It’s harsh to beat up on a player just after he gets hurt, but after watching the video of the big collision in tonight’s Indians-Red Sox game, I just don’t feel as much sympathy for Carlos Santana as perhaps I should.
Santana is a great young player, and I hope the injury isn’t too serious and that he recovers quickly.
That said, the injury is entirely his own fault.
Baseball rules don’t allow a fielder to block or impede a base runner unless the fielder has possession of the ball. Yet, catchers routinely block the plate without the ball.
The umpires don’t enforce the actual rules here for the same reason the NHL will never completely crack down on fighting, the NFL will never crack down on concussion-causing big hits, and the NBA referees will always allow a lot more contact during the playoffs: the fans enjoy contact. It's violent, exciting, and full of drama.
The video shows exactly what Santana did wrong and why he got hurt. He’s attempting to block the plate too far up the line and his stance is too wide.
The proper method for a catcher to block the plate is with the left foot right on the edge of home plate with the body in a relatively upright position, so that a base runner coming down the line full-speed isn’t going to blow out the catcher’s knee if he comes in hard.
If the throw is up the line, as this throw was, a catcher simply has to try a swipe tag, because in order to prevent the base runner from just running around the catcher, the catcher has to take too wide a stance. Then the runner is forced to go through the catcher’s knee to get the plate. Getting to home plate by any means necessary is part of every base runner’s job description, so injuries to defensive players do occur.
Carlos made a rookie mistake, and it’s one he’ll never make again. Let’s hope he isn’t so badly hurt that it ruins his career.