Rules changes unlikely but Giants must scramble to replace Posey
San Francisco catcher Buster Posey broke his leg in a home plate collision
Giants manager Bruce Bochy and Posey's agent both called for a rules change
The Giants may need to get a catcher like Ivan Rodriguez or Bengie Molina
It's always been a misnomer to call baserunner-catcher contact at the plate a collision. A collision occurs when both parties are moving. The catcher is often just waiting, helplessly. If he is moving at all, it's often imperceptibly. Until he is hit, that is.
Home plate collisions are, more accurately, crashes. Or in some severe cases, even wrecks.
We had one of those horrible wrecks Wednesday night in San Francisco, when Marlins baserunner Scott Cousins plowed into Giants star catcher Buster Posey, badly injuring Posey.
It is understandable that Posey's manager Bruce Bochy has now called for possible rules changes in the aftermath of the wreck that ended with Posey suffering a fracture in his left leg just above the ankle and strained ankle ligaments that the Giants trainer called "severe.''
Posey is one of baseball's best young players, and probably as vital a position player to any team as there is, and while the Giants weren't ruling out a return this season, that seems like a probability in this case. Posey's teammate Pablo Sandoval sadly and sympathetically tweeted that Posey would miss the season, but after Giants officials suggested a return was still possible, Sandoval, again writing under @Pandoval48, withdrew that assessment.
Understandably, Giants people were emotional about the terrible loss, and Bochy, a former catcher, called for MLB to do something.
"I think this probably needs to be addressed. The catcher is so vulnerable,'' Bochy told San Francisco station KNBR Thursday about the same time the extent of Posey's injury was being revealed.
"I just think something should be done here because now you've probably lost the player for a while.'' Meanwhile, Posey's agent, Jeff Berry, told ESPN he was bringing up the situation with MLB.
The frustration of Bochy and Berry is understandable, but there seems to be zero momentum in baseball to change the rules to protect the catcher. Joe Torre, now a top baseball executive and a himself former star catcher, would be baseball's point man on this issue and the other MLB exec charged with rules suggestions is Joe Garagiola Jr. whose father, Joe, was a big league catcher for his entire nine-year career. But while Torre may feel empathy for his fellow catchers, an overwhelming majority of people around the game doubt any rules change will occur. It's easy to feel sympathy for Posey, but baseball isn't about to alter its rules.
"No, I don't think that will happen,'' one competing GM said. "This game has a lot of uncontrollable events.''
Other GMs agreed, but at least one suggested a minor modification. The Yankees' Francisco Cervelli suffered a broken wrist in a home plate incident with Rays prospect Elliot Johnson in spring training three years ago and New York GM Brian Cashman said, "I think they need to institue a rule only for spring training that catchers can't be touched. In season, everything is open."
There have been a handful of very memorable wrecks at the plate in recent years. Just last year top young catcher Carlos Santana suffered a season-ending knee injury in a similar situation. But MLB doesn't seem inclined to legislate a play that's been a part of the game forever over one or two or even a few bad mishaps.
"You can't change baseball rules. It's part of the game,'' one other executive said. "To adjust the rules would alter the game and how it is played.''
The best answer seems to be to try to avoid such wrecks, as Yankees star Jorge Posada has done throughout his major league career since suffering a bad injury in the minors. Then there is that rare tough guy who seems to thrive on these hits, such as former Dodgers catcher and now Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who took several hits and was barely dented. But that is a rare player indeed. The best idea may be avoidance.
Scioscia, who is also on Torre's committee, told the Los Angeles Times he doesn't expect any rules changes. "When something like this happens it is unfortunate, but I don't know if there's enough there to rewrite the rulebook," Scioscia said. "There's definitely a code that's alive in baseball of what is acceptable. You're trying to score a run and the catcher is trying to stop you from scoring a run. I think it's obvious when someone does something that's not necessary. Ninety-nine percent of the time it's the adrenaline of a runner understanding he has the opportunity to score a run and the adrenaline of a catcher understanding he can stop a run that leads to these."
Meanwhile, the first order of business for the Giants is to figure out how to replace an irreplaceable player. Posey is invaluable on both sides of the ball, which he showed in leading the team to its surprise World Series title as a rookie last year. They will try backup Eli Whiteside, a career second teamer, and have called up Chris Stewart, who's spent the vast majority of his career in the minors and is, according to one exec, a "solid average catch and throw guy."
The Giants recalled rookie first baseman/outfielder Brandon Belt, who's considered one of baseball's best prospects, to help replace Posey's offense. But unless they can acquire a catcher, they shouldn't expect much from that position offensively. And even if they do, they can't get anyone like Posey.
Catchers who could become available include Ivan Rodriguez of the Nationals, Chris Snyder and Ryan Doumit of the Pirates and perhaps Matt Treanor of the Royals once Jason Kendall returns. Of that group, the 39-year-old Rodriguez would provide the closest to what the Giants seek. I-Rod recently told SI he wanted to play three more years after this one. While he isn't the hitter he once was, he still employs a canon of an arm and he gunned down five of the first 12 would-be basestealers this year.
There was no evidence the Giants were making a quick move to bring back Bengie Molina, who would surely take several weeks to ready himself. One option some raised is whether the Giants might try moving Sandoval back to catcher once he returns from his own injury in a few weeks. But word is, when he returns, he will be back at third base. Meanwhile, he is relegated to tweeting sweetly about his fallen teammate.
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