It's a shame reigning NL Rookie of the Year Buster Posey broke his leg and may miss the rest of the season after a collision at home plate late in the game Thursday against the Florida Marlins. You hate to see injuries happen, especially to an up-and-coming star in the league, but unfortunately, they're part of the game and this isolated incident shouldn't be used as a reason to start changing rules.
Posey, the Giants' clean-up hitter, suffered a broken fibula and several strained ligaments in his left ankle when Marlins' Scott Cousins plowed into him attempting to score on a sacrifice fly during the 12th inning. Now many are lobbying for a rule change to protect catchers and base runners. Bad idea. You don't go changing rules because a popular player on the defending World Series champs gets hurt. That's not how it works.
The old cliche: "That's just baseball," holds true in this situation. In the major leagues, running over a catcher to dislodge the ball, or simply intimidate the catcher, is a legal and useful strategy. It's been done since the creation of the league. We've all seen the clip of Pete Rose bulldozing Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game, the most famous home-plate collision. Not only did Rose score the winning run for the National League, it was another glorified example of Rose's hard-nosed, anything-to-win mentality. Fosse separated his shoulder on the play, and it was widely believed the collision shortened Fosse's career.
But it didn't cause a rule change to protect catchers. In fact, it showed how to score runs effectively if the throw beats you home. There is a fine line between a dirty play and a clean play, as is the case in every sport. Brad Ausmus, former catcher who just retired after 18 big league seasons, summed it up best.
"If you're just trying to hit the catcher, that's dirty," Ausmus is quoted as having said. "But if you're trying to keep the catcher from catching the ball so you can score a run, that's clean. Well, who's going to make that call? Is the umpire? I don't think they can make the distinction between who's trying to score and who's just trying to injure the catcher, unfortunately."
The only way to avoid injuries to catchers and base runners is to not block the plate. Simple as that. I commend catchers like Posey, who have the guts to set up in front of the plate when they know a runner is barreling down on them, ready to do whatever it takes to separate them from the ball. No rule change needed. If you want to block the plate, be ready for the consequences.