Buster Bluster

June 2

Giants General Manager verbally barreled into the Marlins’ Scott Cousins Thursday. Debate rages on whether Cousins meant to harm Buster Posey in last week’s infamous collision, but there was no doubt Sabean was trying to crush the Marlins rookie outfielder.

The quotes are well known by now: “He chose to be a hero” … ” “there’s no love lost and there shouldn’t be” …”if that’s his flash of fame, that’s as good as it’s gonna get, pal” … and, the money shot: if Cousins “never plays another day in the big leagues I think we’ll all be happy.”

From 3,000 miles away, Sabean dropped a 20-megaton bomb on the 25th man on the Marlins’ roster. The intent was clear: if Cousins was going to end the season of the Giants’ All-Star catcher, he’s as good as blacklisted.

First, a little context. Some might wonder why Sabean was re-stoking the fire a week later. It was actually the first time he had been on the air with Ralph and Tom on KNBR since the collision, so they had to ask him his opinion.

As it turns out the fire was smoldering just beneath the surface. Sabean and the Giants organization are obviously still pretty hot about what happened, and they aren’t letting go anytime soon. He was being as candid as I’ve ever heard him on the radio, so I appreciated the honesty, but his words were pretty harsh.

Listen, everybody is pretty emotional about this. Cousins had better not run into my wife in San Francisco. She’s 5-3 and 100 pounds but she’ll land a haymaker if she sees him.

But Sabean was speaking as though it’s some kind of violation for a fringe player to make contact with an All-Star. If Sabean feels Cousins should have slid, that’s one thing, but he seemingly took it as affrontery that a player of Cousins’ ilk would even consider crashing into someone as esteemed as Posey.

We can debate the mechanics of the play until we’re blue in the face –I think Cousins felt he had no choice given the circumstances — but nothing is going to bring Posey back. Nothing is going to speed his recovery. Nothing from nothing leaves nothing, as the great Billy Preston once sang so soulfully.

Most of all, the recriminations don’t help Posey’s teammates move on, and they MUST. It’s a cold business and they need to play as though he isn’t there, because he won’t be — for a long time. In fact, with 29 runs in four games in St. Louis, they showed signs of doing just that. And they’re back in first place.

I think Sabean is a decent guy, so I want to believe he was speaking out of sheer emotion and not malice. However, his words came off that way, and it doesn’t make him or the Giants organization look good to the rest of baseball.

To my knowledge, he’s never spoken out this strongly about catcher-runner collisions before. His outrage wasn’t evident when Prince Fielder plowed into Todd Greene in 2006. Both Greene and Manager Felipe Alou called it a clean play.

I can tell you that Giants fans loved it when Schierholtz blew up Chinese catcher Yang Yang in the 2008 Olympics. I can tell you, because I hosted Sportsphone 680 that night. I told listeners to build bomb shelters because Nate might have started an international incident.

As far as I know, Sabean didn’t speak out against that play. I didn’t hear much when Pablo Sandoval hammered the Pirates’ Ryan Doumit, in a play very similar to the Cousins-Posey collision, last year. The difference on that play was that Doumit was in a better position for impact ( Baseball Prospectus ).

Posey would not have been at such risk for injury, and we would not be debating rules on catcher collisions, if he didn’t leave his left leg exposed, and if he had cleanly fielded the throw by Schierholtz. And who knows what would have happened if he caught the ball … does he try to block the plate ? Cousins had to account for that possibility.

It sucks. It sucks for the Giants, sucks for baseball, and especially sucks for Posey. It’s a horrible injury and we can only hope Posey returns healthy, and is able to catch again.

It’ll take a long time for Posey to heal, and the same can be said for the Giants organization and their fans. I totally understand their emotion, but let’s not let misguided anger make this situation worse.

I find it ridiculous that some fans are calling for some kind of revenge on Cousins. At any rate, I don’t think there’s any chance he will see action when the Giants come to Florida in August.

If there was any chance before, Sabean’s comments ( the Giants will have a “long memory” of the play ) pretty much snuffed that out. Cousins could be back in Triple-A, anyway.

He was clearly remorseful, and the fact that Posey won’t accept an apology exarcerbates the problem. If I’m Posey, I’m probably pissed off, but as time goes by he might see this in a different light. Giving Cousins the Heisman doesn’t make anything better.

I do believe baseball should look at ways to make things safer for catchers AND baserunners. It’s not enough to say such collisions have been “part of the game.” Chewing tobacco has been part of the game, but I hope it’s gone someday, too.

However, we aren’t being honest unless we admit that none of us would be talking about this if a catcher on another team was involved. Instead, it was a player that moms and dads wish was their son, that girls wish was their boyfriend, that guys wish was their buddy. Sometimes, love IS blind.

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13 Responses to “Buster Bluster”

  1. Jim from Napa Says:

    Ray you are the first person to get this right. When you are not a part of Gary’s show I barely listen anymore. Man are you missed when you are not there.

    You are right. Love is blind. Arizona had a nasty collision at the plate 2 nights ago but no one said a word. Why? no one important got hurt.

    The more people make out of this the more Posey will have problems recovering mentally.

    I think in time Posey will get over it; he’s young and he’s still maturing; I can understand his feelings but I dont understand Sabeans nasty and somewhat arrogant comment. It was almost like Sabean was upset a peasant was trying to hurt a king. I took it that way. thanks again.

  2. Jim from Napa Says:

    Ray’; I haven’t been listening to Gary’s show as much; are you leaving too? I know Dan did. I love when you do your own show and wish you had your own show.

    here is an article from sporting news that says pretty much what we’ve been saying. You say it nicer though; lol have a good day.
    http://aol.sportingnews.com/mlb/story/2011-06-02/sabean-misses-mark-with-comments-on-scott-cousins

  3. Greg Olzack Says:

    I, too, am surprised by Sabean’s outburst. His usual tact is to be circumspect and diplomatic in situations like this because of his position in the organization. As you alluded to in your column, Posey was at least partially responsible for the collision because after missing the ball to his right he went to his left to make a tag and went directly into the runner. If he had not made that move, we would not be talking about this incident because no contact would have been made.

  4. Marty Says:

    Ray,

    Brian Sabean is obviously frustrated by the results of Cousins play at the plate. He cannot make a deal for another all-star catcher, and Eli Whiteside cannot catch Tim Lincecum. Mr. Sabean may have come to the realization the Cousins play cost the Giants an opportunity to play in another world series, and that takes money off people’s plates. Of course, the Giants are upset with Scott Cousins. But, he shouldn’t announce it to the world. The team will be on their best behavior when they travel to Florida in August as the world will be watching.

    Buster Posey was beaned by the Dodgers three times, and the Giant pitchers did nothing to retaliate…yet! I am interested to see what happens when the Giants play the Dodgers next time. Baseball players have memories like elephants, and they rarely telegraph when they target a player.

    The media rips people for giving the same old tired cliches, and they rip when a person actually says what is on his mind. This seems a bit hypocritical to me. Brian Sabean said what was on his mind, and I applaud him for that. We may not like what he said, and I doubt he really cares what we think.

    Get Well Buster!

    Peace,

    Marty

    P.S. the prior posters are correct; Gary’s show is sounding weak…

    • raywood Says:

      Marty,

      I don’t mind people giving honest answers — I like it — but that doesn’t mean the only choice is to say something totally ridiculous. I get that he’s frustrated but he was out of line for someone in his position. In fact, the Giants backpedaled on his statement the next day, so I know I’m right about this. In closing, we gotta move on and get well Buster !

  5. Chuck from Salinas Says:

    while I can’t add much to what the previous posters have said. I just want to say that you nailed it Ray!

  6. Mona Says:

    Sabean’s comments were very disappointing to me. As a leader of the organization, an organization that has recently reached out to fans about quelling over emotional outbursts, I think he at the very least owes Scott Cousins an apology. I would even like to see a fine, or some type of penalty from the MLB applied to Sabean for inflammatory comments. Cousins has shown more maturity, class and moral character in his comments that Sabean has to be sure. Sabean certainly has his right to his opinions, but as a person in the role of leadership making his comments public were totally wrong. Unless his desire was to foster a gang mentality of “they got us, so we will get them”. Everything about Sabean’s comments smacks of double standard and ill will. Not good. Not good for the Giants, MLB, the community, anyone. Mr. Sabean mentioned a “long memory”. Well, I hope everyone who feels there is no place in MLB, especially the Giants organization, remembers this situation and pushes for an apology to Cousisns from Sabean.

  7. petekelly61 Says:

    I’m here in Astros country, and I think Sabean should be run out of baseball like Campanis was. Posey is a class act. I caught at ASU for 2 years and got creamed many times. Part of the game.

  8. Russ Says:

    Unfortunately, everyone has gotten it wrong in the analysis, and ar basing their conclusions on those uninformed opinions, including you and Gary Radnich. Posey was not, I repeat, was not blocking the baseline. Cousins could have made a stand up crossing of home plate if he wanted to. He could have dice or slid foot first across the plate. Instead he exited the baseline (broke the first rule of base running), and speared his right shoulder into the left (infield) shoulder of Posey who was standing nearly 2 feet inside of home plate. Anyone who knows about catching would tell you that Posey got blindsided and Cousins had no business pulling that stunt to try and knock the ball loose because Posey was not standing in the baseline. You can’t compare other collisions when they involved the catcher straddling the baseline, and call it the same as what Cousins did to Posey. There needs to be some changes to the rules to prevent good catchers like Posey who was properly playing the position from getting hurt. It’s no different than a hockey player entering the crease. The zone in front of home plate should belong to the catcher, and there should be a penalty for going inside the baseline at home plate.

    • raywood Says:

      Johnny Bench, who knows more about catching than you and me combined, felt Posey was in bad position — that while his body was not blocking the baseline, he was laying in front of the plate and did not show Cousins the plate. A runner who sees the throw beating him to a plate has, in that instance, little choice but to try to knock the ball loose. Eric Byrnes, who played the game for a decade, said that Cousins had to assume Posey was going to catch the ball and was going to move to block the plate, and Cousins would have been run out of the Marlins clubhouse if he slid and was tagged out. If Posey holds on to the ball and Cousins slides, he is most likely out. If you say he could have scored standing up, you are watching the wrong video. If you say Posey was “blindsided,” you are not being factual because Posey knew Cousins was coming. Because he dropped the ball — which Cousins cannot see — and because his left leg was exposed, he was in a vulnerable position. Those connected with the Giants have complained about this play, but the majority of those in baseball didn’t think it was unusual, just highly unfortunate. And as a matter of fact, the Sandoval collision last year is quite similar.

      My opinion is not only quite well-informed, it is the opinion held by the majority of those in baseball.

      I am tired of people going to the “anyone who knows anything about catching” or “anyone who knows anything about baseball” line. I’ve actually talked to people who played professionaly for a long time. Catchers and non-catchers.

      Having said all that, I support rules to make the game safer for catchers
      AND for runners.

  9. mamayuen Says:

    Ray, I miss hearing you every other hour on KNBR! Love your wit and well-rounded music knowledge. You managed to link the great Billy Preston and Buster Posey — classic. I agree with your take on Sabean’s comments. Although his feelings are understood, to vent in such a manner a week later really didn’t do anything positive for the Giants organization or for Posey himself, both ballplayer and person. I hope we can all move on, especially the team. There’s a division to win, and Championship to defend.

  10. Vaughn Says:

    Saw the video on KRON of J. T. Snow trying to bowl over Pudge. Not even close to gong for the plate. Couldn’t make out the quote of Sabean that Vern Glenn was saying. But why didn’t they ask about a rule change then? Maybe you can get the clip from Vern and tell people what Sabean had to say about that collision. Pudge had the ball and was on the opposite side, but the effort to hit home plate was never there.

    Sliding as an option can sometimes put a player at risk as what happened this April. Josh Hamilton, reigning MVP of the American League from the Texas Rangers, tried to score and did a headfirst slide and broke his arm when he landed awkwardly when tagged out by the Tiger’s catcher Martinez. At 6’4″ and 240 lbs he could have taken a different path and tried to dislodge the ball as Martinez was clearly going to beat him. Had he done that maybe he doesn’t get hurt. He also could have slid feet first but with knee problems from last year maybe Martinez lands on him and messes up his knee. Does the Prince versus the Pauper rule apply?

    Who doesn’t love Buster Posey? Who wasn’t upset when Posey went down. We were hoping for the best, but it was not to be. I will miss watching him because you can tell he loves playing the game. He reminds us of why players like Mays, Rose and Banks played the game. They had a fire in the belly. But an unfortunate incident cut his season short. Catchers like Bench and Scioscia will tell you it was bad form and his knee being on the ground gave no place for the energy to be absorbed. I hope the fair weather fans don’t ruin baseball for all the others. If this was another team or catcher how many Giants fans would give a hoot?

    Players like Posey and Mauer are very valuable because they WANT to catch. They run the show on the field. They are involved on every play unlike a first baseman or outfielder. How well did he handle the staff last year? He is a born leader. As one person in baseball put it, having a catcher who can hit gives you another hitter at another position like first base. You don’t have to sacrifice offense for defense.

    You have to liken this to what Todd McLellen of the Sharks says when there is an injury. This is an opportunity for someone else to step up and make a difference. No one is going to replace Posey, but others have to step up and be productive. The team chemistry is really good on this team. They will find a way to win games just like last year. They may even have found their future shortstop. Pitching will keep this team in contention.

    Thanks for writing from a neutral standpoint even though you are on the 50,000 watt flamethrower. I love your dry wit.

    • raywood Says:

      Very good points there, especially about Posey wanting to catch and be a leader. That’ll be missed.

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