The Most Violent and Reckless Play in all of Sports

In Baseball, Blog, Sports by Eric Byrnes27 Comments

Growing up with an extended background in Kempo Karate and football, I particularly enjoyed the physical nature of both sports… Then when I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to play professional baseball, I relished every chance I had to initiate extreme physical contact with the catcher whenever appropriate… As a matter of fact, I quickly earned a reputation around the league as somebody who if given the option, would rather to go through the catcher as opposed to around him… I did not discriminate either, I went after the veteran Jorge Posada, the rookie Alex Avila, the superstar Brian McCann, the journeyman Einar Diaz and even a fellow UCLA Bruin, Bill Hasselman… I went low, I went high, and even sideways if necessary… Most importantly I went in hard and with intent of preventing the catcher from catching or holding onto the baseball at all costs… In my mind, knocking the snot out of whoever was playing behind the plate was simply a byproduct of me doing my job… I always knew it was dangerous play..  Throughout my time playing baseball I sent several guys to the disabled list including All-Star catcher Brian McCann, and even ended a catcher’s career in the minor leagues… Yet, like many baseball purists, I just looked at it as part of the game…

May 26, 2011 completely changed my entire opinion… Why in a day and age when other sports are changing rules to protect players health and longevity, does baseball refuse to take action against the most violent and reckless play in all of sports? Rules that allow a catcher to block home plate with the baseball and a baserunner to do anything possible to try to dislodge the ball from the catchers grasp are both ignorant and irresponsible… At the time of the infamous Scott Cousins / Buster Posey collision, I was hosting “Sportsphone 680” for KNBR radio, the San Francisco Giants flagship station, and barely a year removed from my own playing career… Essentially I would conduct the Giants extended post game show and field calls from the passionate San Francisco fan base… When I watched Cousins crash into Posey, I thought that by rule it was a “clean” baseball play, and I still do… Coming down the line so many times in my career, just as Cousins had that fateful night, I understood exactly what was going through his mind…  “Whatever it takes to score, whatever it takes to score!”… So when Cousins veered to the inside of home plate to initiate contact as the ball was arriving I was not surprised… As a baserunner,  you need to make a commitment to either to slide or smoke the catcher by the time you are about 3/4 of the way down the line… I would always do my best to read the situation and make the proper decision,  but when you are running full steam ahead, often times it is very difficult to know exactly how the play is unfolding… No matter what though, the last thing I wanted to do was half ass my way into home plate, indecisive on whether or not I was going to slide, or mimic one my boyhood idols, Ronnie Lott…

The only reason why I would define it as a “clean” baseball play is because under the current rule structure there was nothing illegal about the collision… Although, the reality of the situation is that there was not a single thing that was “clean” about that play other than “by rule”… As a matter of fact, that play is so disgustingly dirty that it is a matter of time before somebody becomes critically injured or even killed… Buster Posey ended up missing the rest of the season with a broken leg and shattered ankle… Since that incident, several more collisions have taken place leaving more carnage around professional baseball… I lobbied hard two years ago on both KNBR and MLB Network for a rule change to little reaction and no avail… “Byrnes, do you want them to wear dresses too?”… Not really, but if a little female touch is what it will take to stop the nonsense, sure… “Byrnes, how can you spend years running into catchers and now condemn it?”… Very easily, I understand exactly how dangerous the play is for both the runner and catcher… I consider myself very lucky to not have any long term health effects from the multiple collisions I endured throughout the course of my professional career…

Last Wednesday a video surfaced of a AA Eastern League semi final game between the Erie SeaWolves and the Harrisburg Senators in which Senators 2nd baseman Brandan Douglas ran into SeaWolves catcher Brian Jeroloman… The collision was so incredibly horrific that I actually slammed my computer screen shut when I originally watched it… Jeroloman immediately went to the hospital where he remained for several days… Douglas was apparently OK but who really knows? Long term traumatic brain injuries have become a pretty hot topic as of late with the NFL and a just settled 1 billion dollar lawsuit related to concussions… There have been over 12 catchers in MLB this year that have missed time due to concussions… Because of the recent surge of violent home plate collisions and the variety of injuries that have resulted, including concussions, I don’t understand why MLB would not want to make a simple rule change to protect teams ever growing financial investments in players…  Something needs to be done… NOW!

I was fortunate to watch the UCLA Bruins baseball team win their first ever National Championship this year in Omaha Nebraska… Including my trip to Omaha, I followed the team closely throughout the course of the season on TV and also went out to the 3 game series when they came up to play Stanford… The Bruin squad was a gritty bunch of dudes that didn’t hit much but they pitched and played the game incredibly hard… There were at least a half dozen times that I watched plays at home plate where the catcher allowed the baserunner a path to the plate and the baserunner came “barreling” down the line  “sliding” hard into home plate… Just about each time, I stood up out of my seat fired up about the action at “the dish,” proving that a kamikaze collision is neither a integral or necessary part of the game… As somebody who spent an entire career running over catchers, I beg for MLB to go back to school and take a lesson from the college rule book before it is ultimately too late…

Comments

    1. I am proud, not only of Eric’s writing but also of his ability to see things a bit differently from his retired point of view. Not that our opinions clashed when he played for me. He was always respectful of my attempts to get him to “chill” a little bit, and was always about the team first. I’m looking forward to seeing him inducted into the UCLA Hall of Fame next weekend! Well deserved my friend.

  1. Couldn’t agree with your thoughts more, Eric! Hopefully MLB will wake up and make some changes! Len

  2. I agree whole-heatedly, the college and amateur game is not deminished at all because of the “no collision” rule at home plate. Professional baseball will not worse because of this rule, in fact it will be better because there will be less injuries. Less Injuries = Better Baseball

  3. I was just watching the MLB Network and saw a phone conversation with you and HR and Matt V. I couldn’t agree with your argument more. If the catcher has the ball, blocking the plate, the runner is not going to slide in to his shin pads and break an ankle or blow out a knee. He will run him over and take a few game suspension as opposed to injure his leg and be out indefinitely. Harold was not understand this for whatever reason.

  4. Hey Eric, great point of view, I was just listening to you on MLB network. I totally agree that the new rule has the right intent to limit those violent head hunting crashes. As you pointed, however, the rule leaves the runner no time to make a decision. Lets say you are a slow runner, or a fast runner for that matter, and you barreling down to home plate and you are out to rights. Before that player could just stride into home plate standing and get tagged and pretty much avoid hard contact with the catcher. While under the old rule he had the ability to run the catcher over, he did not because he was gunned out, NOW, under the new rule, the runner must either stop in his tracks (pretty impossible) or look at a catcher blocking the plate fully padded and slide into his plated shins. There is no bailout for the runner. He either slides into a waiting catcher or turns around and goes back to third, The college rule makes more sense and the mlb will soon realize this.

  5. Hey buddy I would like to say thank you!For keeping the analysts honest and accountable to their pprofession. You are doing a great job.
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  6. Hey buddy I would like to say thank you!For keeping the analysts honest and accountable to their pprofession. You are doing a great job.
    I will try and keepit short and sweet year if I can I don’t understand why these numbers mean so much to anybody other than a fantasy league this just allows been on FB to have a voice in the game what I don’t understand is how do these numbers matter if a beyblade most severe games Yankee Stadium this year in May April and next year they play them in June and July wouldn’t that affected numbers just climate wise I mean these numbers are great for numbers but there’s a human element involved in nobody has a clue about how to play. Brian Kinney can’t he’s never laced up a pair of shoes in his life. I get no response from him. Lace em up and then tell me what it’s all about. What people don’t understand, is that he was the most critical adversary Larussa in the way to he coached that I’ve ever seen and turn around and jumps right in his shoes as soon as he get the chance get him out of it least let me see how you play befo you tell anyone what their worth is. Good job. And I’m glad it perturbs you. Shows the love of the game.

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