Friday, June 3, 2011


Much is being discussed about the play at home plate where Nate Schierholtz threw a ball to Buster Posey hoping to peg the runner from third base.  Buster's lack of concentration caused him to not come up with the ball cleanly and in the course of his not being able to find the handle the runner saw his only chance of reaching home safely was by crashing into Posey.

Unfortunately, for Posey, he was in a vulnerable position and the runner's forward progress made Posey susceptible to injury.

People are outraged by the behavior of the runner.  But you have to remember this play didn't happen slide by slide the way some newcasts have shown the play to develop.  The play happened much faster and therefore the runner had little time to ponder what might have been. He pretty much made up his mind the minute he stepped off third base.

Some are talking about changing the rule.

How about someone in charge of the umpires calling a meeting to discuss why the rules ARE in the rulebook.  Discuss why the rules we have for such a play exist and see if the rules are antiquated in any way. Because you can't expect an umpire to determine intent when no two umpires have the same interpretation of the strike zone.   

Personally, I say a runner has as much of a right to the base as a fielder has a right to prevent him from getting there.  But the defensive player must have the ball to be able to block the runner's path.  Buster never had the ball.

Secondly, the way I interpret the rule is that a player can dislodge the ball from the fielder's hands by the manner in which he slides into the defender.  The runner's slide may distract the fielder enough that he takes his eye off the ball, resulting in not catching the ball.  Or the runner's foot may just happen to arrive at the play just before the ball. So whatever happens after that point has to be allowed. It's bang-bang. Ballet at the ballpark, if you will. (How some shortstops or second-basemen are able to jump or contort their bodies to avoid contact is a thing of beauty.)

What cannot be allowed is when someone goes out of their way to cause physical harm on another player. The Pete Rose/Ray Fosse collision in the All-Star game was unnecessary and Rose should have been reprimanded for his uber-wrestling maneuver that had him crashing into Ray Fosse, sans the ropes.  

I played Little League ball as a catcher. And I never liked getting into collisions at the plate. But I learned from each and every one of them. For instance, those plays where I got flattened and the ball trickled out of my glove I just told myself I had to concentrate more and get a better grip on the ball.  Those plays where I got decked without the ball I learned how to get out of the way.

Of course, I hated it when an opposing player was going all-out to bowl me over. So I would learn the best position to be in as the ball was arriving home.  If I could see the runner (out of the corner of my eye) was more than half way and the ball hadn't reached the infield yet I would drop to a knee. Some might call that "going to church" if a grounder was hit to an infielder he was taught to drop to a knee behind the glove to assure the ball didn't go through his legs. Well, this was the same thing except it had nothing to do with preventing the ball from going through my legs.  It had everything to do with the runner flying over me instead of into me.  I figured if the runner didn't care about my well-being that it was only right not to consider his well-being.

The  runners who were crafty enough to slide around the tag were the players I respected.  They were the ones who taught me the most. Because I had to adjust to what the runner was doing they made me a better player. I had to anticipate what might happen if... I gave these players the benefit of the doubt because they earned it. Those who chose the WWF method, of crashing into another player, were primitive both athletically and mentally.

Kevin J. Marquez