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SAN FRANCISCO – Major League Baseball intends to put more distance between catchers like Buster Posey and hard-charging baserunners.
But ask for Posey’s thoughts on the pending rule change, and it’s clear he’d rather put distance between himself and the whole topic.
“I try to keep myself out of the conversation as much as I can, because I know people will connect me to it regardless,” said Posey, who fractured his leg and tore three ankle ligaments in a season-ending collision with Marlins baserunner Scott Cousins in May, 2011.
“I’m kind of sitting back and letting the higher powers figure it out. I have my thoughts, but I’ll keep them to myself.”
Posey’s manager Bruce Bochy, has spearheaded efforts to approve a rule change. That’s one more reason that the rule, if approved and implemented, will be known to many as the “Buster Posey rule.”
That’s the last thing Posey wants. He shared that much, at least.
“For me, I just don’t want it to be about me,” said Posey on Friday. “Whatever the outcome, I just want the best-case scenario for everybody in the league.”
A collision like the one that ended Posey’s season wouldn’t be legal under new rules, which are still taking shape. Cousins veered into fair territory and led with his right shoulder while trying to dislodge the ball, which beat him to the plate. Posey never had possession of it, anyway.
The Posey play might have mobilized Bochy to begin his crusade, but the manager said he began to feel a change was needed years earlier when the Padres’ Gary Bennett got steamrolled by then-Dodger and former NFL All-Pro safety Brian Jordan at the plate.
Bochy didn’t get much initial traction in his efforts following the 2011 season. But the NFL’s very public issue with concussions, which now includes legal action, changed some minds within MLB’s hierarchy. Now it’s a liability issue for the league. (That’s one reason the “neighborhood play” was curiously absent from the list of plays that will be reviewable under expanded instant replay. The league doesn’t want to increase the exposure for injuries on the middle infield, either.)
Still, the home-plate rules are far from finalized, and GM Brian Sabean said he doubted they would be on the books by opening day. Bochy was a bit more optimistic, saying he hoped some things could be ironed out on a conference call in the next few days.
This isn’t just an issue that affects catchers. Players throughout the game are seeking to have input in the process, including Hunter Pence. The Giants’ right fielder said he recently spoke with another player “who has a voice in the process” to discuss how the rule should be implemented to make plays at the plate safe for baserunners, too.
“This is a very sensitive subject to a lot of people,” Pence said. “Not only can a starting catcher get hurt, but it can lead to fights and a lot of nasty stuff that shouldn’t be in the game of baseball.
"There are no rules for a slide into home plate, and that’s wild when you think about it. So there are all these unwritten rules about what teams can and can’t get mad about. If there’s a rule, it’s defined. So I think it could clarify a lot of things.”
Giants third base coach Tim Flannery said he’ll tell his runners to slide hard. Pence doesn’t plan to ease up, either.
“There needs to be a safe spot for a catcher, but it’s up to them if they decide to be in the danger zone,” Pence said. “I know in spring training I’ve gone in soft and gotten hurt that way. I always go as hard as I can into home plate. If they come in late and you’re not going hard, you’re going to get hurt.”
Posey was happier to discuss his desire to “get the bad taste out of our mouths,” saying he was able to take advantage of a full offseason to add 10 pounds of mostly good weight.
Posey acknowledged he didn’t always have his legs under him in the second half, when he hit just two home runs while posting a .244 average and .310 slugging percentage after the break.
“As a competitor you don’t want to use anything as an excuse,” Posey said. “No matter how you’re feeling physically or mentally, you feel like you should be able to figure out a way to get the job done. And I didn’t do that. I hope to learn from that and become a better player.”
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