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.
• David Einhorn's $200-million deal to become a limited partner with the Mets is expected to give him about 30 percent of the team once all the final details are negotiated, say people familiar with the deal. Einhorn is also expected to receive some say in the major decisions of the team (though not control -- i.e., the final call) and also importantly, he will hold the option to buy the team should the Wilpons' money issues cost them the team. All the bidders were insisting on the first right to buy the team should the Wilpons lose the financial wherewithal to retain majority holdings.
Einhorn, only 42, is a hedge-fund titan who correctly predicted the demise of Lehman Brothers and someone who once finished 18th in the World Series of poker. In the conference call, Einhorn spoke hopefully about improvement in the Mets "over time,'' but didn't promise any quick fixes. He also had great praise for Mets GM Sandy Alderson. But Einhorn is no wilting flower: The day before his Mets deal was announced, he called for the ouster of Microsoft president Steve Ballmer. Word is, his spotless reputation and deep pockets (his reported worth is $2.5 billion) should mean he'll easily win MLB approval.
Through the negotiations, it appears that the valuation of the Mets will be north of $1 billion, according to people familiar with the talks. The reason Einhorn won't be paying at that rate is that he doesn't have a controlling stake.
• Fred Wilpon's comment in Tom Verducci's article in Sports Illustrated that Bobby Valentine was one of his very best hires was interesting in that Wilpon has thus far refused to entertain a Valentine return in Queens.
• Mike Pelfrey's quip following The New Yorker article with Fred Wilpon's less-than-glowing comments about Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran that perhaps Wilpon should sit in on media training with the players drew mixed response from around baseball. "He's still the owner. And by all accounts he treats people well and fairly. Show some respect,'' one competing GM said.
• Meanwhile, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt continues to be a thorn in MLB's side. He has said he'll be able to make the next payroll, but it seems like every pay period will be a major question now. "He should get out. He has to know the end is near,'' said one L.A. lawyer familiar with his case.
• While there's speculation that the Dodgers won't be able to keep both Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier longterm since the owner has steep financial difficulties and both players' contracts expire after next season, one person familiar with the situation said the Dodgers "have put out no calls and received no calls'' about either outfielder. It is believed Dodgers baseball people would love to lock up both Kemp and Ethier longterm. A new owner could help there.
• Executives say Dodgers first baseman James Loney is a likely non-tender candidate as his power has not yet developed as hoped.
• The Rangers are looking or a reliever, particularly a righthanded one. Word is, they will consider the Mets' Francisco Rodriguez, who has said he's wiling to go elsewhere as a set-up man under the right circumstances (his no-trade list counts 10 teams).
• The Yankees are concerned about Robinson Cano, who is hitting .279 and has made five errors as he's shown signs of reverting to careless defensive play.
• Andruw Jones has won admiration for hard work as a Yankee. So did Eric Chavez before he went on the disabled list. The Yankees have done very well with their cost-efficient veteran pickups, also counting Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia.
• The Yankees don't seem concerned about MLB's investigation into the procedure Colon underwent on his elbow. The doctor involved welcomed the investigation, and it would seem to be a long shot that anything untoward, such as HGH, would be found and proved.
• R.A. Dickey was walking with a boot and crutch according to New York reports after he was helped off the field after suffering a heel injury while covering first base. The Mets' slim starting pitching depth will be further tested.
• The Cubs will not pick up Aramis' Ramirez's $16 million option (it can also vest if he's the league or LCS MVP). Perhaps a fresh start next year would be best for the talented A-Ram, who has just one home run, though he admitted a hamstring problem has been bothering him.
• Carlos Zambrano was only throwing in the upper 80s in beating the Mets and the Cubs acknowledged what they call a very minor ne. But if the Cubs don't get back into the race, he'd seem like a candidate for a trade-deadline deal. The Yankees have had interest in the past.
• With all the coverage about Buster Posey, it's almost gone unnoticed that their NL West rival Rockies suffered a hug blow themselves when starter Jorge De La Rosa went down with a tear in his elbow.
• The Braves could use another offensive player (of Jordan Schafer, who is in for injured Nate McLouth, one scout said, "he can't hit''), and specifically they could use an outfielder, especially one who can lead off.
• It needs to be noted here that the DUI charge against Derek Lowe was dismissed for lack for evidence after a review of the tape suggested he did exceedingly well on the field sobriety test. My question would be: Why was he arrested in the first place?
• The temptation is to feel sympathy for the Blue Jays' Jo-Jo Reyes, who tied the big-league record with his 28th consecutive start without a victory. But the teams deserve credit (or is it discredit?) or sticking with him.
• The Blue Jays and Indians showed some mild interest in Jose Lopez this winter. Lopez was designated for assignment by the Rockies Thursday.
• Carl Crawford seems to have found his comfort zone, with eight hits in his last nine at-bats. The Red Sox look awfully dangerous right now.
• Russell Branyan is a nice pickup or the Angels, who are in need of offense. The loss of the improving Howard Kendrick to the disabled list hurts them.