06/10/11 — Stevens: Cousins' collision with Posey sparks controversy and debate

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Stevens: Cousins' collision with Posey sparks controversy and debate

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on June 10, 2011 1:47 PM

One of the many things that makes baseball unique is its countless unwritten rules, one of which is the assumption that players give maximum effort on every play.

Whether that requires a player to slide into a shortstop or second baseman to break up a double play or an outfielder to run into a fence to make a catch, hustle is an assumed part of the game.

That unwritten rule chartered into controversial waters on May 25 when Scott Cousins of the Florida Marlins was involved in a collision at home plate that ended the season of San Francisco Giants' catcher Buster Posey.

Posey, the 2010 National League Rookie of the Year, suffered a a broken bone in his lower left leg and three torn ligaments in his ankle. He had surgery and is done for the season.

Cousins, a San Francisco native, has apologized publicly more than once for injuring Posey and has said he has attempted to reach out to Posey but has been unsuccessful.

Cousins also reiterated his feeling the play was clean and within the rules of the game, while stressing his responsibility to himself, his teammates and the organization to the play the game hard.

In the weeks that have followed, Cousins has received death threats and the collision has sparked a debate about the safety of catchers and possible rules to protect them on plays at the plate.

At the center of the debate has been Giants general manager Brian Sabean. Last week on his radio show, Sabean called the play malicious and also said, "if I never hear from Cousins again, or he doesn't play another day in the big leagues, I think we'll all be happy."

The Giants also issued a statement saying Sabean's comments were made out of frustration, and the GM was trying to reach Cousins.

Sabean's desire to stand up for Posey as well as his intent to protect the financial investment the Giants have made in their talented young catcher is understandable. However, his comments crossed the line and violated two of baseball's other unwritten rules of sportsmanship and respecting an opponent.

Cousins was simply playing the game the way its meant to be played and Posey, like any other major league catcher, is fully aware of the assumed risk involved with playing the position.

Southern Wayne High School head baseball coach Trae McKee, a former catcher at Mount Olive College, teaches his players the importance of hustle as well as sportsmanship. The N.C. High School Athletic Association has a rule in place requiring runners to attempt to slide at home plate if at all possible.

"I think you've got to defend your own turf," said McKee. "As a catcher you're taught to block the plate. I don't want any of my guys to go out there to purposely injure the other team, but I expect my guys to play hard. In the big leagues, if you don't take the shortstop or second baseman out on a double play you're going to get fussed out. You're expected to get to that next base."

Major League Baseball's 'steroid era,' has already done enough to compromise the integrity of the game. Rule changes that would potentially penalize hustle and discourage players from playing the game the right way would be a much more devastating blow than any collision at home plate.