The Nyjer Morgan Marlins Brawl: Time To Outlaw Barreling Over the Catcher
When Nyjer Morgan was hit in the hip by a fourth inning Chris Volstad fastball in last night's game, it was payback for Morgan running over Florida catcher Brett Hayes a night earlier. Late in the game a full-fledged brawl erupted when Morgan was thrown at again.
Hayes suffered a separated shoulder in that home plate collision, a play which need not have happened. The throw from Hanley Ramirez was high and if Morgan slid, he most likely would have been safe. It was the second home plate collision Morgan caused this past week.
But the problem is that runners rounding third and coming home usually decides to knock over the catcher when he is about 20-30 feet from home plate. There is no chance for them to end up sliding.
If they did then try and slide, they might get injured. You see many times when a player slides too late at any base they end up catching a spike in the ground and wrenching or even breaking their ankle.
This is not the first time this season that a runner hurt a catcher on a collision at home plate. Mark Teixeira plowed over Angels catcher Bobby Wilson, injuring Wilson's head and severely hurting his ankle. What if Teixeira got hurt? Would that run really be worth Tex on the DL for two months?
And how can we not forget about Ray Fosse, whose All-Star career was derailed after Pete Rose barreled him over in the 1970 All-Star Game?
And this type of play does not just end in injury on the spot. It also affects how catchers play the game during the rest of their careers.
Fosse was a power hitting backstop in 1970, smashing 16 home runs by that All-Star break. He finished with only 18 that season, and never hit more than 12 in a season the rest of his career.
Drafted as a second baseman, Yankee catcher Jorge Posada was converted to catcher during his Yankee minor league career. During a minor league game, Posada was run over in a game and seriously injured.
He is now not that good on plays at the plate. He shies away from contact, and many times the ball. The prior collision has affected his play as a catcher throughout his career.
Another Yankee catcher, Francisco Cervelli, broke his wrist in a 2008 home plate collision with Tampa's Elliot Johnson during a spring training game! That eventually led to a bench clearing brawl when the Yankees Shelley Duncan went in high with his spikes at Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura.
In that game, Jonny Gomes of the Rays played the Gabby Sanchez role from last night when he came in from right field and tackled Duncan.
From my days of playing, I have been on both ends of the spectrum. I have been run over (still held on to the ball), and have run a guy over (and he held on to the ball). Most of the time, the catcher does hold on to the ball anyway, so why even do it?
The runner risks injury just as much as the catcher. In both occasions when I played, I was sore after each collision. The runner can also be injured on this type of play.
In 2008, David Murphy of the Texas Rangers barreled into Yankees catcher Ivan Rodriguez and Murphy missed the rest of that season with a badly hurt knee.
Running over the catcher is such a bad play on all accounts. The runner is still out on most occasions, someone always get hurt, and the effects can stay with a catcher throughout his career.
I am old-school on everything in baseball. I abhor instant replay, sabermetrics, pitch counts, innings limits, and postseason games only played at night.
So many teams restrict their young pitchers usage so they can "save his arm and prolong his career." Why then does baseball allow these violent collisions at home plate, when most of the time, someone is injured?
There is such a severe shortage in quality all around catchers, that MLB and the individual teams simply can't afford to have a catcher seriously injured.
Base runners should now be required to slide into home plate just as they are required to slide into the other bases. Why should home plate be different?
Runners would be able to dive head first into home plate but to intentionally run over the catcher should be outlawed. After all these collision you might start seeing teams tell their runners to slide into home plate. It just makes sense.
This rule will not avoid all injuries to catchers and young Cleveland Indians backstop Carlos Santana is an example of that, although I still believe that Ryan Kalish would have been safe had he slid to AVOID contact. In the example above on Murphy, he slid feet first into Rodriguez and still was hurt badly.
This rule would not lessen all, but MOST major injuries to catchers, and many injuries to the runners.
And the runners might actually score more runs.
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