It's part of the game as most baseball people would agree. But just as the NFL is cracking down on quarterbacks getting so-much-as-a-slap on the helmet by any
Steelers defensive player, we watch a budding superstar develop before us in Buster Posey and watch his season go down the drain on a controversial play by Florida Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins. It's not that the play was particularly dirty, but it wasn't necessary and it should have been avoided.
The replay has been shown a thousand times from every direction imaginable for the last two days. Cousins had an opportunity at a clear path to the plate, but would have been taking the risk at giving Posey a clean shot at handling the ball and swipe-tagging Cousins before he reached the plate. The problem with this play is that Posey did exactly what catchers are taught to do when receiving a throw from the outfield. They are taught to stand in front of the plate and swipe their back leg in front of the plate to block-it as they receive the ball. If the runner takes a hard slide into the catchers legs like they are normally taught to do, the leg sweeps under and the catcher falls down. This is textbook baseball.
The problem in this scenario is that the game was in extra innings and the run was the potential game-winner and Cousins did not want to take any chances. He made a hard-nosed baseball play that had a negative result for the players involved. It's been well-documented that Cousins wasn't maliciously going after Posey.
"The last thing I wanted to do was break a guy's leg," said Cousins after the game.
But that's exactly what happened. Posey has a fractured fibula that will most likely require surgery. You'll be hard-pressed to find a baseball player or coach out there right now that wouldn't want Cousins-type attitude to the game from the guys they play and coach with everyday. Even San Francisco's manager Bruce Bochy, a former catcher, was very careful about the way he talked about the play and the result that came from it (via mlb.com):
"It's part of baseball," said Bochy, a former catcher. "I understand that guys run into catchers. I do think we need to consider changing the rules here a little bit because catchers are so vulnerable. ...
The only person that has so far come out and adamantly spoke out against Scott Cousins personally is Posey's agent, Jeff Berry. It makes sense that his agent would be a little perturbed based on the injury that his client suffered. But nothing that Cousins did was against any current rule in baseball. And that's exactly what Berry is trying to have changed based on this incident.
Berry has reached out to Joe Torre, who is now the leader of on-field operations for Major League Baseball, and asked that the rules be changed in regards to plays at the plate. The main complaint is that catchers are left too exposed within the current rules.
In an ESPN poll, 64% of fans said that the play was clean, and not dirty. Everyone has seen the replays and they all have seen that there could have been a chance for Cousins to go around the plate and try to score another way by avoiding any contact with the catcher. But just like the football players having to avoid touching the quarterback, or getting 5 feet near an elite one, they would be taking away part of the game that Posey's own manager and fans have agreed 'is part of baseball'. Injuries happen and it may be sad to say but if this had happened to a lesser-known major league player would it be getting this kind of attention?
Major League Baseball could be walking down a slippery slope if they start tailoring rules to the leagues superstars and finding ways to protect them while taking away a part of the game, albeit not a big one, but a part of the game nonetheless.
It's possible that Cousins could have made a similar strong-baseball play by sliding at the catchers legs as most high school and college players are taught, maybe this injury could have been avoided. It's easy to say now that Cousins should have made another play because of what's happened, but the bottom line is that his intent was not to injure, it was to score the go-ahead run in an extra-inning game and he did that. So before baseball goes all-NFL and makes it rain with hefty fines let's take a deep breath and get some perspective. Players play hard and players get injured. If there was no intent to injure, the only intent was playing hard and there is nothing wrong with that. Despite what the outcome may be.