Buster Posey will likely miss the remainder of the 2011 season. (Photo Credit: CC BY/SD Dirk/Flickr)

No competitive athlete wants an opponent’s injury to be the gateway to victory. Yet that may very well be what contending National League West baseball teams will face for the rest of the 2011 season, as world champion San Francisco Giants catcher and cleanup hitter Buster Posey will miss the rest of the season because of an ankle injury. MLB.com reports that the injury occurred Wednesday when the Florida Marlins’ baserunner Scott Cousins collided with Posey on a play at home plate.

Buster Posey injury forces Giant roster moves

While the Giants have yet to officially announce the extent of Buster Posey’s injuries, sources indicate it was a left ankle injury that may involve a fracture and torn ligaments. The play responsible occurred during the 12th inning of Wednesday night’s game. Cousins scored the tie-breaking run in the Marlins’ 7-6 win.

San Francisco Giants reserve catcher Eli Whiteside has been elevated to the number one catching spot. Triple-A Fresno first baseman/outfielder Brandon Belt and catcher Chris Stewart were added to compensate for Buster Posey’s lost roster slot and to fill holes left by injuries to infielder Mike Fontenot (groin) and outfielder Darren Ford (ankle), who have gone on the 15-day disabled list.

Blocking and tackling the plate

Opinions vary as to whether the play between Buster Posey and Scott Cousins was “dirty” or legal. While there is an unwritten rule that a baserunner should do all they can to gain the next base, short of outright assault, there are written rules involving a catcher completely “blocking the plate” from the baserunner, particularly when they do not already possess the ball. However, as baseball historian Bill James notes in his essay “Blocking and Tackling the Plate,” umpires have rarely if ever enforced the rule forbidding catchers to do this, ostensibly in the interests of maintaining the “flow of the game”:

“It is in principle most dangerous to have one set of rules on the books, but another set in use in practice,” writes James. “Would you want to lose a pennant on a rule that hadn’t been enforced in 20 years?”

Will the San Francisco Giants lose the pennant?

Filling Buster Posey’s shoes will be extremely difficult. The 2010 Rookie of the Year is an accomplished hitter and savvy, well-balanced defender — the kind of player the Giants could not have won last year’s World Series without. What frustrates Giants fans is that Scott Cousins didn’t necessarily improve his ability to reach home plate by diving into Posey, which is what clearly happened. In that sense, it was a dirty play, as national baseball writer Joe Sheehan sees it, but one that is entirely expected, considering that Buster Posey was within the baseline, if not exactly in plate-blocking mode.

Posey’s agent, Jeff Barry, has said that he’s going to approach Major League Baseball about changing the rules regarding home plate collisions, as catcher injuries occur too frequently.

Sources

Baseball Nation: http://mlb.sbnation.com/2011/5/26/2191529/buster-posey-injury-mlb-rules

MLB.com: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110526&content_id=19599270&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

“The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract“: http://bit.ly/kda4wN

Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez on the play

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