Why MLB won't put a stop to dangerous collisions
The network that rhymes with ¡Si, es bien! aired a segment last night on home-plate collisions, and what Major League Baseball is (un)willing to do about them.
Here's Joe Torre, newly appointed Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations for MLB:
I told the San Francisco Giants that I would certainly be willing to ... hear them out, and discuss whatever they want to discuss, but I really don't think anything can be done [about collisions at home plate]. As far as what we can do about it, I really don't see anything that should change.
Really, Joe? Nothing can be done? Because Bruce Bochy has an idea, if you're willing to listen:
It's getting to a point I think [where] we need to explore doing something to protect these catchers. We did at second base ... other sports have done things, protecting the quarterback and receivers. You know what? I compare it to almost a fair catch.
Actually, Bochy has two ideas:
I think you could say, you know what, if there's a [running] lane there, you've got to go for home plate.
Ah, but a running lane would require a change to the baseball's hallowed rules, which were handed down to Alexander Cartwright on stone tablets by our vengeful God.
I'm not a big rule change person in our game anyway. To go and change rules, you know, this game doesn't want to lose a player like Posey, but... the game is much bigger than all of us as players.
Yes, it would be a tragedy if we changed the rules of the game for some dumb reason like safety. I mean, sure, go ahead and monkey around with the official rules to increase or decrease scoring. That's different. It just is. Shut up. No, you're a jerk. No, YOU are.
The notion that baseball is "a perfect machine," never in need of maintenance, so nimbly punctured by Bill James in The New Historical Baseball Abstract, obstructs our efforts to improve the game, or even recognize problems where they exist. Whereas college basketball rejiggers its rules every so often to keep the game exciting, Major League Baseball is so sclerotic that it can't keep batters in the batter's box. And as impotent as their solutions have been, at least they see this as a problem in need of solving. Try getting anyone inside baseball to understand that fans don't want to see Albert Pujols get intentionally walked.
I have a catcher, a man who was a catcher, working for me. He talked to other catchers. I talked to Johnny Bench about it. But Joe Torre said to me, "There's no need to change the rule," and every catcher I've talked to since then has shared that view. I have gotten absolutely no one talking to me about changing the rule, and I don't think the rule should be changed.
Did he talk to Bruce Bochy? Bochy was a catcher, too, but I guess his authority just isn't appealing enough.
By the way, here's the aforementioned Johnny Bench's contribution to the discussion:
[partially removes shirt to reveal old shoulder injury] This is called an AC joint, okay? That's an acromioclavicular joint. That was where I got ran over at home plate. I had six cortizone shots every three weeks to finish the year.
Bench was not trying to persuade us that MLB should do whatever it can to relegate such preventable injuries to the dustbin of history. No, this was macho bravado. He was basically re-enacting the bar scene from Chasing Amy.
Here's what Bobby Wilson, who lost consciousness after his collision with Mark Teixera last season, had to say:
You have to do it, I mean you're talking about guys' livelihoods, you know, guys trying to put food on the table...
Exactly. We have to put a stop to these dangerous—wait, that's not what you meant, is it?
... I'm not going to let that run, you know, get across [home plate] without having to go through me first.
Look, I get it. These guys are tough. We all want to seem tough. I dislocated my ankle playing softball when I was 19, and to this day I'm so goddamn proud of myself for not screaming or panicking or crying or soiling myself. I told my friends to drag me off the field so they could finish the game without me, but the sight of my foot pointing 90 degrees in the wrong direction put a real damper on everyone's afternoon. My friend Josh told me I took it like a man. That made me happy, because I wanted to seem tough. I'm not tough, though. I'm a blogger. [#humblebrag]
"Take it like a man" has been baseball's answer to the problem of home-plate collisions. It's not working. Let's try something else.