Last night in Pittsburgh, the Pirates’ Josh Harrison knocked the math retention right out of St. Louis Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina on a close play at home plate.
The ball and Harrison arrived at almost the same time and Molina, great defensive catcher he is, scooped up a short hop throw from Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran and put the tag on Harrison just as Harrison was putting a major hurt on Molina’s head.
The catcher’s head snapped back and he said after the game that he couldn’t remember much from that moment. He had to leave the game and I’m not sure whether he’s playing tonight in the rubber game of the series, but I doubt it.
Molina is arguably the most important Cardinal. And I’m not even sure it can be argued. He’s been the best defensive catcher in the game for a while now and his hitting has nearly caught up with those catching skills. The Cardinals don’t reach the playoffs this season unless Molina is reasonably healthy down the stretch during the final month.
While the NFL is doing everything it can to eliminate head injuries, or at least dramatically curtail them, Major League Baseball has not adopted a stiff penalty dealing with home plate collisions. And it doesn’t make any sense. There are such rules at most other levels of baseball and with good reason. Nobody wants to see a serious injury on a play at the plate. Yet it’s within the rules to do what Harrison did to Molina last night. And while St. Louis pitcher Jake Westbrook retaliated by hitting Harrison in the leg with a pitch later in the game, that punishment was minor.
MLB needs to adopt a tougher policy for plays at the plate. As it stands, the catcher is able to block off the plate, leaving the approaching runner with little choice but to bowl over the catcher since it is nearly impossible to get to the plate any other way. Blocking the plate on such plays is one of the most important skills taught to catchers, and the argument has been made that if a catcher can make it impossible for a runner to get to the plate while running inside the base line, then a runner should have the right to go through the catcher.
I’m not sure you can eliminate home plate collisions without also eliminating a catcher’s right to block the plate. It seems to me like if one goes, the other has to go, too.
Is that fair to catchers? I’m sure many in the game would say that it isn’t. But again, we’re working to eliminate these scary and dangerous plays that sometimes result in terrible injuries. Both sides have to give a bit on this one.
As always, let me know your thoughts. And thanks for reading my blog.