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June 3, 2011

Prospectus Perspective

Sabean Takes on the Catcher-Collision Problem

by Larry Granillo

On Thursday, San Francisco Giants' general manager Brian Sabean took to the airwaves in the Bay Area to tell how he really feels about Scott Cousins, the Florida Marlins player who injured Buster Posey in a home plate collision last week. This is what Sabean had to say:

"If I never hear from Cousins again or he never plays another game in the big leagues, I think we’ll all be happy. ... He chose to be a hero in my mind, and if that’s his flash of fame, that’s as good as it’s going to get, pal. We’ll have a long memory. Believe me, we’ve talked to (former catcher Mike) Matheny about how this game works. 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."

Tell us how you really feel, Sabean. Seems awfully serious. I can only imagine, then, that Sabean gave Pablo Sandoval a similar lecture after this play last year:

Ryan Doumit was more directly in the basepath than Buster Posey was during his collision (though not by much), and Sandoval's collision was a little less violent than Cousins', but there is nothing here that is drastically different than the Cousins/Posey shot. Sandoval was clearly going for Doumit's body in an effort to dislodge the ball and he passed up a very obvious hook slide opportunity to do so. The only difference is that Doumit played his position better, not only retrieving the ball quicker but also positioning himself into a safer position.

But maybe Sabean didn't see that Sandoval/Doumit collision the same as me. Clearly, then, he called for reform of the plate-blocking rules when this happened:

In 2006, rookie Prince Fielder collided with Giants catcher Todd Greene (see the video - sorry, no embed!). Greene was standing on the basepath, moving up towards third while catching the ball when he met Fielder two steps from the plate. Greene laid on the ground for about five minutes before walking off under his own power. He stayed out of the lineup for a few days before finishing the season with the Giants. Sabean must have railed against Major League Baseball then, at least. After all, we all know this Posey situation isn't being blown out of proportion because of Posey's marketability and talent. That would be absurd and disingenuous.

What's that? Felipe Alou, the Giants' manager at the time went on the record about the hit? That's got to be good.

"Baseball, pure baseball. Hardball," Alou said.

And what about Greene himself?

"I think it's a clean play. He plays hard, and I hope he continues to play hard. It just sucks that he was safe. I felt I held onto the ball long enough. Obviously, I didn't. I remember thinking clearly I had to show (the umpire) the ball. I thought I tried to."


Okay. But the Olympics will be different. There's no room for hard-nosed shenanigans during that kind of event.

The video shows 2008 Team USA player (and Giants farmhand) Nate Schierholtz plowing through China's catcher Yang Yang in an attempt to score. Yang is standing in a similar position to where Posey was standing last week, but the Schierholtz hit is much harder than Cousins' hit. I can't find any comments from Sabean about the Olympics hit, but then-hitting coach Carney Lansford did say "I wish more of our guys would play like that up here." The sit-down meeting with Schierholtz, where Sabean told him that he hoped his career would be short and that the organization has a long memory, must have been behind closed doors and private. It's the only explanation.

I understand the pain and loss the Giants are going through with Posey's injury right now, especially considering it could have been avoided. I'm still having a hard time seeing as how it's any different than Carlos Santana's injury last year, though, or any of a hundred more just like it. I guess it's a good thing Sabean has had such a consistent, strong opinion about it over the years. That kind of resolve can really effect change.

Oh wait...

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