By now you’ve seen the replay several times.
Florida Marlins rookie Scott Cousins tags up on a shallow fly ball to right-center field in the 12th inning of a 6-6 game against the San Francisco Giants. He races home as hard as he can, hoping to give his team the lead as it fights to stay near the top of the standings in the NL East. San Francisco catcher Buster Posey awaits the throw. The ball arrives at the same time as Cousins, resulting in a mighty collision and a season-ending injury for Posey.
It was ugly. It was unfortunate. But it was also a part of baseball.
Someone might want to remind San Francisco General Manager Brian Sabean of that fact after he came out this week criticizing Cousins for nothing more than playing the game hard and playing it clean.
“If I never hear from Cousins again or he never plays another day in the big leagues, I think we’ll all be happy,” Sabean told the Giants’ flagship radio station. “[Cousins] chose to be a hero in my mind, and if that’s his flash of fame, then that’s as good as it’s gonna get, pal. We’ll have a long memory. We’ve talked to [former catcher Mike] Matheny on how this game works. You can’t be that out-and-out overly aggressive; let’s put it that way. I’ll put it as politically as I can state it. There is no love lost, and there shouldn’t be.”
Listen, I understand Sabean being upset. Posey is one of the finest young players in the game, having already won a World Series title and rookie of the year award. And he provided the offensively challenged Giants with an adequate bat from the catcher’s position, hitting .284 with four home runs and 21 RBI this year. But if you look at the replay closely, there was nothing dirty about the play.
Posey suffered injuries to his lower left leg and ankle when his body bent awkwardly at impact. Cousins hit Posey high, never intending to do long-term damage. He feels as bad about the injury as anyone, and now there’s word that Cousins is receiving death threats. That’s sadder than the injury itself.
The Posey injury has even spurred talk of possible rule changes within the game. Please. Home-plate collisions are nothing new in baseball. Angels Manager Mike Scioscia made a living protecting the plate as a longtime catcher for the Dodgers. Members of the 1979 Pirates said it was “easier to score by running through a brick wall than running through Ed Ott.”
What’s more, there’s nothing set in stone saying catchers must block the plate, and often times they can be just as effective should they choose not to make themselves a human roadblock. After Carlton Fisk suffered a devastating knee injury following a collision with Cleveland’s Leron Lee in 1974, he worked his way back the following season and developed the swipe tag, where he would field a throw out in front of the plate and swing back the glove in an effort to prolong his career. He wound up playing 24 seasons and now has a plaque in Cooperstown.
Something for Sabean — and Posey — to think about.