Thursday, December 12, 2013

POINT - The “Pussification” of Baseball
By Nathan Trop, Columnist

Baseball’s rumored prohibition of plate collisions is a tragic “pussification” of baseball.  Plate collisions are a part of baseball lore.  Some of the best baseball highlights you will ever see involve a player barreling down the third base line with the catcher in position to make that all-important out at the plate.

In a 1995 game against the Kansas City Royals, then Detroit Tiger Kirk Gibson barreled into Royals Catcher Pat Borders to give us one of the best action photos ever taken of baseball.

Now imagine if Gibson were to prance down the third baseline like a ballerina, blow a friendly little kiss to Borders and make a wide circle around him to home plate.  If you think that visual is disturbing, imagine the frustration in the dugout over losing a vital opportunity to score a run.

What if Erstad never plowed over Johnny Estrada in 2005? would be reduced to talking about dog names, iced tea, grilled cheese sandwiches, fat five year olds, or the debate over which is worse: DUIs or the fact that Bartolo Colon still looks like Jabba the Hutt after all that HGH.

The fact is that teams already go to great lengths to protect their players.  They put pitchers on pitch counts, innings counts, and they teach middle infielders how to avoid takeout slides.  There has already been talk of teams training their catchers how to avoid plate collisions.  I say we let the players and teams decide how to handle this aspect of player safety as well.  Do we really want baseball umpires to enforce a subjective rule?  Even if it is reviewed, do you trust the judgment of Doug Eddings or Joe West?

By the way, there is no truth to the rumor that Joe West is the father of that fat five year old.

As a soccer fan (don’t judge!), one of my biggest issues with the sport is the players who will take a dive after the tiniest bit of contact (or even a slight breeze) to draw a foul.  How long until every time a catcher gets his toe stepped on, he falls to the ground in pain like he just got bowled over?

How long until baseball starts to feel like the NFL?  Football is hardly fun to watch sometimes because of all of the bad calls.  Calls based on subjective rules around “player safety.”

I am not saying we shouldn’t care about player safety, but we also shouldn’t be wrapping the players in bubble wrap and having them use a tee to avoid being hit by a pitch.

This is Major League Baseball!  These are grown men making millions of dollars to play a game!  This is the American pastime!

Let’s not take away the action and anticipation of a runner barreling threateningly down the third baseline, the ball being thrown into the base path at home plate and the game-winning run hanging in the blance!

COUNTERPOINT – Safety is not “Pussification”
By Glen McKee, Columnist

Nate, you ignorant slut!

OK, I get it.  The most exciting moment in baseball is seeing a catcher get plowed over like an alfalfa field on bailing day.  I understand that, and will confess to occasionally enjoying such moments…when I was younger.   But now, not so much.  All I see is a bizarre exception to the rules of running the base path and the potential for injury and even serious injury. 

I agree that these collisions have given us some of the best photos in baseball, but the distinction of the best baseball action photo belongs to this one.  (Side Note: if anybody wants to get me a Christmas present, I’d love a signed copy of this print)

Yes, I’ll admit, the home plate collision has given us one of baseball’s most memorable moments.  Of course, I’m talking about Pete Rose giving his version of jazz hands to Ray Fosse in the 1970 All Star Game.  It’s particularly memorable for Fosse, except that he probably can’t remember it now.

The home plate collision is a relic and it deserves to be shelved with other relics, just like the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Really, do we want to melt other baseball players with this collision? ( AJ Pierzynski aside, of course.)   If you’re an Angels fan and attached to relics, well, you can get your fix watching #5 play next year, and daydreaming about how he used to hit.  Good times, those. 

I may be alone in thinking this, but the idea of Gibson in a ballerina dress sounds pretty damn funny.  I’d pay a few bucks to see that.  (Don’t judge!)

As for this “going too far to protect players,” baseball has batting helmets, rules about throwing at batters, and probably has training lectures about how dumb head-first slides are.  There shouldn’t be a problem with exploring further methods, as long as they are sensibly implemented.  Nobody is talking about anything drastic.  You can even simplify it: just say the catcher can’t block the plate until he has the ball.  Use that as the starting point and figure it out from there.  No bubble wrap necessary.

Which brings me to my next point:  Umpires and enforcement.  Given the Angels’ history with umpires – Eddings and West, I still fart in your general directions – I’m reluctant to trust them with yet more responsibilities.  However, you can’t use that as an excuse not to implement.  Make the rule, test it out, and adjust it as necessary.  Just like Obamacare, in a few years it’ll be just fine!  Amirite?  Back me up on this one, Nate.

In conclusion, your honor, and ladies and gentlemen of the jury:  This is indeed baseball and grown men are voluntarily playing a child’s game for ridiculous amounts of money.  There will still be the anticipation of a close play at the plate, just without the collision.  It will still be exciting.  It will just be the excitement level of a Hamilton at-bat, as opposed to a Trumbo at-bat.  I’m good with that.
Love to hear what you think!

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