That photo right there broke a lot of hearts in San Francisco last week. The play at the plate can be baseball’s version of violence. A runner is coming full speed and if he decides not to slide, a collision is going to happen and sometimes, the catcher is defenseless. Folks react differently to home-plate collisions. Some determine that it’s simply a part of the game, while others look at the situation based on where the catcher is sitting. If the catcher is blocking home plate, they believe that the runner’s only move is to bull rush the catcher over to score that possibly elusive run.

People who haven’t played the game since little league seem to have an opinion on what’s baseball and what isn’t. That’s just fanatical reaction. But, some of my baseball brethren, guys who I stood next to on the baseball field are saying similar things. I know this — if that happened to one of my teammates, I wouldn’t say it was just part of the game. I’d want to get even.

I prefer to look at that play at the plate on a case-by-case basis. In my opinion, if the catcher gives the runner a path to the plate, the runner should take it. If the catcher gives up his right to his half of home plate, the runner shouldn’t try to run through him. It comes down to respecting your opponent.

The runner in question was Scott Cousins and the recipient of his shoulder to the chest was Buster Posey. If you were to compare the value of each player to their team, Cousins is a young player trying to play his way into the Florida Marlins’ rotation, while Posey is one of the best young players in all of baseball. Looking at the replay and the way that Cousins reacted after he injured Posey, it didn’t look to me that there was any ill will intended with his hit. Was it dirty, or reckless? I felt it was completely reckless, but didn’t think the intent was to injure.

But at what point does the result factor into whether it was a dirty play or not? This isn’t a hypothetical situation. We have the result of the play. Buster Posey is out for the entire season because Scott Cousins decided that he was going to bowl over him rather than take the path that was given to him. Should the result factor into the definition of what happened?

Some of you may remember Warren Sapp’s hit on Chad Clifton many years ago. Sapp blindsided him in an area of the field where the play wasn’t happening. He did it because he could. It wasn’t illegal, but it was pretty reckless considering Clifton was hurt. So was that play dirty? It wasn’t illegal. Was Sapp’s intent to injure Clifton or just inspire his team? In my opinion, it didn’t matter because Clifton was hurt on the play. The result said it was a dirty play.

Watch the Posey play below again. You can see it from a few different angles. You’ll see that Posey isn’t blocking the plate. You’ll see that he actually reaches back to tag the runner, who he expects to be sliding toward the side of the plate that he gave him. You’ll see that Cousins braces himself for the hit and decides to hit Posey, not at the last second, but several strides before. It looked predetermined.

 

 

We know Posey is out for the season. We know that Cousins so desperately needed to score a run to win a game in late May that he hit Posey with force when Posey wasn’t even looking. So what’s dirty? Is it only the intent, or is it the actual result? We know what happened. We don’t have to guess.

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