Should baseball ban running into the catcher?

As a lifelong Giants fan, I’ll admit that this topic only became relevant for me when I watched Buster Posey lie on the ground Wednesday night withering in pain. I’ve always felt for catchers who’ve been hurt when a runner smashes into them at home plate. But it honestly has never dawned on me that baseball should actually do something about it until last night.

That’s because not only am I salty Giants fan right now, but I’m also baseball purist. I’ve played the game my entire life on multiple levels and I love it exactly the way it is. Quite frankly, running full-steam into the catcher in efforts to jar the ball loose has always been part of the game.

But while I can’t stand change when it comes to the sports I love, this one seems obvious. I’m sure by now there’s a reader who can’t wait to skip through the rest of this piece just to tell me in the comments section that a) catchers have equipment on, b) professional sports are for men or c) injuries are just part of the game. And while I get all of that, I’ll have to respectfully disagree in this instance.

Even if you have never played the position, if you’ve been around the game long enough you’ll know that catchers’ equipment doesn’t protect much. Don’t confuse a catcher’s chest protector with shoulderpads or their shinguards with ironclad steel. We’re talking about just enough padding and plastic to protect them from foul tips or balls in the dirt. That equipment isn’t meant to protect these players from head-on collisions at home plate.

Let’s also keep in mind that running into the catcher is the only contact allowed in a non-contact sport. Sure, runners slide into middle infielders all the time. But there’s almost an art to it and we’re still not talking about a player getting a 90-foot running head start and throwing his shoulder into a catcher who not only has to catch the ball, but also brace himself for the contact and hang onto it in order to complete the play. It’s rather ridiculous to allow a runner that advantage when you think about it.

And by the way, this has nothing to do with Marlins’ outfielder Scott Cousins – the man who ended Posey’s season on Wednesday night. That play was completely legal and he was just doing what most runners in that situation would: Try to jar the ball loose in order to score a run. He did have a path to the plate and it appears from replays that the play was completely avoidable. But my problem isn’t with the player: it’s with the play.

How about we put an end to the madness already? Njyer Morgan hurt two catchers in less than a week last year and we’ve all seen the images or video of Ray Fosse getting bowled over by Pete Rose. The NCAA is able to enforce a rule that you can’t run over catchers, so why can’t Major League Baseball?

Again, listen: I love physicality in sports. Nothing gets me out of my seat faster then when there’s a big collision in football. But that’s football. Taking this play out of baseball isn’t going to lessen the action or detract from the game itself. So instead of spending time trying to figure out a way to expand its postseason, how about Major League Baseball look into a way to keep its catchers safer? Their job is tough enough as it is without them having to worry about breaking their leg trying to protect the plate.

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