Last week, baseball fans were understandably devastated that Baby Buster Posey, the cute little backstop that everyone loves, got hurt in this collision at home plate with Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins:
Posey ended up with a broken leg and torn ligaments and is out for the season. From what The Common Man has seen, Cousins definitely initiated the contact, and did not make any effort to avoid Posey, who was not blocking his path to the plate. That said, Cousins’ play was not illegal, was not dirty, and is in keeping with what he had been taught as a runner. As Keith Law pointed out the other day, the play was not dirty, but nor was it necessary. But it is the end result of generations of baseball players and fans who have tolerated violent collisions at the plate. Cousins may not have done what was right, but he did what he understandably thought he was expected to do.
Yesterday, however, Giants GM Brian Sabean disagreed, telling a local radio station,
“If I never hear from Cousins again or he never plays another game in the big leagues, I think we’ll all be happy. He chose to be a hero in my mind, and if that’s his flash of fame, that’s as good as it’s going to get, pal. We’ll have a long memory. Believe me, we’ve talked to (Mike) Matheny about how this game works. You can’t be that out-and-out overly aggressive. I’ll put it as politically as I can state it: There’s no love lost and there shouldn’t be.” (h/t to Hardball Talk)
But Sabean is not only wrong here, he's also a complete hypocrite, who doesn't mind home plate collisions when his guys don't get hurt.
First of all, however, his statements are beyond unprofessional. Sabean is calling out a member of an opposing roster, and seems to be actively and publicly rooting for his career to end. He also makes a vaguely threatening statement that his club will have a long memory. Players and fans, caught up in the heat of the moment might be forgiven for making such statements. However, as the General Manager, Brian Sabean is supposed to be the adult in the room. He is supposed to have perspective. Especially a week after the event happened. Brian Sabean is supposed to take the high road and stay above petty grudges with individual ballplayers. Brian Sabean is supposed to be better than this.
But he’s made it clear that Giants pitchers, players, and coaches will be on the hunt for Cousins. He’s made it clear that he will tolerate thugism and retribution for a play that he and his team have endorsed and used in the past. Don’t remember? Think back to 2003, when JT Snow left his feet in game 4 of the NLDS to try and dislodge the ball from Ivan Rodriguez.
As you can see, Rodriguez had the ball and was attempting to apply the tag. Like Cousins, Snow altered his angle of approach to take Pudge on head-to-head. Now, Snow got the worst of that encounter it would seem. But he also made no attempt to slide, and seemed, to The Common Man at least, to try to jump into Rodriguez.
What did Sabean have to say about this play? Was it dirty? Was it “out-and-out overly aggressive?” Apparently not, because that offseason Sabean signed Snow to a new contract and installed him at 1B again.
But that was in the playoffs, at the end of the game. Perhaps that can be forgiven. But what about in 1999, when FP Santangelo knocked Dave Nilsson out of game in a collision at the plate. Santangelo was one of the most valuable Giants that year and played regularly for the club. Nobody took him to task. Too long ago? What about in 2005, when Giants outfielder Todd Linden took out Marlins catcher Matt Treanor during a game in June? Linden played another two years with the Giants, and was undoubtedly praised for his hustle. His aggression wasn't chastised, it was rewarded.
No, the problem that Sabean has with Scott Cousins’ play is that his catcher got hurt. The Giants are significantly weakened because of Posey’s injury, and have lost their most marketable star. It’s a shame. But the blame is not ultimately with Cousins. It’s on a baseball culture, cultivated and supported by the Giants and Sabean, amongst others, that placed significant value on being able to steamroll a catcher, make a highlight reel, and score at any cost. Brian Sabean isn’t just wrong, unprofessional, and more than a little mean. He’s a hypocrite and he should apologize.
(By the way, a huge thank to you MLB.com for seeing the mutual benefit involved in making their videos embedable. That is terrifically helpful to TCM and will be to MLB as well.)
Update: Good friend and fellow genius Larry Granillo also has an excellent post up about this same topic. Great minds, thinking alike. Larry also points to this play as another excellent example of Sabean not caring about home plate collisions when his hitters are the ones delivering them: