Yesterday we learned that new Mets catcher and the #6 prospect in baseball, Travis d’Arnaud, has been banned by his superiors from engaging in home plate collisions. The reason for this is because the team wants to exercise caution with their top prospect’s knee, the same one he injured in June last year while sliding into second base. Granted, player safety is a high priority, and it is reasonable to want to protect the future, but the one thing that I don’t completely get is banning home plate collisions.
The issue started two years ago, when the San Francisco Giants faced the Florida Marlins in a then-unconsequential May game. With the score tied 6-6 in the 12th inning, and runners on first and third, Marlins infielder Emilio Bonifacio lifted a shallow fly to right center field, which was caught by Nate Schierholtz. Scott Cousins tagged at third, then bolted for home, where Buster Posey was waiting for him. Cousins railroaded Posey, causing him to drop the ball, and allow the winning run to score. As the play unfolded, Posey fell back on his leg, and somehow fractured his fibula and tore knee ligaments. Posey was lost for the season, and Cousins was vilified by fans, even subject to death threats.
While no notable collisions happened in 2012, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, a former catcher himself, called for the outright ban on collisions, citing not only safety issues, but also the possibility of suffering a concussion during a collision.
I understand what Matheny is saying, and if I was in his position, I would be concerned, but the question here is, how does one go about banning home plate collisions, or in d’Arnaud’s case, prevent himself from being involved in a collision?
In the banning collision department, is the instigator or the catcher ejected if there is a collision? Is there a suspension or a fine? If this happens, will teams be required to keep three catchers on their roster instead of two?
And how about d’Arnaud? He relishes the opportunity to get down and dirty, but in his case, if a runner is barreling down the third base line, does he simply allow the run to score, or does he try something like standing up and slapping the tag on?
Another thing that I find crazy about home plate collisions is that they are a natural part of the game, and you don’t usually ban natural parts of the game. A spitball is unnatural, steroids and HGH are unnatural, even the recently banned pickoff move is unnatural, but come on, a home plate collision? Some of the best postseason plays have come on home plate collisions, like JT Snow moving Dusty Baker’s boy out of harm’s way in the 2002 World Series, Ivan Rodriguez securing an NLDS victory for the Marlins in 2003 by blocking Snow from scoring, and even Paul Lo Duca, in 2006, nabbing not one, but two Dodger baserunners in game one of the NLDS that year, (a game that I attended myself). My philosophy on that is that if it isn’t natural, it goes, but if it is, it stays.
We get that collisions are dangerous and could lead to serious injury, but before calling for an outright ban, think about how exactly this affects the game, and if it’s even a logical move in the first place.