pitching underhand discernibly alter the game? Yes. Is the ratio of a pitcher injury per throw higher or equal to the ratio of a catcher injury to collision? Absolutely not.

    You keep coming up with all these dramatic scenarios. I've said: don't allow blocking the plate. Easier for umpires to judge. No serious injuries. Altering the game would be minimal, at best.

    You've said: if you change that rule, you have to put up plexiglass all around the stadium, the pitchers have to throw underhand, and all these crazy scenarios. You keep comparing incidental injuries to avoidable injuries and saying if you change one thing you have to change all these other areas. My stance is clear and consistent. Your rebuttal is all over the map with all these "sky is falling" implications of a rule change, and I'm the one without a leg to stand on?

    As for NFL rule changes, the NFL did change the rules without tons of injury occurrences. No hits below the waist is only because of Brady's knee injury. ONE quarterback got hurt and they changed the rules.

    As for "ending ALL football games"...First of all, I'm not working to end baseball, so that's not exactly the same. Baseball getting rid of collisions is absolutely nothing like football injuries. Hits in football are integral to the game. Collisions are not integral to baseball. Eliminating collisions doesn't put an end to baseball. Eliminating collisions in football would end the game altogether.

    Secondly, if football can not reduce damage to football players (ie more advanced helmets, stricter rules on hitting, strict healthcare for football players monitoring every single head injury) and brain damage was unavoidable, I would not support football. Nice attempt to trap me in a contradiction.