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.