Re: will they should they end collisions at home plate
posted at 2/28/2013 9:55 AM EST
Despite personal experience, Ross doesn’t want to ban homeplate collisions
FORT MYERS, Fla. — David Ross still cannot remember what happened.
Ross was playing for the Cincinnati Reds in 2007 when he took a Mike Cameron shoulder to the jaw in a collision in front of home plate. Cameron not only knocked Ross over, he knocked his helmet off — and Ross’s head connected with home plate, appearing to briefly knock him unconscious.
Ross stayed in the game at first — he even singled the next inning, which in retrospect is astonishing — but he eventually came out of the game and spent two weeks on the disabled list with a concussion.
“I’ve heard stories, but I still don’t remember that day,” said Ross, now one of the catchers in camp with the Red Sox. “There’s about a 12-hour period there that I don’t recall. Other than that, I’ve been fine. That’s normal, I guess.”
As is the case in the NFL — but to a significantly lesser degree — concussion awareness has grown in Major League Baseball in recent years. St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny — himself a former catcher whose career was brought to an end by concussions — took a strong stance on Tuesday against collisions at home plate.
“I do believe that this game will get to the point where there will no longer be a collision at the plate,” Matheny said, “and I am 100-percent in support of that.”
Would players be in 100-percent support of a ban on home-plate collisions? Ross has experienced the brutality firsthand, but he couldn’t say definitively what he would want baseball legislators to do.
“I’ve gotten run over and gotten a concussion before, and it’s obviously not fun,” Ross said, “but you learn that it’s part of the game. Would you like not to get run over? Sure. That’d be great if that wasn’t an option. But it is an option, so you kind of have to accept it, and you know that going into the game — or into your career — that that’s part of it. Would you like to see guys not get run over? Sure. The more violence you can take out of any sport, the better. But that’s part of the game right now, so I have no problem with it.”
Concussions suffered by high-profile players such as Jason Bay, Justin Morneau and David Wright have brought the issue to the forefront in recent years.
Bay suffered two concussions from running into outfield walls. Morneau suffered his concussion when he took a knee to the head diving into second base. Wright suffered his concussion when he took a 94-mph fastball to the head.
But there remains no more violent play in baseball than the catcher-runner collision, a car-crash of an event pitting a 200-pound man running at full speed against a 200-pound man wearing a suit of armor.
“I didn’t want to be the poster boy for this gig, but I was able to witness in ways I can’t even explain to people how that altered my life for a short period of time and changed the person that I was,” Matheny said. “It’s scary. You look at this game: Can this game survive without this play? I say, ‘Absolutely.’”
“I tell my wife whenever I get in a bad mood that it’s got to be some kind of blow to the head that’s causing that,” Ross said, joking but not really joking. “The last thing you want is your life after baseball to be somehow affected by something that can be avoided.”
Concussions aren’t the only injuries that can be sustained when a runner demolishes a catcher in an effort to score. Most memorably, San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey broke his leg when a runner plowed straight through his leg. Cleveland Indians catcher Carlos Santana suffered a torn knee ligament when the same thing happened to him at Fenway Park.
And Matheny’s own catcher, Yadier Molina, suffered a head injury — though not a concussion — and multiple muscle strains when a runner tried to run him over last August.
Proponents of a rule change propose that catchers be forbidden from obstructing the basepath and that runners be forbidden from initiating contact with any fielder, be it the catcher or an infielder at one of the bases.
But like hits to the head by defensive backs on wide receivers in football, home-plate collisions remain part of the game in baseball. A catcher who shies away from contact at home plate risks the perception of his manhood.
“I’ve never had a manager say, ‘You’ve got to block the plate,’” Ross said. “But my mentality is that I’m going to put myself on the line for my teammates. I will do that. If it’s a play at the plate in the first inning and I can avoid a collision, I probably will, but if it’s the bottom of the ninth and a tie game, I’m going to do everything to put my body in position to block that plate if I can. That’s just the mentality I have.”