Rose Fosse

Ray Fosse doesn’t think you can change the rules regarding catcher collisions

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If there is one person whose opinion of the Buster Posey injury is worth hearing it’s Ray Fosse. Who, if you’re unaware, suffered a pretty bad injury that seriously impacted his career when, as a 23-year-old, he was bowled over at home plate by Pete Rose in the 1970 All-Star Game.

It’s worth noting, though, that criticism of Rose’s collision with Fosse rarely centers on the notion of whether it’s OK to run into catcher in an absolute sense, but rather, whether Rose was right to do so in an exhibition game.  Indeed, for years you’ve heard this play cited an example of Pete Rose’s style of play, often admiringly, though with some qualification due to the fact that an injury was involved. So basically, no, there has not been anything approaching consistency about when such a play is a hard-nosed play and when it’s something that demands changes to the rule book.

And for what it’s worth, Fosse, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, said that he is not that impressed with calls to change the rules:

“The game has been around more than 100 years, and now they’re going to start protecting catchers? I can’t see anything that can be changed. In high school, you can’t run over a catcher. But that’s high school. This is professional baseball. The idea is to score runs. If the catcher has the ball and he’s standing there, the runner has to stop? Is that the protection? I can’t believe anything can be done, and I don’t see how you could regulate something like that.”

My first reaction yesterday was pretty much this. Not the part about “the game has been around for 100 years,” because tradition is a dumb reason not to fix something if it can be fixed.  But I do agree that cutting down on catcher injuries is less an issue for the rule book and more an issue for player training. Train runners to look for the open alley to the plate rather than assume they have to hit the catcher (which Scott Cousins could have done).  Train catchers to be content with a swipe tag if it’s available rather than risk bodily injury.

The best it seems you can do from a rules perspective is to give the umpires the authority to call a runner out automatically if, in coming into the plate, he goes out of his way to put an unnecessary hit on a catcher, much the same way that you’d call a runner out for leaving the base line. If you want to add something more punitive to it, eject him and/or make it a postgame disciplinary matter like we do with bean balls.

That still makes it a judgment call on the umpire’s part, and I’m always hesitant to give them more judgment calls, but I think that’s way preferable to a massive tinkering with rules or by banning contact with a catcher in all instances or what have you.

Report: Rays having “advanced talks” with free agent reliever Tommy Hunter

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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.

Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.

Pirates sign left-hander Cory Luebke

Cory Luebke Getty
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.

It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.

White Sox reportedly considering Ian Desmond

Ian Desmond
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Many have speculated on a potential match between the White Sox and Ian Desmond this winter, but we haven’t heard much in the way of legitimate interest. That could be changing with spring training right around the corner, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Chicago is among the teams considering the free agent shortstop.

After turning the page on Alexei Ramirez this offseason, the White Sox currently have Tyler Saladino in line to serve as their starting shortstop in 2016. The 26-year-old is considered a strong defender, but he batted .225/.267/.335 with four homers over 254 plate appearances as a rookie in 2015. Desmond is coming off a nightmare of a walk year and has seen his strikeout rate climb by 8.5 percent since 2012, but he possesses more offensive upside and it’s not hard to imagine a bounceback campaign while calling U.S. Cellular Field home.

Similar to fellow free agents Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler, Desmond is attached to draft pick compensation after turning down a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals. It’s a big reason why a potential deal with the Rays is reported to be a “long shot.” Chicago’s No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft is protected, so they would give up their No. 28 overall pick if they sign a qualifying offer free agent like Desmond.

Pirates sign reliever Eric O’Flaherty

Eric O'Flaherty
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Left-hander Eric O'Flaherty has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Pirates that includes an invitation to spring training.

O’Flaherty was one of the best relievers in the league for the Braves from 2009-2013, posting a combined 1.99 ERA in 249 innings, but Tommy John elbow surgery derailed his career and he struggled for the A’s and Mets in 2015 while dealing with shoulder problems.

It’s tough to know if O’Flaherty is healthy at this point, but the 31-year-old southpaw certainly has a chance to be a nice reclamation project for the Pirates on a no-risk contract.