Home plate collisions were the talk of baseball clubhouses late last week, after the Giants' star catcher, Buster Posey, suffered a season-ending broken left leg due to a violent hit by Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins in the 12th inning of a game in San Francisco on May 25. The discussions centered on whether Posey had used proper plate-blocking technique and whether Cousins's hit was clean. Mick Billmeyer, the Phillies' catching guru, explained that he teaches his charges to set up behind the plate when receiving throws from rightfield—not in front of it, as Posey had done, lest they be similarly blindsided. The consensus was that while Cousins's actions weren't entirely sporting, they weren't exactly dirty. "I don't think he did anything illegal," said Posey.
Baseball traditionalists responded to cries for new rules (Posey suggested that runners be required to slide, should a lane present itself) by echoing the legal maxim that "hard cases make bad law"—that just because a star happened to be injured doesn't mean anything should change. While Posey's stature is exceptional, what happened to him isn't: Two days after Posey's injury a home plate collision sent Astros catcher Humberto Quintero to the 15-day disabled list with a sprained ankle. Baseball's rules committee should consider new regulations that might not only forbid base runners from leveling catchers but also forbid catchers from impeding a runner's path to the plate. The latter is something catchers are already, technically, prohibited from doing unless they have the ball—which, it must be pointed out, Posey and Quintero never did.
When two men, one running at full speed, one wearing body armor, are fighting over the same 216 square inches, injury is not completely preventable. But a rule change could make it more avoidable—not just for the Poseys of the world, but for the Quinteros and for base runners too.
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CLEAN BREAK Posey (28), whose broken left leg will put him out for the season, says Cousins's hit was not dirty.
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