Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 6/4/11
First, the San Francisco Giants lost their catcher, Buster Posey, to one of the most gruesome athletic injuries since Joe Theismann's career was ended when Lawrence Taylor snapped his leg in December of 1985. Then, the San Francisco Giants' (formerly?) well-respected GM Brian Sabean lost his mind Thursday night. He viciously lashed out at the Florida Marlins' Scott Cousins, whose hard hit caused Posey to break his left ankle and tear ligaments. On KNBR Radio in San Francisco, Sabean said "If I never hear from Cousins again or he never plays another game in the big leagues, I think we'll all be happy," and added "we'll have a long memory. You can't be that out-and-out overly aggressive. I'll put it as politically as I can state it: There's no love lost and there shouldn't be." The ill-willed comments prompted many angry reactions from Major League Baseball, the Marlins and even the Giants owners, who issued a statement distancing the club from Sabean's outburst. Finally, Posey tried to diffuse the verbal smackdown Saturday, issuing a statement of his own to the San Jose Mercury News: "I appreciate the continued support of Giants fans and others as I begin the process of working my way back. But in no way do I condone threats of any kind against Scott Cousins or his family. "As I said last week, I'm not out to vilify Scott. I appreciate that he made the effort to reach out to me on the night of the play, but I was in no physical condition to talk to anyone. I have not been back with the team since that night, so I haven't even been aware of any other messages he's left for me. We all need to move on, so it isn't necessary to have a conversation with him at this point. My only focus right now is looking forward, getting healthy and returning to catching for the Giants." So, it seems like Plategate might actually mercifully be coming to an end. But before it does and blame is assigned for all eternity, I decided to ask baseball's greatest plate-blocker how he managed to regularly stop runners from scoring without sustaining a career-threatening injury. Angels' manager Mike Scioscia took the art of blocking the plate to a new level when he played for the Dodgers. He was "blown up" as he refers to it by Jack Clark one Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, getting knocked out and spending the night in the hospital for observation, but that was about as close as he came to getting seriously hurt. And for the record, he proudly points out that "I was back and was used as a pinch hitter the next night." No one would ever question Scioscia's toughness, but his methods of blocking the plate were often scrutinized by opposing managers. They would complain that the umpires let Scioscia get away with taking away the base runner's lane to home plate, and that the Dodger catcher was successful only because he broke the rules. "There are rules that you have to abide by when it comes to blocking the plate," Scioscia said Saturday prior to the Angels-Yankees game at the Big A. "I feel I always did that, or the umpires would have called it." Scioscia went on to discuss the Posey situation, saying he didn't believe that Cousins was malicious when he tried to score and ended up slamming into the Giant catcher, breaking his left ankle and tearing ligaments. "Not a dirty play at all in my opinion. It was unfortunate because you never want to see any player get hurt like that, whether he's a star or a role player. It's a big blow for the Giants, but baseball is a tough game and injuries happen." Injuries tend to happen less when a catcher is in the proper position to take a hit, Scioscia explained: "You want to have your knees on the ground and be as loose as you can to absorb the shock of the hit, have that energy just go right through you. You want to keep your body on a little bit of an angle and approach the play from the right field side of the plate. From what I saw, (Posey's) feet got caught behind him, and instead of getting hit and have the runner go through him and send him flying backwards, his foot got caught behind him. When that happens, you're looking at possibly a very serious injury." Scioscia went on to point out that Cousins was going after Posey's torso, not his legs, proving it was just a hard-nosed baseball play by a guy doing his best to get a run for his team. And he thinks it's a misguided notion to think that there should be a rule change to protect catchers. "Tell me how they're supposed to write the rule," he said forcefully. "A runner would have to run in a certain area and not change course during a bang-bang play? Who decides where that area is? And would catchers have an area they aren't allowed to move from? It's just not feasible to change the rules. I can understand why the Giants are so upset he's a great, young player and means a lot to their team. But you can't overreact to an injury caused by a clean baseball play. And that's what it was a baseball play." Should Posey take some of the blame for being out of position and not properly balanced to take a crushing hit? "Blame? There's nothing to blame anyone for," said Scioscia, a member of Commissioner Bud Selig's competition rules committee. "People have to get that stuff out of their heads. Again, it was just a baseball play. Players have very little time to react in those type of situations. It's mostly your instincts that take over, and you can't say 'this guy was wrong' or 'that guy was to blame' on plays like that. Now, if somebody is going out of their way to try and injure another player, you deal with that on an individual basis. But to talk about rule changes doesn't make any sense to me. I'm sure the incident will be reviewed, and I'll be very surprised if anything new is implemented." A catcher who preferred to remain anonymous told me that he was tired of hearing about the whole thing. "Enough is enough. I'm sick of it. And what they're doing to Cousins is ridiculous. Look at the replay. That tells you all you need to know about what actually happened." Was the player intimating that Posey was might have been out of position? "Look at the tape, then you tell me." Well, the tape has been reviewed millions of times by now, and the only things for certain are: 1) Buster Posey broke his ankle during a hard-nosed play at the plate 2) His catching career is in jeopardy, and if you parallel the Kendrys Morales ankle break, it might be a long time before Posey even takes a meaningful swing 3) Cousins was doing what any other player worth his salt would do in that situation, and shouldn't be bashed by baseball executives or receive death threats from idiots 4) MLB's greatest-ever plate blocker sees no need for rule changes. Injuries minor and major are going to happen as long as the game is around. You can't stop them. And if you tell a catcher not to block the plate for fear of injury, you're messing with the beauty and integrity of the game, just as much as steroids and other drugs. Just let the players play baseball. Believe me, they'll figure it out. Been doing it for over 140 years.
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