Bochy's quest for catcher rule change hits a major snag

Bochy's quest for catcher rule change hits a major snag
March 23, 2012, 6:11 pm
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy remains passionate about a rule change that would protect catchers from being targeted in home-plate collisions.

But his quest just hit a major roadblock. Major League Baseball announced today that Joe Torre would rejoin the commissioner's office as vice president of on-field operations, a post that he had resigned last year to explore becoming part of an ownership group to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Now Torre is back as the league's discipline and rules czar. And he is not a proponent of rules changes that would legislate against home-plate collisions when a runner has a lane to slide.
Torre took several of Bochy's phone calls after the night of May 25, when Buster Posey broke his fibula and tore three ankle ligaments after getting toppled over by Florida Marlins rookie Scott Cousins. But Torre did not recommend that the rules committee take up the matter at the winter meetings.
Well, listen, I knew it was more emotional than anything else, Torre told me at the winter meetings in Dallas. None of us like to see that. But I really havent heard anything that would encourage me to change anything or recommend a change. Being a catcher for a lot of years, I knew what the consequences were.Bochy was undeterred. He and Giants vice president Bobby Evans spoke informally with other managers and club officials at the winter meetings, trying to build some grassroots consensus. Bochy said at least four or five managers agreed a change was warranted.

One of them was retiring St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who was rumored to be a candidate for Torre's position. Instead, Bochy will find himself in the same place going forward, trying to convince Torre to consider a change.
Ill continue to push for it, Bochy told me in December. Sure, Im disappointed. But its going to take other managers also getting involved, and some of them believe it does need to be changed. Its something Ill still pursue.Although most players acknowledge that Cousins was playing to the scoreboard and operating within baseball's codes when he slammed his right shoulder into Posey in the 12th inning of a tie game, the collision remains a controversial topic. Cousins had a clear lane to the plate but chose to take out Posey instead of slide.Bochy would like a rule that establishes a safe area, a neutral zone, whatever you want to call it, where (the catcher) is protected particularly if hes taking a throw from right field and is vulnerable.Youll have collisions at home plate. You cant take that away, Bochy continued. But its protecting the catcher when hes vulnerable. It shouldnt take something really terrible to happen before something gets done. We need to change this. These runners are getting bigger, stronger and faster.Bochy said he isn't just looking out for Posey. He has seen too many catchers get blitzed at the plate in his fur decades in baseball. When he managed the San Diego Padres, Bochy watched Gary Bennett's shoulder get crushed by an onrushing Brian Jordan -- a former NFL All-Pro defensive back. Bochy got popped several times in his playing career, too, including a notable collision with Pete Rose in the 1980 NLCS that included a forearm to Bochy's jaw.
I dont want to see this referred to as a Buster Posey rule, Bochy said. This has happened before. Its time to make a change for the good of the game.Torre, himself a former catcher, is more accepting that collisions are part of the game and dangerous for all involved -- not just the guy with a chest protector and shinguards.
People have pointed out, He was given a piece of the plate to slide to. And thats true, he was, Torre said. But once (Posey) catches the ball, as a runner, you know that piece is gone. Hes going to block it.That play was not Busters fault. Hes trying to receive the ball, retain it, and here comes the runner. He had committed to break up the play.In November, general managers discussed instituting a no-collision rule in exhibition games but it didn't come to fruition. Just the other day in minor league camp, Hector Sanchez blocked the plate on an A's minor leaguer as he tried to score.Torre told me in December that he plans to be diplomatic about further dialogue, even if his mind is basically made up on the issue.Well continue to listen, Torre said. Ill listen to anything that makes sense, and you know if it comes from people like them (Bochy and GM Brian Sabean), they always make a lot of sense. So Ill listen.

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