Major League Baseball is four years into the Buster Posey Rule. As Saturday Night’s Opener of the National League Championship Series demonstrated, the implementation of the rule is still capable of creating controversy.
During the seventh inning of the Cubs’ 5-2 loss, Cubs manager Joe Maddon* was ejected for arguing the application of the rule, which turned an out at the plate into the Dodgers’ final run. Not content with speaking his mind on the field, he continued to rant about the rule’s very existence in his post-game press conference, comparing it to a revoked soda tax in a strained analogy.
The rule was correctly applied. Cubs’ catcher Willson Contreras stuck his left leg out to block the plate before he caught the ball, and in a way that wasn’t necessary to complete the catch. He did it to block Charlie Culberson’s lane to the plate, and he did it quite well, giving the sliding Culberson no access to the dish.
Maddon’s chief complaint, at least in the postgame press conference, was with the rule itself. He said he’s disagreed with it from the beginning. To be fair, Maddon is a former catcher, so you can understand why he might be opposed to the rule – he’s taken way too many blows to the head.
Because there’s one thing that hasn’t happened in baseball since the Buster Posey Rule went into effect. Baseball hasn’t created any more Buster Poseys. Runners approaching home plate no longer have to make the choice between sliding and attempted manslaughter. They just slide. And taking this choice away from the Scott Cousins** of the world, the marginal ballplayer who is always going to choose the felony when the alternative is to be considered soft (which usually comes complete with a one-way ticket to Triple A), has resulted in a much safer game around the plate.
Allowing baserunners to attempt to dislodge the baseball from the grasp of the catcher through any means necessary never made sense, particularly given it was pretty much limited to just one base (though in Hal McRae’s day, it also extended to middle infielders engaged in the nefarious act of trying to turn two).
Moreover, it’s not the way the game is played at any level below the major leagues, save a few rogue associations run by sociopaths. Games played at Little League up through the NCAA do not permit catcher assault. Professional baseball was alone in that regard, until MLB finally wised up.
The Buster Posey Rule is a good thing. Joe needs to shut up.
*This is the second time Maddon has railed over the correct implementation of an MLB rule that went against his team, following his 2016 diatribe when the Chase Utley Rule went against his club. Dressing up your team in cute outfits doesn’t give you a free pass to go all Tony LaRussa on us.
**The Buster Mangler.