Catcher Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants, the National League’s rookie of the year in 2010, suffered a season-ending leg fracture and torn ligaments in May of 2011 when Florida’s Scott Cousins barreled into him at home plate in the 12th inning of the Marlins-Giants game. This, along with many other injurious home plate collisions throughout baseball history have sparked a recurring debate about whether home plate collisions should be banned. This could be done by prohibiting the catcher from blocking the plate and by prohibiting the runner from making intentional contact with the catcher (basically the same rules that apply on every other base other than home plate). Purists have responded that home plate collisions have been around for too long and are too embedded in baseball’s history to change the rules now, while opponents argue that “tradition for tradition’s sake” type of arguments are flawed and that banning home plate collisions would do nothing to fundamentally change the game. The issue also surrounds whether fans should find entertainment value in hits at the plate and how such physical contact relates to other sports. These and other arguments and considerations are outlined below.
“The game has been around more than 100 years, and now they’re going to start protecting catchers?”
San Francisco Giants Manager Andy Skeels, a former catcher: “That’s the part of our business. You’re a catcher. There’s gonna be plays at the plate and guys are gonna try to run you over.”
“Rounding the bases, getting to home plate and putting a run on the board for your team is what the game of baseball is all about. A baserunner wants to get there at all costs, whereas a catcher wants to protect it at all costs. The mutual discomfort that’s evoked in both the catcher and the baserunner as a play at the plate develops is one of the intriguing peculiarities that makes the game of baseball so great.”
“Posey’s injury isn’t the first injury to result from a collision, and it likely won’t be the last. It’s extremely unfortunate, but it’s the result of a hard-nosed play that is as old as the game itself. To take away the potential for a high-intensity, physical play in an otherwise non-physical sport would be a mistake.
Just because it’s been around for a while does not make it right or necessarily worth preserving. Tradition for tradition’s sake arguments are almost always fallacious.
“One of the most common arguments I heard was that the play had been a part of the game since its inception, and it be allowed. Tradition can be an important thing. It’s traditional to have a Thanksgiving meal with my family, and that has its rewards—family time, seeing relatives, bigger and better meal. But what’s the traditional reward here? What do we get from having this tradition? Is it exciting to see a guy get run over, and is that worth seeing catchers hurt? […] doing something that’s always been done is a bad idea when there are better alternatives.”
“Contact isn’t an important part of the game like it is in football, and it isn’t necessary at the plate.”
“I was a catcher in high school, and I was trained how to block the plate while trying to keep myself alive. High School isn’t MLB, but I still found myself in a few situations where a significantly larger player was barreling towards me at full speed, and I realized that I had to stop being a baseball player and start being a gladiator. It was ridiculous to me then and is ridiculous to me now. Millar is right – if you want to watch violent collisions, you can watch football. Or hockey. Or MMA. There’s no reason baseball needs to have similar kinds of plays; it’s an entirely different sport with a different premise and different rules.”
“When they do occur, they’re exciting. We watch to see how well the catcher blocks the plate, how hard the runner slides, and whether the catcher can hold the ball. As dangerous as that play may be, it’s exciting to watch.”
Fosse told the San Francisco Chronicle. “In high school, you can’t run over the catcher. But that is high school. This is professional baseball.”
Why is it that people seem to enjoy aggressive hits at home plate? If they do, it’s probably for the wrong reasons. Individuals should probably not enjoy violence between individuals, hits, fights, etc. It’s a savage impulse that shouldn’t be honored by attaching some entertainment value to home plate collisions.
“Catchers are catchers because they are willing to be leaders and sacrifice their bodies. You never want to see the elite ones such as Joe Mauer and Buster Posey miss a lot of time because of injuries, but that’s the nature of the position.”
“No one likes to see people get hurt. No one. But guess what: it happens. People get hurt playing baseball all the time. Sometimes they get seriously hurt. It sucks. There’s no denying it. But that still doesn’t make it okay to go off and make drastic rule changes to the game, just because you and your worldwide leader in smut want blog traffic. Hate me ‘cuz it ain’t sugarcoated, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.”
They can swipe an incoming runner out just as effectively. If they choose to block the plate, than this is their choice, and they are inviting the home plate collision and the risks of injury this entails. In other words, catchers can protect themselves without a rule change.
“These days, though, hard, smash-mouth collisions at the plate are rare birds, close to extinction. The reason for this is the money involved as neither the runners nor the catchers are willing to crash into each other willy-nilly as perhaps they did in the past. There is too much on the line financially.”
“to demand action to be taken as the direct result of the injury is a knee-jerk response, and one that is completely unnecessary. While they come with risk, home-plate collisions are rare occurrences in baseball, and injuries resulting from them are even rarer.”
“Another argument is that Posey and all catchers understand the risk when they sign up to play catcher. It’s notoriously demanding behind the plate, and catchers know what they’re getting themselves into. It sounds good on the surface. Well, what do you think about factory workers? Back at the beginning of the century, they understood the risks of working in Industrial Revolution factories, but society still realized the conditions were too dangerous and changed the situation. Yes, they understand the risks, but that doesn’t mean they should be there to begin with. Yes, if I had the chance to make millions as a catcher, I would do it, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t prefer to do it without getting crushed at home plate.”
“I also saw this argument, but I don’t think it was common. Catchers have pads and can withstand being hit. Just in case you believe this, yes, catchers have pads, but they aren’t great. They’re only somewhat helpful against half-pound leather projectiles, but that’s usually one after the ball has hit the ground. They don’t work against 200+ pound athletes barreling into you. Pads don’t always work well enough in football, and catcher pads are much worse at protecting the human body.”
“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?”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy, a former catcher who had multiple head injuries in his playing days, called on Major League Baseball to explore ideas to protect players after the Buster Posey injury: “I think we do need to consider changing the rules here a little bit because the catcher is so vulnerable and there’s so many who have gotten hurt. And not just a little bit, had their careers ended or shortened.”