Should catchers be banned from blocking home plate?

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Buster Posey’s awful injury last night has set off the calls for some reform — or some something — regarding how catchers handle the play at the plate.  This morning another Buster — Olney — tweeted the following:

In the big-picture question of risk/reward, the play of blocking home plate, to save one run, is just not worth it. Not even close … MLB and the Players Association should step in and ban the play of a catcher blocking home. It’s just not worth it, for anyone involved.

I sympathize, but actually, there already is a rule against it.  It’s Rule 7.06, which deals with obstruction of base runners.  Specifically: you can’t.  The comment to the rule speaks specifically to catchers and the plate. It says the following:

NOTE: The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score. The base line belongs to the runner and the catcher should be there only when he is fielding a ball or when he already has the ball in his hand.

This is roundly ignored, of course, as catchers routinely block the plate without the ball.  The key question here is what constitutes “fielding the ball.”  Are you fielding the ball if your body is blocking the plate, the ball is bouncing toward you, 20 feet away and you’re half looking at it, half at the runner?  How close should the ball be?  It’s an area so gray and so subject to judgment calls that I don’t know how it can be enforced more strictly without all manner of madness.

And let’s be clear here: no change in the rule would have altered the play that injured Posey. Watch it again.  While he didn’t catch the ball, the ball is to him and he’s turning to make the tag, thinking he has the ball, before Cousins makes it to the plate. In my view he wasn’t blocking the plate in a way that would offend even the most restrictive interpretation of Rule 7.06.

The better question — asked by Dave Brown of Big League Stew — is whether base runners should be allowed to barrel into catchers regardless.  I think that’s a much better question, as I seriously don’t like to see the kinds of collisions we often see at home plate.  My only problem is this: how do you ban it?  The runner does have an absolute right to the plate, so you can’t easily make a rule saying “if the catcher is there with the ball, stop.”  It seems like it would turn into some kind of judgment call in which whether the runner used an unreasonable amount of roughness or force is examined. That’s football stuff.  And of course, it would soon turn into a debate about what kinds of slides or “slides” are acceptable and what kind are not.

I would hope that runners wouldn’t try to steamroll catchers because I hate that play. I would also hope that catchers wouldn’t block the plate when they don’t have the ball.  In this instance, however, I am having a hard time seeing how it isn’t a matter of, hell, bad things happening, and I’m not sure any workable rule prevents it.

Yu Darvish’s no-trade list revealed

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Ken Rosenthal has found out the ten teams on Yu Darvish‘s no-trade list per his contract. They are the Orioles, Red Sox, Cubs, Indians, Rockies, White Sox, Tigers, A’s, Pirates and Blue Jays. He has no right to veto trades to any other team.

As we’ve noted in recent days, the Dodgers are said to have a “strong interest” in Darvish. It’d not be at all surprising to see other contenders in on him too, at least as long as the Rangers keep listening to offers. In the no-trade category, it would seem that the Cubs and Indians would have a need, but it’s doubtful the Indians would make that kind of deal. The Cubs may, but of course they’d have to sweeten the deal for Darvish in order to get him to agree to waive his no-trade rights (which is often the point of having a no-trade provision).

Beyond the Dodgers, the Yankees and Astros are obvious potential suitors.

Darvish is 6-8 with a 3.44 ERA and has struck out 143 batters to only 43 walks in 133.1 innings.

The Royals are talking to the Jays about Francisco Liriano

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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Kansas City Royals are in talks with the Toronto Blue Jays about a trade for Francisco Liriano.

Liriano is not having a good year, but an arm is an arm I suppose. Liriano’s arm has posted 5.99 ERA and 70/42 K/BB ratio through 76.2 innings across 17 starts. He’s a free agent to be, so he shouldn’t cost too much, of course.

Earlier this week Kansas City picked up  Trevor Cahill, Brandon Maurer, and Ryan Buchter from the Padres. They’ve also won seven in a row and are just a game and a half behind the first place Indians. They’re going for it with whatever help they can find.