Sunday, June 5, 2011

When Giants Are Small

Happy Basic Math Day - June style!  It is 06/05/11 after all.  I envision all of the numerologists gathering wherever it is they gather (around giant calculators perhaps?) to discuss the significance of today's calendar conflagration and I say "thank you" out loud that wherever that assemblage convenes, I shall be elsewhere.  Today is also the birthday of one of my favorite people.  Margaret is fortunate in that as an adult woman in her forties she has maintained a wonderfully close friendship with two of her running buddies from their grade school days:  Lynne and Carolyn.  Today is Lynne's birthday.  Fear of physical harm prevents me from saying aloud just which birthday Lynne is celebrating today so you are left to your own efforts to solve that particular riddle.  No hints from me.  Nope.  Not one

While on the subject of San Francisco (this is how we test whether you actually took a moment to click on the link at the end of the preceding paragraph) and its professional sports teams, forgive me while I spend a moment or two chatting about the reigning World Series winners - the Giants.  Several generations ago, the Giants of San Francisco were the Giants of New York and they were my father's favorite baseball team.  In 2010 they did something that they had last done when they still called the Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan home:  they won the World Series. 

The leader of the Giants last season was a rookie catcher with the "ready for my close up" name of Buster Posey.  He is by all accounts a phenomenally talented young player and an equally nice young man - one of those guys who is easy to root for regardless of your team of choice (unless you are of course a Dodgers fan).  Posey led the Giants to the World Series in 2010.  He shall not do so this year. 

His season ended on May 25, 2011.  In the top of the 12th inning that night, Posey was run into and run over by Scott Cousins of the Florida Marlins, who had tagged up from 3rd base and hustled home in an attempt to score the go-ahead run in a 6-6 game.  On the video, one sees the immediate reaction of Cousins to Posey writhing on the ground in pain.  I mention that only because the Giants have expended a lot of effort in the ten days or so since Posey was hurt in painting Cousins as a man who acted with malicious intent.  It has been said that a picture is worth 1000 words.  It seems to me as if the video exposes those two as utter lies.  Fables of the reconstruction of the incident?  Perhaps.

A couple of days ago - approximately one week after the incident - the Giants GM Brian Sabean used his appearance on a radio show to assail Cousins.  Sabean, speaking of Cousins, said, "[Cousins] chose to be a hero in my mind, and if that's his flash of fame, then that's as good as it's gonna get, pal. We'll have a long memory. We've talked to [former catcher Mike] Matheny and how this game works. You can't be that out-and-out overly aggressive; let's put it that way. I'll put it as politically as I can state it. There is no love lost, and there shouldn't be."  He made those remarks after having initially said of Cousins, "If I never hear from Cousins again or he never plays another day in the big leagues, I think we'll all be happy."

Enough already from the weeping willows in San Francisco.  Major League Baseball has a disciplinary office that reviews on-field incidents and doles out punishment for them as deemed appropriate.  To my knowledge, Cousins has not been sanctioned by MLB for his actions.  And while it is unlikely that Sabean will ever be taken to task by MLB for his verbal assault on Cousins, perhaps he should be.  Anger is understandable.  I am Irish.  We are a people prone to great bouts of anger.  I have had more than my fair share in my life already (and I feel another coming on as I write this!) so I appreciate Sabean's reaction on a personal level.  However, when he spoke on the radio the other day he spoke as the man who runs one of the teams that plays under the banner of MLB.  His public trashing of a man who earns his living playing for another team was - in my opinion - completely inappropriate. 

To his credit, the perceived villain in this little drama refused to return fire.  Cousins was asked to comment about what Sabean said about him and initially declined to do so.  When reached on Thursday night, Cousins declined to comment on anything related to what Sabean said, and added, "I've said my piece. I feel horrible for Posey. The aftermath of this has not been fun."  His agent told ESPN that Cousins has received enough death threats since the night of the collision that MLB Security has been notified.  No word as to how many of those threats originated in the whine country of northern California.  On Friday, Cousins addressed what Sabean said about him in more detail - again opting to take the high road.  A road that apparently one cannot see from the window of the GM's office in San Francisco (and no, Mrs. Palin before you ask a window from which you cannot see Russia either).

Injuries happen in sports at all levels.  Posey's injury was unfortunate.  Could it have been avoided?   Perhaps.  But if one accepts that as true then one must also accept as true the fact that all of us looking at the incident now have the advantage of hindsight.  We know now how things turned out.  Neither Posey nor Cousins - living in the moment as it occurred - had that luxury.  When you watch the video you see that Posey never caught the ball at home plate.  The throw eluded him.  The ball bounced in the direction of the left-handed batter's box a second or two before Cousins arrived at home plate.  Cousins could have simply run around Posey (towards the rear of home plate) and scored standing up.  Posey could have surrendered his position blocking home plate and scrambled after the ball.  Neither player did either of those things.  As Ferris Bueller once observed, "life comes at you pretty fast."  That is especially so during a bang-bang play at home plate.

A fact of baseball life of which the GM of the San Francisco Giants is undoubtedly aware.  And one of which he should give a moment's thought prior to any further public displays of spleen venting.  Hopefully Posey makes a complete discovery from his injury.  He is a young man whose talent level is matched by his toughness.  While most of us will be fortunate enough to live our whole life without getting run over by another person moving at full speed, Posey has lived through the experience not once - but at least two times.  Apparently while catching for the Giants' San Jose affiliate in 2008, he was the immovable object at the point of intersection between said object and an unstoppable force

Removing anger from the equation, the person to whom I look for guidance on this issue is Ray Fosse.  Fosse was an All-Star catcher whose career was never quite the same after being on the receiving end of a Pete Rose shoulder block at home plate....in the 1970 All-Star Game (apparently long before Fox coined the phrase, "This one counts" Rose had action on the outcome).  Fosse of course empathized with Posey but expressed the opinion that baseball should not now change its rules to eliminate runner/catcher contact at home plate. 

A Ray of sanity in an otherwise insane universe.  And someone not likely to be invited to sit in the GM's box at an upcoming Giants game.  Perhaps he and Terry Francona can find seats somewhere together. 

-AK

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