Showing posts with label Buster Posey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Buster Posey. Show all posts

Thursday, October 30, 2014

What if Alex Gordon had tried to score in the bottom of the ninth in World Series Game 7?

Let's start with this: Kansas City Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele made the right call when he threw up the stop sign and held Alex Gordon at third base with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday night in Game 7 of the World Series.

Let's also give credit to the San Francisco Giants, who secured their third World Series title in five years with a 3-2 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. In particular, we give props to San Francisco left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who fired five innings of two-hit shutout relief to earn his third victory of the Series. He is not only a worthy World Series MVP, he deserves credit for one of the best postseason performances of all-time. Who would have thought he could come back on just two days rest and pitch five dominant innings like that? Not me. That's a helluva job by him.

But, I want to focus on the play that created all the drama in the bottom of the ninth inning. Leading 3-2, Bumgarner easily retired the first two hitters, and Gordon was at the plate representing Kansas City's final hope. He ended up hitting a sinking liner toward left-center field.

Giants center fielder Gregor Blanco got caught in between. He seemed unsure whether to dive and attempt a game-ending catch, or pull up, play the ball on a bounce and concede a single. He did neither. He pulled up and tried to play it on a hop, but the ball skipped past him and rolled all the way to the wall. San Francisco left fielder Juan Perez was backing up the play, and he bobbled the ball, as well.

By the time Perez's throw back toward the infield reached Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, Gordon - carrying the tying run with him - was cruising toward third base.

Jirschele faced a split-second decision with everything hanging in the balance. Were Gordon's odds of scoring on that play better than the odds of the next hitter (catcher Salvador Perez) getting a game-tying base hit off Baumgarner? The Kansas City coach's answer to that question was "no," and I agree with him.

Crawford has a strong, accurate arm. He already had the ball as Gordon reached third base, and if he had to, he could have relayed it to San Francisco catcher Buster Posey in about two seconds. Gordon has decent speed, but not he's not a burner, and there's no way he would have been able to outrun the ball in that situation. A good relay throw, and he's a dead duck and Jirschele doesn't sleep for a month.

So, Gordon was held at third. Perez popped out to third baseman Pablo Sandoval to end the game, and now the second-guessing has begun.

Even though I agree with the decision to hold Gordon based on logic, there's a big part of me that wishes he would have been sent. On that play, the San Francisco fielders were handling the ball as if it had grease all over it. Could Crawford have executed a good relay throw under that type of pressure, with the outcome of the World Series on the line? We'll never know for sure.

Moreover, would Posey have caught the ball and tagged Gordon out without being called for blocking the plate?

It's an interesting thought: Gordon, Posey and the ball all converging on one spot in front of home plate, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7 of the World Series in a one-run game, with that silly home plate collision rule that nobody understands in effect. Can you imagine the World Series coming down to a replay review of a play at the plate? That would have been outgoing commissioner Bud Selig's worst nightmare.

Man, what if Gordon had tried to score? It might have created a play that would have been talked about for decades.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dumb collision rule bites White Sox in San Francisco

White Sox manager Robin Ventura is often criticized for being too laid-back and lacking in fire. Alas, Rule 7.13 -- aka, the Buster Posey rule, or the home-plate collision rule -- is enough to send even the world's calmest man into a fit of rage.

On Wednesday, the Sox were screwed by the aforementioned Rule 7.13, and Ventura stormed out of the dugout to put on perhaps the finest dirt-kicking exhibition we've seen by a manager this season. In fact, it was one of the better manager tirades we've seen in quite some time. In my book, Ventura's anger and frustration were justified.

The Sox were leading the San Francisco Giants 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning. San Francisco had runners on first and third with one out when Giants' second baseman Joe Panik hit a squibber to Chicago first baseman Jose Abreu, who charged the grounder and threw to home plate in plenty of time to get San Francisco's Gregor Blanco, who was trying to score from third.

I'd say Blanco was still 20 feet up the line when Sox catcher Tyler Flowers received the throw. He waited for Blanco to arrive and tagged him for the second out of the inning.

Or not.

After about a six- or seven-minute review, which is an absurd length of time, umpires ruled Flowers had violated Rule 7.13 by planting his foot in front of home plate before he had possession of the ball.

I'm not going to bother dissecting whether this was the correct interpretation of the rule. It probably was, but who cares? It's a dumb rule. It defies common sense that a runner can be called safe after being thrown out by 20 feet on the basis of where a catcher's foot was when he caught the ball.

Moreover, why the hell did it take so long to finish the review? It should not take any longer than two minutes to determine whether an improper call has been made. The call on the field should stand automatically if the process takes any longer than that. It's asinine to have the game stopped for that long. But I digress.

In this case, the call on the field was reversed. The Giants were awarded the tying run, and Ventura blew his stack. The next San Francisco batter, Brandon Crawford, as was retired on a routine fly ball. So, Sox pitcher Jose Quintana would have been out of the inning with no runs allowed had Blanco been called out at home. Instead, the inning continued. Quintana walked pinch hitter Joaquin Arias and was removed from the game. The Sox bullpen imploded, combining to give up six two-out runs, and the Giants prevailed 7-1.

No surprise there. I think we all knew it wasn't going to end well after Quintana left the mound.

Here's the thing that irritates me most about this rule: It's not necessary. It was put in place only because one guy, Posey, got hurt on a play three years ago. I'm sorry he was injured. He's a good player, and I know his absence ruined the season for the Giants in 2011. But you know what? Those are the breaks. It's sports. Sometimes players get injured. Collisions happen at the other bases, too, not just home plate. It's part of baseball.

There hasn't been a rash of injuries to catchers on home-plate collisons, so this whole thing about needing to protect guys is bunk to me. I understand the need for such a rule at youth and amateur levels. When kids are playing, safety is often the first priority. I get that. However, professionals aren't kids. They are grown men, and they understand there is a risk of injury when they step on the field. They are well compensated for assuming that risk, and they don't need to be protected in this manner.

Major League Baseball is guilty of trying to fix a problem that did not exist with this rule. It is an overreaction to an injury that happened to a star player three years ago. If that same injury had happened to a lower-profile catcher than Posey, would this rule be in place? I don't believe so.

Now, we've got a rule that creates senseless calls like the one that cost the White Sox the game Wednesday. In the big picture, maybe it doesn't matter because the Sox are out of the race. But, say your team is one game out of first place in the division race. Could you stomach losing on a call such as this?

You know, if they really want to protect catchers, there's an easier way to do it. Just say that anyone who runs over a catcher at the plate is automatically out. There. Done. It's black and white. Not everyone would like it, but everyone would get it.

I'd rather they do that than stick with this stupid rule with all these gray areas where we're taking six or seven minutes of review time to determine where a catcher placed his foot when he caught a throw coming to the plate. The whole thing is just dumb.

In any other year besides 2014, Blanco would have been called out. And that's the way it should be.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Major League Baseball plans to ban collisions at home plate

Rare is the case where I don't have a strong opinion on one of the hot-button topics in Major League Baseball. However, I have to admit I don't care if the league bans collisions at home plate.

The issue is back in the news after the league on Wednesday announced it intends to ban such plays by 2015 at the latest. Details of the new rules still need to be sorted out, but the owners are scheduled to vote on the changes at their Jan. 16 meeting. The players' union also would have to approve the changes for the rules to take effect in 2014.

How might those rules work? According to ESPN.com:

1. Catchers will not be allowed to block home plate.

2. Runners will not be permitted to target the catchers.

3. The question of whether or not the plate was blocked or the runner targeted the catcher will be reviewable, with an immediate remedy available to the umpires.

4. Catchers or runners who violate the new rules will be subject to disciplinary action.

The main reason I don't have a strong opinion on this is because I don't perceive injuries on home-plate collisions to be a major problem in the sport. Yes, San Francisco catcher Buster Posey suffered a season-ending leg injury on a such a play in May 2011. It was horrible to watch, and losing Posey ruined the Giants' season. However, Posey returned in 2012 and helped lead San Francisco to its second World Series title in three years.

I'm trying to think of another major injury that has happened recently on a collision at home plate, and I'm drawing a blank. I know the league is concerned about concussions. Former players in football and hockey have sued the NFL and the NHL, respectively, over concussion-related health issues. I'm sure Major League Baseball wants to protect itself from such a lawsuit, and that's probably among the reasons it is moving forward with this change.

If the league and the players decide the change the rules, that's fine. These plays at the plate don't happen all that often -- maybe two or three times per team during a 162-game season.

I'm just interested to see how it's going to work. I don't care that they're taking collisions out of the game. I don't need those to enjoy the sport. But depending on how the rules are written, this is likely going to add some tough judgment calls for umpires. We'll see if they can apply the new rules fairly and consistently, if the changes are approved as expected.