Ratto: Posey injury a can of worms for baseball

June 1, 2011, 7:36 pm
Share This Post


Buster Posey's offended fibula is changing baseball as we know it, and here's the proof: An interview with ESPN in which A's GM Billy Beane has told catcher Kurt Suzuki not to block home plate.

This is a direct response to Posey's season-ending injury, as well as an acknowledgement that Suzuki is that important to the A's. The numbers that relate to Suzuki's value above that of your average catcher are there to be found.

"I said to him, 'I don't want you planting yourself in front of the plate waiting to get creamed. You're an athletic catcher -- be athletic,'" Beane told Suzuki as related to ESPN's Buster Olney. "I don't subscribe to the theory you should be a crash-test dummy. I don't want to lose you for six months."

That said, we have now entered a brave and weird new world, one in which valuable players are having their risks reduced while your average catcher (say, just for purposes of argument, Landon Powell) probably isn't getting the same directive.

And while that may sit well in FantasyWorld, we suspect it might not go down so well in actual clubhouses, where those who have the risk-averse clause and those who do not will find themselves at considerable odds.

Put another way, if Suzuki can beg off hazardous duties that Powell cannot, you have a problem, and a potentially serious one.

We are not raising the flag for Landon Powell here, necessarily, nor are we dismissing Suzuki's right not to have his brains clattered needlessly -- as opposed to necessarily having his brains clattered. That's a philosophical argument for another time.

But Beane is creating separate clubhouses, and a huge number of negotiating headaches, all at the same time.

When does an outfielder dive for a ball, or go to the wall to catch one? When should a first or third baseman range over by the dugout for a foul pop? When should a pitcher try to knock down a comebacker? And double plays? Please.

We are not accusing Beane of having all these things in mind when he was looking after Suzuki's brain pan. But there is always the law of unintended consequences, and this is where the don't-block-the-plate concept leads to players who should risk their well-being and players who should not. It actually codifies less-than-full-effort, and frankly becomes a glorious, spectacular mess for everyone involved.

Will this change Beane's mind? Please. He may be flexible with concepts, but once he likes one, he stands almost immutably firm on it. He still likes the managers-don't-matter-much concept, even though the evidence not only cuts both ways but actually suggests fairly strongly that he is more wrong than right.

But let a thousand flowers bloom, and let ideas run rampant. Although I can't wait for Yadier Molina to demand the no-contact catching clause in his next deal.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

More Team Talk