Joe Maddon is not a fan of any of the rules aimed at protecting fielders from aggressive slides from baserunners. He doesn’t like the rule about breakup slides at second base — he’s reacted angrily when his own baserunners have been involved in controversies surrounding the application of that rule — and he doesn’t like the rule aimed at stopping collisions at home.
Yesterday Joe Maddon took to the airwaves on Chicago’s 670 The Score to defend Anthony Rizzo’s slide into Austin Hedges on Monday night. In the course of his interview, he took new aim at the catcher collision rule, chalking it all up to Buster Posey‘s season ending injury in 2011:
“I’m really confused by why it gained so much attention only except for the fact that Buster Posey got hurt a couple years ago. Other than that, if it was a third-string catcher for the Atlanta Braves that got hurt three years ago, this (rule) wouldn’t even be in existence . . . it’s all precipitated by one play that happened several years ago that to me was just bad technique on the part of the catcher, so that’s where I get really flustered by this conversation, because to me it should not even exist.”
Someone told Giants Bruce Bochy about Maddon’s comments. He didn’t refer to Maddon by name, but his response was pretty pointed for the usually friendly world of manager-on-manager discourse. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
“I don’t really care to visit it. I don’t. Anybody who goes into that, they don’t know what they’re talking about where Buster was at on that play . . . I wish the guys who make these comments were standing there when Todd Greene got hurt and say the same thing.”
Greene was the Giants catcher in the mid-2000s whose career was cut short by a shoulder injury after Prince Fielder plowed into him at home.
Maddon is not entirely wrong with his reference to Posey. The catcher collision rule did not go into effect until three years after Posey’s injury, so it certainly wasn’t some kneejerk reaction to him breaking his leg, but it is fair to say that Posey’s injury significantly moved the ball forward with respect to protecting catchers. Indeed, the conversation about all of that was almost nonexistent before Posey’s injury. Todd Greene did not get people talking about it, that’s for sure. Posey’s injury did.
Beyond that narrow point, however, Maddon is full of crap here. For one thing, Posey did not break his leg because of “bad technique.” He broke it because Scott Cousins intentionally slammed into him while trying to score. A legal play at the time but one which was going to lead inevitably to serious injury. It was a bad setup all around which the collision rule was designed to eradicate. Has it done it perfectly? No, it’s a hard rule to implement, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Beyond that, laying all of this at Buster Posey’s feet, or the feet of a league that allegedly overreacted due to the injury of a superstar, is dumb. Whatever the impetus for the rule — and if it wasn’t Posey, it certainly would’ve been someone else given the radical shift in opinion about concussions and sports injuries in general — it’s a smart rule. Baseball is not a contact sport and a catcher-runner collision is not some necessary part of the game, even if it had become a customary one.
Joe Maddon is a pretty smart guy who gets a lot of kudos for being an open-minded innovator. But this old school streak of his regarding collisions is wrongheaded.