Chase Headley Steamrolls Catcher Brayan Pena: Awaiting Brian Sabean's Outrage

Matt SAnalyst IIIJune 28, 2011

SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 27: Brayan Pena #27 of the Kansas City Royals hangs onto the ball after tagging out Chase Headley #7 of the San Diego Padres during the third inning of a baseball game at Petco Park on June 27, 2011 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images

In case you missed it - and odds are you did - the Royals and Padres played to a 4-3 finish at Petco Park last night.  San Diego defended its turf and eked out the victory, but it was a hard-fought game.

Perhaps the most dramatic play of the night involved three players: Kansas City's Alex Gordon, Brayan Pena, and San Diego's Chase Headley.

In the bottom of the third, K.C.'s Jeff Francis allowed a double to opposing pitcher Mat Latos, who ultimately scored on a wild pitch.  With the bases clear, Francis then walked Headley.  Ryan Ludwick roped a deep double to left and Headley chugged around third heading for the plate.

Left-fielder Alex Gordon fired a bullet into catcher Brayan Pena, who grabbed the ball just before the 200-pound Headley barreled over the top of him.

Pena held onto the ball, and Headley was the inning's final out.

"That was a good relay from the guys," Pena said, according to the post-game AP report. "I was just trying to do my job and protect home plate the best way possible."

Isn't that interesting?

Pena treated this as a routine play.  No one wrote articles condemning Headley or crying for better protection for catchers.  There were no veiled threats about retribution or demands for sweeping change.

Headley's contact didn't draw any criticism (AP photo)
Headley's contact didn't draw any criticism (AP photo)

And even though this happened in the N.L. West, we didn't hear a word from Giants' GM Brian Sabean, who was recently so vocal about a similar result. 

Now one could could argue that Monday's hit wasn't comparable to the collision that injured San Francisco's Buster Posey.  For one thing, it resulted in an out, which means Pena's positioning was more appropriate.  For another, Headley's contact looked a bit different from how Scott Cousins connected with Posey.

But in both cases, the intent was the same.  In both cases, the runners went in with forearms and shoulders braced for impact.  In both cases, the catcher was put in a risky situation of his own making.  

The outcomes, the reality that one resulted in injury while the other did not, were due more to luck and circumstance than to the mechanics of the plays themselves.

The big difference between the two collisions is that one involved a face-of-the-franchise type catcher while the other involved someone whom Sabean might characterize as a nobody.  

"He chose to be a hero in my mind," said Sabean in reference to Cousins, "and if that’s his flash of fame, that’s as good as it’s going to get, pal."  

The clear implication there is that Cousins was some chump player on a different level than the celebrated Posey.  That kind of mindset makes it easy to dismiss a play involving Pena, a 29 year old backup.

The point here is that the emotional tempest created by the Posey play is clearly reserved for only certain situations.  And the vocal minority is only interested in protecting catchers when a famous one happens to be hurt.

In San Diego, we simply witnessed the latest collision between runner and catcher.  A time-tested and long-approved play that, 99 percent of the time, happens with barely any reaction at all.