Tag: Scott Cousins

Scott Cousins

Scott Cousins is a pitcher now


Most folks who have heard of Scott Cousins did so via his takeout slide that ended Buster Posey’s 2011 season and the subsequent threats people made to him — including Giants GM Brian Sabean — in the aftermath.

If you’ve paid more attention than most you know that Cousins has spent the past four years just barely hanging on as a major league outfielder, but actually spending far more time in the minors.

Now Cousins has a new gig: newbie pitcher. Gary Fraley reports that the Rangers have signed Cousins — who spent his spring trying to latch on as an outfielder with the Red Sox — to be a pitcher:

Cousins the outfielder is no more. He will join the extended-spring-training team in Surprise, Ariz., to start the conversion to left-handed pitcher. Cousins has never pitched in a professional game.

Cousins is 29. He last pitched when he played for the University of San Francisco in 2006. As a sophomore in 2005 he went 8–5 with a 2.64 ERA and 76 strikeouts. He won four more games and struck out 61 as a junior. Obviously he was drafted as an outfielder, but I suppose it’s never too late in life to find your true path.

Buster Posey staying mum on rule changes for collisions

Posey Getty

Whether he likes it or not, Giants catcher Buster Posey has become the poster child for the home plate collision controversy. In 2011, Posey was bowled over at home plate by Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins, suffering a myriad of season-ending injuries: a fractured leg and three torn ankle ligaments. Since then, other catchers have suffered — unnecessarily, some would argue — concussions and other, less severe injuries. Rule changes have been proposed, but if you’re looking for Posey’s opinion, you won’t be hearing it.

Via Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area:

“I try to keep myself out of the conversation as much as I can, because I know people will connect me to it regardless,” said Posey […]

“I’m kind of sitting back and letting the higher powers figure it out. I have my thoughts, but I’ll keep them to myself.”

Posey added that he doesn’t want it to be about him, which is respectable and admirable.

As Baggarly explains, the proposed rule changes would make hits like the one that ended Posey’s 2011 season illegal. However, any official rule changes are unlikely to be adopted in time for the beginning of the season.

Former Major Leaguer Gabe Kapler wants collisions to remain part of the game

joe mauer getty

[Edit: The title originally included the word “concussion” rather than “collision”, which made Kapler look bad for something he didn’t say. It was an unfortunate malapropism on my part. I apologize for the mistake.]

Former Major Leaguer Gabe Kapler penned a thoughtful piece about the home plate collision issue over at FOX Sports. It’s nice to hear the viewpoint of someone who not only played the game but lived the actual experience of a brutal home plate collision. Kapler wants those collisions to stay in baseball, even though they caused him injury and ostensibly some time off the end of his career.

I do happen to disagree very strongly with Kapler, however, on many of his points. Rather than go through line-by-line, I’d like to summarize his main points and then respond to them broadly. His points:

  • It’s reasonable for baseball to “embrace its masculinity”, especially since both fans and players love it, and if baseball can do it safely
  • Suggested rule change: runner may hit the catcher below the shoulders, which would allow baseball to keep the collisions while reducing rate of concussions
  • Ancillary effect of above rule change: runners would be forced to further lower themselves, which would encourage aggressive slides more than collisions
  • Simultaneous news of Ryan Freel’s CTE and baseball’s decision to ban collisions should not, but will be, linked

First off, about “embracing masculinity”: Give or take a few percentage points, half of baseball’s audience is female, so that’s insulting right off the bat. That’s without mentioning men who identify more as female and vice versa, and those that have had surgical alterations. We can make arguments about our favorite things about our favorite game without showing preference to only cis men.

Then there’s the assumption that toughness, willingness to take risks, etc. are good traits to have as a man, and that’s just not true. Men die earlier than women do in part because they are socialized to embrace riskiness. According to the American Psychological Association, men are 25 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor in the last year. Sound familiar? Baseball players are often pressured into playing through pain and avoiding the trainer as much as possible. For every one woman who is cited for reckless driving, nearly three and a half men are cited for the same offense. Men are more than three times more likely than women to drive without seatbelts. According to a recent survey, nearly ten percent more women wear helmets while riding a motorcycle than men.

To Kapler’s second and third points about amending the rules to still allow collisions but only below the head – concussions can still happen without a direct blow to the head. For instance, a runner can barrel into the catcher’s chest, and as the catcher falls back, his head slams into the dirt. Or he can even stay upright, but all the stuff inside of his skull – like his brain — bounces around like it was in a mosh pit. Furthermore, Kapler’s suggested rule wouldn’t have protected Buster Posey from Scott Cousins when the latter slammed into the former on May 2011. Posey suffered a broken fibula and severely strained ligaments in his left ankle.

As a result of that injury, many expect the Giants to eventually move Posey behind the dish to first base. The Twins have already done just that with Joe Mauer, who has suffered a concussion himself. The Giants signed Posey to a nine-year, $167 million contract extension last March; the Twins signed Mauer to an eight-year, $184 million extension in March 2010. Other teams like the Yankees with Brian McCann (five years, $85 million) and the Cardinals with Yadier Molina (five years, $75 million) also look at MLB’s decision to ban collisions with a vested interest as well.

The people in front offices don’t care so much about baseball’s culture so much as they care about their investments. The Twins having to move Mauer from catcher to first base significantly hurts their investment in myriad ways – elite-hitting catchers are rare, but elite-hitting first basemen are not; healthy catchers are rare, but healthy first basemen are common; catcher is a very difficult position to play well, but first base is a relatively easy position to play.

How about the fans? Fans may love collisions, but they love seeing their favorite teams’ star players more, and they love seeing their favorite teams win, too. I witnessed that firsthand as a Phillies fan. Tickets became extremely expensive from 2009-11, when the Phillies were on their stampede through the NL East. But the star players got old and went on the disabled list frequently, and the team stopped winning in 2012. Attendance waned and tickets became cheap and easy to find because Ty Wigginton, not Ryan Howard, was at first base. To bring it back to the Giants, they are a less profitable business when Guillermo Quiroz, not Posey, is behind the plate catching Matt Cain. This isn’t just a culture issue — it’s a business issue, too. (This is without making an aside on the $765 million settlement the NFL made with over 18,000 retired players due to concussion-related brain injuries, which Major League Baseball certainly watched with a close eye.)

But about that culture… people within a culture, particularly those that have benefited from it, are not very likely to actively help change it. The best teams in a team sport have unit cohesion. If you are going rogue, criticizing your sport’s culture (and, consequently, your team’s culture), then you are making harder for your team to be one unit with one common goal. Any other individuals who share the rogue’s viewpoint are less likely to show support lest they be bumped out of the larger group as a result. Cultures are hard to change, even when it’s obvious. I need not go through the embarrassing pages of a U.S. history textbook to illustrate this point. Attempting to change a culture at the expensive of self is heroic; attempting to preserve the status quo is often selfish. I don’t mean to say that in an insulting way to Kapler, as it is simply human nature. We wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t been so good at preserving the group and batting away dissidents.

Finally, to Kapler’s last point about Ryan Freel: yes, it is true that Freel’s chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) had to do with his crashing into inanimate objects like outfield fences, rather than bumping into catchers. Thus, Kapler argues, we shouldn’t be linking Freel’s CTE to the latest news about baseball banning home plate collisions. However, home plate collisions will always carry that concussion risk, no matter what type of headgear you wear, no matter what manner of “hitbox” boundaries you create, no matter how much you give lip service to the culture. The only thing that will absolutely make an impact on lowering the rate of concussions in baseball is banning home plate collisions.

Jeff Passan recently wrote about the issue at Yahoo! Sports. He spoke with Chris Nowinski, who is studying CTE for Boston University. Nowinski has dealt with officials from many different sports, but praised the interest and action shown by those in baseball. Passan wrote:

Not only does Nowinski laud the league’s seven-day disabled list for concussions – borne of an injury-analysis initiative run by some of the brightest minds in the sport’s labor-relations department – he said MLB officials at the meeting with Freel’s family peppered him with questions not of the defensive nature he’s seen from other sports but with a simple request: Help us improve.

To baseball players and fans of the sport, banning home plate collisions may leave a bad taste in their mouths, but ultimately, this is medicine that is good for all of us.

Not everyone is happy about home plate collisions being taken away

Alex Avila AP

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe is not a fan of the new rule banning home plate collisions. Indeed he’s so incensed that he decided to mock the idea of protecting athletes whose health and career are put at risk as a result of them:

One of the game’s biggest stars — Buster Posey — suffered a nearly career-ending knee injury as a result of a collision with then-Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins in May of 2011, therefore we must protect catchers? … Baseball is seeking to ban collisions that have happened since Abner Doubleday invented baseball. What are we doing here? … David Ross and Alex Avila suffered concussions as the result of foul balls off their masks during the 2013 season. Are we banning foul balls soon? … This is sport. This is athleticism. And now we’re taking it away?

Given that Cafardo apparently doesn’t even know the first thing about Posey’s injury — note: it was not his knee — I’m not sure how he’s any sort of expert on this, but that’s tenure for you. He also got the effective date of the rule wrong — it’s 2014 if the union approves it, 2015 if they don’t — but those are just details.

I take greater issue with Cafardo’s fighting straw men and overall faulty logic. No, because Major League Baseball is trying to eliminate injuries from one kind of play it does not mean that all potential hazards must and will be eliminated and no one is suggesting such a thing. No, because catastrophic injuries are rare does not mean they are not serious and in need of some form of address. And the “taking it away” thing. Taking what away? From who? He argues in his column that the rules already do much to limit such collisions and that that should be enough, so he should be happy if all such collisions are gone, right?

In the course of his column Cafardo quotes several managers about home plate collisions and notes that reasonable people can be of two minds about this rule. Too bad that, rather than acknowledge the multiple sides of the matter when he asserted his own opinion, he chose to be cavalier and dismissive about a subject that has very real personal health and career consequences for the players being barreled into at home plate all season.

Giants GM Brian Sabean says Buster Posey won’t move to first base

World Series - San Francisco Giants v Detroit Tigers - Game 4

Days after the Twins announced they are moving catcher Joe Mauer over to first base full-time, Giants GM Brian Sabean shot down speculation that the team would do the same with catcher Buster Posey, per MLB.com’s Chris Haft.

“When we signed him to an extension, we considered him as a catcher, and those numbers he was able to get in the extension were based on him being a catcher,” said Sabean, referring to the nine-year, $167 million deal Posey and the Giants reached last March. For Posey, Sabean added, catching “is his passion, and that’s where we need him to be at long term.”

Like Mauer, Posey suffered a major injury as a result of playing the position, which fueled the rumor that Posey would have a new position in 2014. Then-Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins collided with Posey at home plate in May 2011, fracturing the catcher’s ankle and ending his season. Since then, Posey, who turns 27 years old in late March, has logged 148 games in each of the past two seasons.