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It's Awful

The Giants’ 2011 season pretty much ended on the night of May 25, when, in the top of the twelfth inning at AT&T Park, Marlins baserunner Scott Cousins decided to score from third base on a fly ball to Giants right fielder Nate Schierholtz, who has about 87 assists—I mean, every time the ball’s hit to him and someone decides to run on him, the crowd noise builds rapidly, as though it’s a sure thing he’s going to throw the runner out.

Indeed, Schierholtz made an excellent throw, and catcher Buster Posey couldn’t get hold of the ball. Cousins plowed into him and scored what proved to be the winning run. (I suppose the Giants were slightly lucky: The Phillies and the Reds went 19 innings that night; I was rooting for at least 30.)

I was listening to the game on the radio, not watching TV, at that moment, and I’m glad I didn’t see it happen. Nor have I watched replays. I’ve seen one or two photos, and that’s more than enough. As Posey left the field, he was unable to put weight on his left foot. Oddly, the announcers kept talking about his right foot, until they got a better look. Reminded me of the notion of an amputation patient writing “DON’T CUT THIS ONE OFF” on whichever was the good leg (or arm). No, I don’t think it’s funny. Does anybody else remember when Trevor Wilson had to have a rib removed because of some kind of a growth? They took the wrong rib. Wilson had to get a second surgery.

The Giants were not very forthcoming regarding Posey updates, and what had been reported was that Posey broke his left ankle. That’s bad enough, because even though it’ll heal in six to eight weeks, I remember hearing or reading that you’re supposed to sit out about a year after you break an ankle. But according to the latest announcements, it’s the fibula that’s broken. The main worry, though, is ligament damage to the ankle, which Giants trainer Dave Groeschner described as “severe.” He didn’t really elaborate, though. He said something like, “Well, I’d call it severe. Have you heard the one about the guy with the 12-inch pianist?” (Maybe not exactly that.)

Posey said today that he’d almost certainly be out for the rest of the season, and that when he comes back, he wants to return to catching. I think he’s nuts. I suppose the natural inclination would be to put him at first base, but I don’t think he hits like a first baseman. The other choice would be third base, apparently, and that would fit, but whither Pablo Sandoval? Guess he’d move over to first, and Aubrey Huff would take lots and lots and lots of fungoes in left and right field. But it’s too early to speculate on that, which is why I didn’t, remember?

Cousins apparently could have tried to get around Posey, but he chose to go through him. Evidently Cousins and the Giants agree that it was a clean play. However, he also left voicemail for Posey—as if Posey wants to hear it—saying that he feels terrible, didn’t sleep that night—as if Posey wants to hear it. And my instinct—except that I really, honestly don’t advocate drilling people—I sort of hoped that Ryan Vogelsong (the starting pitcher the next day) and every subsequent reliever should dust Cousins off in every at-bat. They didn’t, and I’m glad—I don’t want to see anybody else get hurt. Posey’s injury is bad enough.

Have you ever jumped, perhaps while playing basketball, and somehow landed on the side of your foot? I have. I heard what sounded like tearing noises. In the end, I don’t think either my foot or ankle was even sprained, let alone anything worse, but I’ll tell you this: It sure hurt a lot. I can’t even imagine how much Posey’s leg must hurt. (He’s said he’s in a lot of pain, which makes me wonder just how well the hospital’s managing the pain overall. Shouldn’t he be drugged to the gills or something?)

Posey and Giants manager Bruce Bochy have said that collisions like this—really, the threat of collisions like this—should be “examined” by Major League Baseball, especially since the catcher is so vulnerable. Giants broadcaster Jon Miller made the point today that the helmet, vest, and shinguards are built to protect catchers from foul tips and such, not getting blasted apart by baserunners.

Posey’s agent, meanwhile, started making noise about rule changes. It sounds as though he wants plays of that nature—i.e., when a runner could choose to go around the catcher but doesn’t (meaning plays in which the catcher isn’t blocking the plate)—to be “discouraged” via some kind of penalty. Probably the most meaningful punishment would be to call the runner out, negate the run, and send other runners back to the bases they would have occupied if the ball hadn’t gone flying and the catcher hadn’t gotten killed.

Equally probably—more probably than that, really—nothing’s going to change. More than one person has made the point that if MLB was seriously worried about brutal collisions at the plate, changes would have been made after Pete Rose smote Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game. I truly don’t want to see catchers taken out, especially Buster Posey (too late to hope that won’t happen), but I’m not sure a change of this type should be made. That’s baseball. Isn’t it?

To replace Posey, the Giants took infielder Ryan Rohlinger and minor-league pitcher Henry Sosa off the 40-man roster to make room for catcher Chris Stewart (from Fresno) and shortstop Brandon Crawford (from San Jose). They also brought up Brandon Belt, the first baseman who simply didn’t hit by the time the Giants sent him out last month. Posey was put on the 15-day disabled list (along with infielder Mike Fontenot and outfielder Darren Ford). Soon enough, he’ll be moved to the 60-day DL, which, if nothing else, frees up a spot on the 40-man roster. Especially now that Posey himself has said he’s through for the year, why not move him to the 60?

You probably should read this blog entry in "Extra Baggs,” wherein Giants’ beat-writer Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News reveals Posey’s thoughts on the situation, which boil down, more or less, to “Yeah, I know he’s left a couple messages to apologize, but it seems to me that it’s only to make himself feel better, so the heck with him.” He’s being praised for this online and on the radio. I would think that the thing to do is accept the apology—there’s no need for Posey to “forgive” per se. I understand Posey’s unhappiness with all this, but, again, Cousins seemed genuinely upset about Posey’s injury. In fact, Cousins’ immediate response, after touching the plate, was to check on Posey. So I imagine that when Posey comes back—next year (if we’re lucky)—some Marlins dork is gonna drill him for not accepting Cousins’ apology—and Cousins—frequently described as the Marlins’ “25th man” lately—may well not even be in the major leagues by then.

Miller, on KNBR, talked about how this “25th man” took out a “rising star” who wasn’t even blocking the plate, and what an outrage this is. He added that in hockey, if some marginal player took out a major star, the goons on his (the star’s) team would take care of things right away. I’m sure Miller’s pretty ticked off also, but hearing him suggest, essentially, that the Giants should retaliate made me a little uncomfortable.

But the general consensus seems to be:

  • It was a clean play.
  • But Posey wasn’t blocking the plate; Cousins had a “lane,” meaning room to go around Posey and do a hook-slide—he didn’t have to run him over.
  • But it was a clean play.
  • But Cousins is a complete dingleberry.

And on Baggarly’s blog, along with zillions of messages from readers wishing Posey luck, expressing sorrow and outrage, etc., are the one or two posts saying, “Yeah, well, if a player on your team ran over some other team’s catcher, you’d be okay with it, even if it ruined the guy’s career.” One reply to this was: “Damn right. Your point?”

This is a very weird issue.