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Fish Cap: Cousins, Posey, and the collision


A lot of folks have offered their opinion about what turned out to be last night’s game-winning play for the Florida Marlins, the collision between Scott Cousins and San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey that ended with Cousins scoring and Posey seriously injured. The collision itself looked nasty, as evidenced by this GIF made by SBNation’s Jeff Sullivan. Posey is set to undergo X-rays to see exactly what happened (H/T Baseball Nation), but the initial signs don’t sound good.

First, there were the game implications. The Marlins had runners on first and third with one out in a tied game in the 12th inning, a situation which warranted a Leverage Index (LI) of 5.5. The particular play was going to have five and half times more impact on the game than the average plate appearance, and the Marlins were unfortunate enough to send Emilio Bonifacio to the plate. The fly ball itself was not much of a fly ball at all, but rather a shallow popup to right center field and more or less directly at Nate Schierholtz, the Giants’ best outfield arm. Cousins went for the tag in this case despite the shallowness of the fly ball and was able to make it to the plate despite a good throw.

The throw itself was on line by Schierholtz, but Posey was unable to pick it cleanly. He never had the ball when he turned to face Cousins, who was going headstrong into the plate. What follows was a nasty collision that left this lasting image in its wake. It sounds like Posey has a broken leg and torn ligaments (H/T Getting Blanked) according to Amy Gutierrez of Comcast Sportsnet, and that he is likely out for the season. Cousins, meanwhile, scored and assisted in adding 15.5 percent to the Marlins’s chances of winning the game. On initial view, my first concern for Posey was a concussion, as the collision was so nasty and he looked completely dazed by the impact. Cousins, for his part, touched the plate and immediately began checking on Posey before backing away as the Giants training staff arrived.

A lot of outcry has come out for a rules change as a result of the collision. Posey’s agent is asking for a ban on collisions, and I would personally not be against that. Rob Neyer put it best (H/T Tom Tango):

"Of course it’s wrong. Baseball was not designed, and is not best played, as a contact sport."

It’s as simple as that. At no other base do you even have the option of doing something like this. We often talk about the “hard slide” to break up a double play, and even that I think is at time excessive. Even if you do not find hard slides at second “dirty,” they certainly don’t seem like they should be in the nature of baseball. The catcher collision certainly isn’t in the nature of the game; it isn’t a contact sport, and just because catchers have padding doesn’t mean they should be left prone to such a beating. As everyone else has said, it isn’t Cousins that makes a “dirty” play here because has essentially been deemed “clean” by baseball over the years. Remember when Nyjer Morgan blindsided Brett Hayes last year? How did you feel? Sure, it was a little more dirty, but at least in that play Hayes was blocking the plate moreso than Posey was doing here. Still, that collision cost Hayes the rest of the season and it just looked nasty and out of line given how non-contact the rest of the sport generally is.

At the same time, it seems the Marlins are not interested in changing those rules (second story in this link regarding Cousins’s remorse).

"“I don’t see any changes any time soon, and I agree with that,” Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said. “Collisions have been part of the game for many, many years. We don’t want to see anybody getting hurt. I don’t think changing the rules will make any difference.“It could be home plate. It could be second base. Now are you going to change how you break up a double play, or how you pitch inside? It’s part of the game. We have to deal with it.”"

Sure, it’s part of the game, but if part of the game became more dangerous than in seasons past, wouldn’t you want it changed? The game really isn’t about contact at all, so how can this be justified as part of the game? The argument Rodriguez uses there is one of inertia, of “how the game used to be played.” A lot of things change as the world develops, but people like Rodriguez end up sounding like fogeys and close-minded idiots when they speak. The practical aspects of the rule can be changed by preventing catchers from blocking the plate, just like all other defenders are supposed to do. If the catcher does not block the plate, there is no need for a collision.

Of course, implementation of such a rule change would be difficult, as expected. But the safety of players should be first and foremost in the minds of those involved in the game. This is not a freak accident like hurting an ankle when landing on someone’s foot in basketball. This is something that should not be in the nature of the sport that has been allowed and is extremely dangerous. Catchers already run various risks when donning the tools of ignorance. Why make it worse for them?