The Sports Report

Should Major League Baseball ban "railroading"?

Pete Rose is immortalized through the image of "railroading catchers," while a Marlins rookie is the most hated man in the eyes of the San Francisco Giants fans for it.

"Railroading a catcher" simply means that a baseball runner projects his body toward a catcher blocking home plate in an attempt to thwart a tag at the plate and sneak in a run.

On May 25, Florida Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins collided with Giants catcher Buster Posey in an extra-inning affair, which sparked the debate of whether or not railroading or blocking the plate should be acceptable in baseball.

Posey, last year’s N.L. Rookie of the Year and the Giants’ presumable top hitter, broke his leg and tore three ligaments in his ankle from the collision, ending his 2011 campaign and possibly ruining the Giants’ shot a repeating a World Series title.

This enraged some Giants fans, calling in death threats on Cousins — who is a rookie this season. San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean, still heated by the play, went on a radio station and said he wouldn’t mind if Cousins never played another major league game in his career. Cousins has one career home run and is batting .159 this season.

Radical Giants fans laughed off Cousins, calling him a “civilian” or a “AAA player” at best. Some even believe he did the play just to earn fame for knocking out Posey.

Mainly the radicals want a permanent ban on plays at the plate just because Posey went down in a heap on May 25.

This is all absurd and uncalled for, especially the inflammatory comments from Sabean. He should know better than attacking Cousins for a completely legal play. Besides, if Cousins isn’t supposed to be a major leaguer, like some have claimed, then why wouldn’t he collide with Posey? Cousins needed to make a play to win a ballgame that had run late into extra innings. On the play that ended Posey’s season, the ball was hit barely long enough to even score in Cousins from third, so he knew he had to score to show his hustle to his club and that he belonged in the majors. If he just let it all go, he’d probably be in AAA right now.

Now, who really is to blame for what happened?

Former major league catcher Gregg Zaun believes it rests on the shoulders of the Giants organization. As reported by many outlets, Posey was told before the season began to not block the plate. In the collision on May 25, he was trying to complete a “swoop tag” on Cousins to make the out. As Zaun points out, it’s in poor form for a catcher to do this because it leaves risk for the catcher’s legs to buckle out during a possible collision.

Here’s a video of the collision that ended Posey’s season.


As you can see, Posey’s legs are not under him while he attempts to place the tag and absorb the hit. That’s how his leg shatters in the play.

Here’s another video, this time from Posey in the minor leagues and properly protecting the plate.

This time Posey prepares himself for impact and it allows him to pop up with the ball, make the out, and do it all without injury.

As Zaun points out, Cousins’ play was not illegal. It was a clean play at the plate, but since Posey was going at the runner with a “swoop tag,” he ended up breaking his leg.

Instead of blaming the unwritten rule of “railroading” as the cause of this, perhaps the main cause is that the Giants were afraid this would happen, tried to stop it, and it actually caused their worst fears. San Francisco didn’t want to lose their best hitter.

Which leaves me to my final point, why is Buster Posey behind the plate if you didn’t want him to get injured blocking the plate? If you want the rules of catching changed because you lost your best hitter for the season, then move your best hitter out of the catcher’s role. The Giants were playing with a loaded gun and it shot them in the foot. The organization has nobody to blame but themselves for what eventually occurred on May 25.

Instead of attacking Cousins or the game, maybe the Giants should stop pointing fingers and start planning on a season without Buster Posey. I certainly hope Major League Baseball officials don’t dumb down the competitiveness of the sport just because Buster Posey got hurt.


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