By Danny Knobler, CBS Sports baseball writer
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS Sports) — The San Francisco Giants are upset that they lost their young catcher and cleanup hitter.
No one who likes baseball should be happy that Buster Posey got hurt.
The discussion about what to do about plays at the plate is one that is absolutely worth having. Some people say that we wouldn’t be talking about it if this were Eli Whiteside instead of Posey, but that’s irrelevant, because this is something we should be talking about.
But it’s time to talk about it calmly. It’s time to get over the emotion of the moment.
That’s what Joe Torre needs to remind Giants general manager Brian Sabean, after Sabean’s radio tirade Thursday. And that, according to sources, is exactly what Torre is expected to tell Sabean.
Yes, Torre is planning to talk to Sabean, as part of Torre’s new job as baseball’s executive vice president. But it’s expected that this will be more a reminder to tone down the rhetoric than a dressing-down, and it’s unlikely that Torre will hand out any discipline.
That’s as it should be.
Sabean is an emotional guy. Baseball could use more colorful GMs like him. But baseball doesn’t need GMs issuing veiled threats to players on other teams.
“If I never hear from [Scott] Cousins again, or he doesn’t play another day in the big leagues, I think we’ll all be happy,” Sabean said Thursday on KNBR, the Giants’ flagship radio station.
He also said that the Giants will have a “long memory.”
Meanwhile, according to Jim Bowden on Twitter, Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison said Friday that Sabean’s comments were “ignorant and inappropriate,” and “immature and unprofessional,” in an appearance on MLB Network Radio.
But it’s not just Sabean. Earlier this week, while covering the Giants’ series in St. Louis, New York Times writer Tyler Kepner suggested on Twitter that “spending two days around the Giants, I get the strong sense that I would not want to be Scott Cousins the next time those teams play.”
Again, we get it. The Giants are upset. But focusing on how angry they are does them — and us — no good.
What we do need, over the next few months, is a reasoned discussion of the best way to protect catchers.
A few things to keep in mind:
— Plays at the plate are totally different from plays at other bases. Tony La Russa compared it to plays at first base, but those are almost always force plays and plays at the plate (especially those involving collisions) almost never are. Others have compared it to plays at second base, but the second baseman or shortstop never stands in between the baserunner and the base.
— If you want to totally eliminate collisions, you’d also need to totally bar catchers from blocking the plate (or even standing in the baseline in front of the plate). There seems little sentiment for that drastic a change.
— Yes, Cousins could have avoided the collision. But even with many of the rules changes proposed, there’s a real chance he wouldn’t have been called out, because Posey was close enough for the plate for the runner to assume that the catcher would be in the way.
— One reason Posey was hurt was that he put himself in the worst possible position — on his knees.
— Teaching catchers to make swipe tags and avoid collisions isn’t really a solution, because that’s exactly what the Giants taught Posey.
— The real danger of blocking the plate may not be a horrific ankle injury like Posey’s. As we learn more about concussions, you wonder if catchers blocking the plate in the traditional way (and falling backwards and potentially hitting their heads) are in even greater long-term danger.
— The Giants have run into plenty of catchers themselves, most notably when J.T. Snow did it while making the last out of the 2003 Division Series against the Marlins. Of course, in that case, catcher Pudge Rodriguez had the ball, held onto it, and wasn’t hurt.
It’s a hugely complex issue. It’s a discussion well worth having.
And, as much as possible, it’s time to take all the heated emotions out of that discussion.
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