It’s Time to End Home Plate Collisions

I’m not the first person to say this today, and I’m sure I won’t be the last, but it’s hard to watch the collision at home plate last night that broke Buster Posey’s leg and think anything besides “that should not be part of baseball.”

Let’s set aside blame for a second; I’m not here to vilify Scott Cousins, the player’s association, or the rules committee. Cousins did what he’s been trained to do, he did it because it’s a legal play by the rulebook, and he was trying to help his team win a baseball game. However, I just don’t see any reason why that play should be allowed in the sport.

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?

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. Well, at every base but home anyways.

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?

It’s in the best interest of the sport to keep the likes of Buster Posey and Carlos Santana healthy and on the field. It’s not good for anyone that these guys end up on the disabled list because they were trying to hold their ground. Just change the rules and make intentional contact with a catcher illegal, and make it illegal for catcher’s to impede the baserunner’s ability to run directly towards home plate. It’s a simple fix to a real problem, and there’s no reason why we should continue to delay making this change.

Buster Posey should be the last catcher in baseball history to suffer an injury on that kind of play. L

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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12 years ago

exactly this.

slow clap.

12 years ago
Reply to  ian

Agree 100%. This is not football. The catcher will also have to leave part of the plate uncovered.

tim blumenstock
12 years ago
Reply to  ian

thank you sir, this type of violent collision is not necessary or desired in the game of baseball. I pretty much guarantee you it never happened until Pete Rose did it in the 1970 all-star game. A good hard slide or evasive action is what can and should be allowed, not this!