It was bad enough when former catcher Mike Matheny inserted himself into the fray following Scott Cousins' collision with Buster Posey. Since then, the over-reaction has grown more ridiculous. Matheny, a former catcher, volunteered his two-cents but forgot the common sense while criticizing Cousins for making contact with Posey at the dish.
“You know what, it wasn’t a dirty play, he didn’t come high spikes, he didn’t come high elbow. But it wasn’t a necessary play. He was hunting. Buster gave him an option and he didn’t take it...I think you just put a mark in the column that that kid took a run at a catcher. To me as a catcher I know the next time I get the ball I’m going to stick it to him."
Matheny is certainly entitled to his opinion. But in this particular case, he should have kept his comments to himself.
It's incredibly easy with the 20/20 vision of hindsight and the benefits of slow-motion replays to pick apart Cousins' actions. It's easy to pinpoint the freeze-frame moment when he might have chosen to slide around Posey instead of colliding with him. It's easy to be critical of a play that resulted in such an unfortunate and severe injury.
However, Posey was the one violating the rules. He attempted to block the plate without possession of the ball. It's just that simple.
Was Cousins supposed to give up when he saw his path obstructed? Or, as Matheny implies, should he have broken his momentum and concentration to make a safety assessment of the situation? Plays like this one happen all the time in professional sports and occur in the span of a few seconds. Blasting Cousins for making contact is completely out of line.
Still, Matheny's reaction is understandable. After all, his own career was impacted by collisions and concussions, and it's only natural that he should be sensitive to the dangers that backstops face.
"If I never hear from Cousins again or he never plays another game in the big leagues, I think we'll all be happy."
Sabean then took things a step further by alluding to a possible plan to get back at Cousins.
"He chose to be a hero, in my mind, and if that's his flash of fame, that's as good as it's going to get, pal. We'll have a long memory."
Let's assume for a moment that the collision had occurred in exactly the same way except for one minor detail. Let's assume that Posey's spikes didn't get caught in the dirt around home plate, twisting his lower leg and breaking his ankle.
Had Posey not suffered a fracture, would we all be listening to this drivel?
In a word, no.
These types of collisions are common. Pittsburgh's Ryan Doumit just suffered a non-displaced ankle fracture on a collision with Chicago's Carlos Pena. Yet there was no cry of outrage. Cleveland's Carlos Santana saw his rookie season end abruptly last year when he collided with Boston's Ryan Kalish. But there were no tirades about vengeance.
In fact, Indians head trainer Lonnie Soloff said at the time, "I think all of us feared the worst just watching it in real time or on replay...At this point, we did not unearth any of that. We do feel fortunate."
Sabean would have done well to learn from that example rather than shooting his mouth off. His ignorant reprisals are completely out of line. The play that injured Posey was terribly unfortunate, but it was also clean. Even Matheny admits as much. And Cousins subsequently called Posey to apologize.
The call, evidently, was not returned.
Ex-catcher Brad Ausmus explained the situation eloquently, saying, "...injuries happen in sports. I'm sorry this happened to Buster Posey. He's an exciting young catcher. He's an exciting young hitter. He's one of the best young players in baseball. But it's part of the game. … When you put on the shin guards and chest protector, you know that if there's a play at the plate and you're blocking the plate, you could take a hit at any moment."
I can understand the reaction, but if anything, a rule change would need to be more restrictive for the catcher, not the runner. One possibility would be to alter the rule so that if the catcher steps into the baseline without the ball, the oncoming runner is automatically safe.
Would defenses really want that?
Had Posey not been hurt, or had the roles been reversed with Florida's John Buck being the recipient of a hit from say, Andres Torres, Sabean would have nothing to say. It would barely be on his radar.
Instead, he elected to mouth off, an executive targeting a player who did no wrong. Sabean's reaction is inappropriate and unacceptable, and should result in discipline from Major League Baseball.