Posey-Cousins collision part of baseball
Let's get one thing out of the way at the top: Buster Posey's crushing injury wasn't Scott Cousins' fault.
It's tough to rationalize that now -- especially as a Giants fan -- when all that's cycling through your head is images of one of baseball's brightest young stars banging the infield dirt while rolling in agonizing pain after a scary home-plate collision. Wednesday's encounter between the two resulted in torn ligaments in Posey's left ankle which probably will require surgery, along with a broken bone in his lower left leg, and there's a good chance it'll finish the season of the reigning National League Rookie of the Year.
Difficult as it may be, though, don't blame Cousins. Because all the Marlins' outfielder did upon scoring the winning run in the 12th inning at AT&T Park was play within the confines of a rule that lends itself to a long-standing baseball motto -- score at all costs.
Whether or not you believe that rule should continue to exist is a separate issue.
We never really think about it until situations like these arise, but home plate is the only place on the diamond that's essentially no holds barred with regards to breaking up an out. It has been like that since the dawn of the game, and players have always accepted it.
Mike Scioscia knows about it better than anybody. The Angels' manager spent 13 seasons as a catcher with the Dodgers and built a reputation for being one of the best at taking blows at the plate.
All fair game, he believes. And he's hardly alone.
"There's a code that's alive in baseball that it's acceptable if you're trying to score a run and the catcher is trying to stop you from scoring," Scioscia said. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, it's the adrenaline of the runner understanding he's trying to score the run and the catcher trying to stop him. I don't know if there's enough to rewrite the rulebook."
But apparently, Posey's agent, Jeff Berry, is holding out hope.
According to ESPN.com, Berry has already been in touch with Major League Baseball and its Players Association about changing the long-standing rule at home plate, where runners barrel into catchers in hopes of scoring those oh-so-precious runs.
Berry said that with the current rule, "You leave players way too vulnerable."
Mike Stanley disagrees.
"That's part of the game," said Stanley, the former All-Star and longtime Major League catcher. "You know that as a catcher. When that situation arises, you as a catcher know you have a chance of getting smoked. You just have to be ready."
Catchers perhaps understand the harsh reality as much as anybody. In fact, when Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge was behind the plate early in his pro career, his first three collisions came courtesy of fellow backstops -- one of which left him with a dislocated shoulder.
He doesn't think the rule will go away, or should.
"You're going to change the rules of a game that's had a tradition of a hundred and some years?" Inge asked rhetorically. "Give me a break on that. That's ridiculous. Here's the deal: A lot of guys nowadays, when they're playing, don't take responsibility for their own actions. You're a catcher. You already know coming into it that you could get run over, so you take the precautions."
Early on, Inge learned that in order to better avoid the gruesome injury Posey sustained he had to keep his front foot and leg lined up parallel to the third-base line prior to receiving a throw on a close play at the plate.
Posey, however, caught the throw with his left knee on the ground, and then had both knees pinned down as the collision occurred.
Tigers catcher Alex Avila offered the following: "There's ways that we're taught how to not only be able to block the plate, but keep ourselves from being injured. Or if a guy was running in and we had time to brace ourselves or kind of maneuver around that while applying the tag. But sometimes, in the heat of the game, that just goes out the window. That's the time where you're either lucky or unlucky."
Today, we're all unlucky.
Nobody wants to see setbacks like these occur, especially to a player this special and on a team he's so important to.
But today, Posey is one of many who have suffered a debilitating injury throughout the game's history of home-plate collisions. Like last August, when the Indians' Carlos Santana was forced to undergo season-ending knee surgery after an encounter with the Red Sox's Ryan Kalish. Or back in 1970, when Pete Rose infamously obliterated Ray Fosse to win an All-Star Game.
Despite that, you'd be hard-pressed to find members within the game who feel the rules should change.
"What do you want to do? Do you want to make guys wear tennis shoes?" Red Sox manager Terry Francona scoffed. "This is Major League Baseball. Sometimes you have to break up a double play. Sometimes you have to try to score. Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt, but you have to play the game."
Cousins' tag-up from third base came on a shallow fly ball to right fielder Nate Schierholtz, who possesses one of the strongest throwing arms in baseball. But because it occurred during a tie game, in extra innings, Cousins had to take the risk and try to score.
After the play, Cousins checked on Posey, and upon hearing the prognosis the following day, he was rather distraught. But he didn't regret his decision or his action.
"It's a baseball play," Cousins said the night of the collision. "That's part of the risk of being a catcher. We're trying to win games also. I'm not going to concede the out. Not in that situation. Not ever."
But should MLB concede a rule change?
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. Several MLB.com reporters contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.