Cardinals manager and former catcher Mike Matheny supports a ban on home plate collisions

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Earlier, D.J. Short informed us that Major League Baseball is considering banning collisions at home plate in an effort to better protect catchers. There have been quite a few incidents that have been the impetus of the call for change, most notably when Buster Posey and Scott Cousins collided on May 25, 2011. Posey was hurt badly, as he suffered a broken fibula and torn ankle ligaments. Most recently, Tigers catcher Alex Avila was bowled over at home plate by fellow catcher David Ross in Game 5 of the ALCS. Avila didn’t suffer a concussion, but there was concern since Avila was only a couple months separated from a previous concussion.

Another motivating factor is the mess the NFL finds itself in, with many retired players suffering from CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The NFL has been the target of many lawsuits as a result. Back in August, the NFL settled with about 18,000 retired players for a total of $765 million. Major League Baseball, seeing this, wants no part of that.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is one of a growing number of former Major Leaguers to support a ban on home plate collisions. Matheny caught for the Cardinals, Brewers, Blue Jays, and Giants over his 13-year Major League career and he was forced into retirement after suffering a concussion in 2007. Via Derrick Goold, here’s what Matheny had to say about the situation:

“I do believe that this game will get to the point where there will no longer be a collision at the plate, ” Matheny said during spring training. “And I am 100 percent in support of that. … Can this game survive without that play? I say absolutely.

“Why doesn’t it turn into every other base?” Matheny continued. “It’s a tag play. You get in position to make a tag like a third baseman. No one is going to (level) a third baseman. … I’d love to hear the rebuttal. What I personally witnessed is enough to change my mind. It took me a little longer to get to the realization of risk we’re putting these guys in.”

Derek Jeter calls Bryant Gumbel “mentally weak”

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Derek Jeter has not covered himself in glory since taking over the Miami Marlins. His reign atop the team’s baseball operations department has been characterized by the slashing of payroll in order to help his new ownership group make more money amid some pretty crushing debt service by virtue of what was, in effect, the leveraged buyout of the club. A club which is now 5-16 and seems destined for five months more and change of some pretty miserable baseball.

Jeter has nonetheless cast the moves the Marlins have made as good for fans in the long run. And, yes, I suppose it’s likely that things will be better in the long run, if for no other reason than they cannot be much worse. Still, such reasoning, while often accepted when a lesser light like, say, White Sox GM Rick Hahn employs it, isn’t accepted as easily when a guy who has been defined by his hand full of championship rings offers it. How can Derek Jeter, of all people, accept losing?

That’s the question HBO’s Bryant Gumbel asked of Jeter in an interview that aired over the weekend (see the video at the end of the post). How can he accept — and why should fans accept — a subpar baseball product which is not intended to win? Jeter’s response? To claim that the 2018 Marlins are totally expected to win and that Gumbel himself is “mentally weak” for not understanding it:

JETER: “We’re trying to win ball games every day.”

GUMBEL: “If you trade your best players in exchange for prospects it’s unlikely you’re going to win more games in the immediate future–”

JETER: “When you take the field, you have an opportunity to win each and every day. Each and every day. You never tell your team that they’re expected to lose. Never.”

GUMBEL: “Not in so–”

JETER: “Now, you can think — now– now, I can’t tell you how you think. Like, I see your mind. I see that’s how you think. I don’t think like that. That’s your mind working like that.”

. . .

DEREK JETER: “You don’t. We have two different mi– I can’t wait to get you on the golf course, man. We got– I mean, I can’t wait for this one.”

BRYANT GUMBEL: “No, I mean–”

DEREK JETER: “You’re mentally weak.”

I sort of get what Jeter was trying to do here. He was trying to take this out the realm of second guessing among people who know some stuff about sports and subtly make it an appeal to authority, implying that he was an athlete and that only he, unlike Gumbel, can understand that mindset and competitiveness of the athlete. That’s what the “get you on the golf course” jazz was about. Probably worth noting at this point that that tack has never worked for Michael Jordan as a basketball executive, even if his singular competitiveness made him the legend he was on the court. An executive makes decisions which can and should be second-guessed, and it seems Jeter cannot handle that.

That being said, Gumbel did sort of open the door for Jeter to do that. Suggesting that baseball players on the 2018 Marlins don’t expect to win is not the best angle for him here because, I am certain, if you ask those players, they would say much the same thing Jeter said. That’s what makes them athletes.

No, what Gumbel should have asked Jeter was “of COURSE you tell your players to win and of COURSE they try their hardest and think they can win every night. My question to you is this: did YOU try YOUR hardest to get the BEST players? And if not, why not?”

Question him like you’d question Rick Hahn. Not like you’d question Future Hall of Fame Shortstop, Derek Jeter.