Ouch

May 27

The moment it happened Wednesday night, you knew it wasn’t good. Thursday, we found out just how UN-good it was. Buster Posey could be out for the season.

After Posey’s collision with Scott Cousins of the Marlins, questions spilled forth like the cold Stella many Giants fans were pouring into chilled steins in order to anesthetize themselves. Just about everyone was certain of one thing, though — this was a harbinger of doom.

Or … was it ?

I’ll get to that question later, but first, I’ll field several other urgent queries, much like Roberto Luongo fended off a fusillade of Shark pucks during the Western Conference finals. ( I know, that hurts, too. )

Was Scott Cousins’ collision with Buster Posey a clean play ?

Legal, yes. Clean ? Opinions vary. Most Giants seemed to think it was a fair collision, although manager Bruce Bochy, an ex-catcher, was less charitable. Some fans, understandably emotional, point to instant replay or photos to show that Cousins had a path to the plate.

But watch it again in real time. Cousins is 20 feet or less from the plate when the ball is arriving. He thinks the ball has beaten him and he’ll be tagged out if he slides. Not knowing Posey had bobbled the ball, Cousins determines in that final split-second that he has to blow up the catcher — not to hurt him, but to dislodge the ball.

I have heard many say that while legal, the play was unnecessary. Yes, Cousins had another option, but to say he could have “easily” been safe with a hook slide or back-door slide is simply wrong. Posey had time to at least sweep-tag.

Cousins is fighting to stay on the team and was trying to score the potential winning run in extra innings. He was going to score anyway he could. If you were in his cleats, you might have done the same.

Cousins, who played at USF and was a Giants fan, was just sick about the situation Thursday. He said watching the video of the play would only make his stomach turn. He apparently tried to contact Posey and/or the Giants’ training staff to check on him. This is not a bad dude.

He is not a dirty player, and this was a clean play with a nasty result. Don’t like it ? Change the rules of the game. More about that later.

Were the Giants angry at Cousins ?

Initially, yes, later replaced by anger at the situation. Not “The Situation,” although he is certainly worthy of contempt, if not voodoo spells that will turn him into a jack-in-the-box.

Bochy basically told Cousins to get the bleep out of the way when he was checking on Posey right after the collision, and Bochy was still chapped on Thursday. He thought the collision could have been avoided.

With all due respect, I think he feels more strongly about that play because it was HIS catcher involved, and because he’s a former catcher himself. I don’t blame him for feeling that way, but I don’t think you can blame Cousins, either.

Giants players were generally understanding, at least publicly. Some players used the standard “it’s part of the game” line, while others simply bemoaned the loss of a top player and a good teammate.

Certainly fans are angry, upset, depressed. Their reaction is evidenced in the hundreds of emails we received at KNBR Thursday morning.

I’m not sure how angry Posey is with Cousins. I think he’s simply upset at the severity of the injury and the fact he can’t play for a while. He’s probably wondering why Cousins didn’t try to slide, if only for self-preservation, but it will be very interesting to hear what he has to say down the road.

Duane Kuiper, on the pregame broadcast, said Posey might also be wondering what he could have done to avoid injury, because his left leg was exposed on the play. While Posey didn’t block the entire plate, you could say he blocked enough of it to give Cousins the impression he was going to try to block it all.

Should there be rule changes to protect catchers ?

This wasn’t discussed when Ray Fosse was trucked by Pete Rose in the 1970 All-Star game. It wasn’t discussed when Eric Byrnes put Brian McCann on the DL. In fact, I’ve never heard it discussed before, anywhere.

It’s being discussed now by the Giants manager and Giants fans because a top Giants catcher was hurt and it was painful to watch. Plus everybody loves the kid, and your heart goes out to him.

In fairness, however, this wouldn’t have been as hotly debated if it was a Marlins catcher, or if it was Eli Whiteside. It becomes an issue because the absence of the reigning NL Rookie of the Year is a huge blow for the World Series Champions, and for the game.

Byrnes agreed with me as we spoke off the air Thursday night, but he also said, “maybe this is what it took to bring change.” That made me stop and think. Byrnes, an admitted head-hunter when it came to home plate collisions, is not averse to changing the rules to protect catchers from … well, players like him.

That carries some weight with me. So do the words of Bochy, an ex-big league catcher, and Duane Kuiper. You have to at least listen to them.

I told Gary Radnich on the air Thursday morning that this discussion is probably moot because there probably won’t be a rule change, or at least nothing drastic. Baseball is slow to move on anything. I won’t discount the possibility, though: I never thought we’d have video review. I am still dreaming of the day we have robot umpires.

I would not be against a rule change but wonder what form it would take: do you go to the college rulebook and ban above-the-waist collisions ? If so, shouldn’t you ban catchers from blocking the plate at the same time ? After all, runners are at risk, too.

Fosse, in an interview with the “Chronicle,” doesn’t think the rules should be changed because of one incident. Neither does Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who resembled a concrete parking structure pillar when it came to blocking home plate. Even so, he remembers getting bolo-clowned by a couple of Giants during his Dodger days.

On the social networks, you hear a lot of this from wannabe tough guys: “Collisions are part of the game. What do we do next, put on pink tutu’s and dresses ?” I have to laugh at that macho bullcrap. The people who say those kinds of things aren’t the ones affected by this type of play, and in most cases, probably never squatted behind the plate.

I’ll admit that as a fan, I have enjoyed watching a home plate collision or two. Nate Schierholtz, who made the fateful throw to the plate Wednesday, blew up a Chinese catcher in the 2008 Olympics. On Sportsphone 680 that night, I advised fans to build bomb shelters, because the kid from Danville might have started an international incident.

As fans, we also dig violent collisions in football, but if the NFL is making rule changes to protect its players, why can’t Major League Baseball ? At the very least, it could impose fines on players who choose to bowl into a catcher at the plate. That could be very pricey for 25th men like Cousins.

I can accept even tougher penalties, but it’s going to take a lot of discussion, and there can’t be any gray areas. Whatever rule is approved, must be crystal-clear. There can’t be any doubt in a runner’s mind — or in a catcher’s mind — when a play develops at the plate. Otherwise you risk injury that way.

Should Posey be switched from catcher to first base when he returns ?

The question of moving Posey from behind the plate arose on Sportsphone 680 long before Wednesday night. For a long time, I’ve been saying Posey is more valuable to the Giants as a catcher than, say, at a corner infield position. He gives the Giants an automatic edge over most teams in the majors.

However, I have also said that the Giants would eventually consider a position change, maybe a few years down the road. There are other catching prospects coming up in a couple of years, including Tommy Joseph.

Does his injury speed up that timetable ? Posey has been taking a beating this year, even before the collision with Cousins. The idea of moving him, sooner rather than later, has gained traction.

Problems abound, however. The Giants already have Aubrey Huff and Brandon Belt available at first base. Belt appears to be the long-term answer there. Playing him in the outfield would have to be short-term, only. As for Huff, the Giants don’t want to see any more outlines drawn in the outfield.

They have Pablo Sandoval at third base, unless he decides to re-acquaint himself with our good friends from Breyer’s. A return to a more porcine figure could send Sandoval oinking toward first, or the American League.

In that event, the Giants could possibly move Posey to third if they determine he has enough range. I wouldn’t doubt that Posey, a terrific athlete, could make that transition. Having said that, it’s a better scenario if the Giants stick with Hot Corner Panda.

Much also depends on how Posey recovers from this injury. Surgery is likely, and how will his ankle respond ? Will he be able to handle the wear and tear behind the plate, and will he be anywhere near as good ?

Will Posey and his agent back a potential move ? As a first baseman, his offensive numbers are just ordinary and his worth is diminished. As a catcher, he is vaulted into the elite super-strata that caused me to compare him to former MVP Joe Mauer a year ago — before Mauer started the 2011 season doing his best Choo Choo Coleman imitation.

By the way Mauer, who is close to returning from the disabled list for the Twins after suffering leg and shoulder ailments, is a few years further along than Posey. And when he returns, he will be a designated hitter at first.

The Giants will need to sort out what’s going to happen with Huff, Belt, Sandoval and a young crop of outfielders before making the decision to move Posey. They’ll also have to get Posey’s OK, and he likes being behind the plate, despite being a pinata this year.

I still don’t see Posey moving anywhere for at least a couple of years. I think he has just gone through a bad stretch of injuries, which will happen to catchers. I do think he should get a reduced workload when he returns, and maybe the Giants eventually wean him off the backstop teet.

For now, we should wait to see how he responds physically and if he’s OK, he should get another shot behind the plate. He’s too important to the Giants at that position right now.

Should Pablo Sandoval catch when he returns ?

He is coming off a hand injury, so I doubt the Giants would want to risk foul-tips or hazards behind the plate. He has caught before, and wasn’t a complete embarrassment, but that would have to be a last resort. Then you have to play Miguel Tejada at third base every day — and I’m not sure I want to play him ANYWHERE every day.

I feel better with Sandoval at third base, a defensive-minded catcher behind the plate, an offensive upgrade at shortstop and failing that — a better defensive player than Tejada or Mike Fontenot. They’ll give youngsters Emmanuel Burriss and Brandon Crawford a shot, but mix-and-match will only be a short-term fix.

Finally, the question which began the blog: are the Giants screwed this year ?

No. Their pitching is great, and remember, even before Posey was hurt the Giants were averaging less than three runs per game in their previous 26. How many of those games did they win ? 17. They not only moved into first place but extended their lead in the division.

As I have said before, that’s a house of cards. As Rodney Crowell once wrote so pointedly, seemingly sensing the Giants’ dilemma some 35 years ago, “Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This.”

Trades can be made to strengthen the offense and make up for the loss of Posey’s bat. I think the Jose Reyes deal has been under consideration, but the question is whether he would want to sign a long-term contract. The Mets are financially-desperate, and apparently willing to unload him, but they know the Giants badly need the fuel Reyes can provide.

This fuel will cost them more than four-bucks a gallon. But I think the Giants should still explore all the possibilities before giving up on Reyes, even if he’s a rent-a-player. You want to keep those extra season-ticket holders ? Try to make this happen. If that means dealing Zach Wheeler and another top prospect, so be it.

On a lesser scale, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal ( he, the Simon of the “Simon and Garfunkel” photo with Matt Cain last fall ) has reported the Giants are inquiring about Nationals catcher, 39 year old Pudge Rodriguez. This is not the same Pudge who blocked J.T. Snow at home plate in the 2003 playoffs: that Pudge was the product of better living through chemistry.

Ryan Doumit of the Pirates is also a possibility, although Ryan Vogelsong and Freddy Sanchez have reminded the Bucs just how wonderful it is to deal with the Giants. Other options don’t sound much better than what the Giants currently possess behind the plate.

Bengie Molina, who left town just before the bridges he burned collapsed, is waiting for a phone call from somebody. That is, provided he has not attained the girth of Mr. Creosote from “Monty Python’s The Meaning of LIfe.” or Triscuitt Messmer from “Angels in the Outfield.”

Molina knows the Giants ‘ pitching staff and could at least provide some extra base hits from the eight-hole. He would also be cheap. Apparently the Red Sox considered him, before being dissuaded by the pleas from every Outback Steakhouse in the greater Hub area.

If the Giants and Molina have soothed over their feelings, a deal could be struck, and the Giants wouldn’t have to give up any players — but Bengie isn’t holding his breath. “Just have one last mint.”

Any trade of consequence is still a month away, so for now, the Giants will do their best to cobble together a lineup, with a 1 1/2 game lead. And let’s face it: the NL West is a one-legged kicking contest.

They will hope Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart ( who impressed in spring ) can do a good job behind the plate, that Aubrey Huff can stop swinging at air, that Sandoval can pick up where he left off with the bat, that Cody Ross can tap into some of that October magic, and that Belt can fulfill some of his promise.

They will hope all that will keep them in contention. They will also hold out slim hope that Posey can magically re-appear like the Lady of the Lake at a pivotal moment and offer up Excalibur, or at least an extra bat, late in the season.

If I was going to bet at Excalibur, however, I would not put money on Posey’s return this season. I am more interested in his long-term health anyway. He is young and has so much baseball ahead of him: I hope he takes the time he needs to return to full strength, if that is possible.

Think good thoughts for the kid.

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4 Responses to “Ouch”

  1. Greg Olzack Says:

    In fairness to both players involved in the play at home plate, the replay appears to show that Posey did not catch the ball, but still turned and moved across the plate into the oncoming Cousins. The split second timing of the play probably didn’t allow for either player to realize that, without the ball in Buster’s mitt, the collision was a moot point and not necessary. It was an unfortunate accident.

  2. Jim from Napa Says:

    If Buster didnt’ get hurt nothing would have been said about it so I dont know if much will be done.

    The Giants still should win the nl west; it’s a bad division. The Giants are 8-13 against the rest of the National league and has been swept at home by Atlanta and Florida.

    I just think the Giants caught lightning in a bottle last year. I dont’ see them coming close to repeating. Just my opinion.

    Have a great and safe holiday weekend Ray

  3. Mike Cole Says:

    Nice writing Ray.

  4. 08 Hoppie Says:

    A voice of reason in a Bay of madness.
    Now, “F— off I’m full”

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