Take a close look at the above image. It’s Josh Harrison of the Pirates propelling his body into catcher Yadier Molina. Some will call it a clean baseball play. Some may even call it a “scrappy”, “hard-nosed”, or “gritty” play. Call it what you like. I call it a gutless, bush league move made by a guy who had no idea what the right move was at the time. Given a split second to determine the best method of reaching home plate safely, Harrison had the choice between a simple slide and a collision with the catcher. No, that’s actually incorrect. Harrison had his head up while rounding 3rd base and had the play in front of him as he ran towards home plate. In the context of a baseball game, he had eons to decide what to do.
He still chose poorly.
Harrison had a really good shot at avoiding the tag and reaching home plate. Of course, that was BEFORE he decided to launch his body through the air while leading with his left shoulder slightly lowered. Did Harrison know what he was doing? Of course he did. It’s not like you lower your shoulder and brace for a collision in the belief you will somehow land on a feathery pillow of soft grass. Closing your eyes, averting your focus, or turning your head away from a problem of your own making does not mitigate liability. Harrison created the collision by deciding to create collision. If he wanted to avoid it, he had a way out. It’s called a “slide”. Players practice the “slide” on a regular basis. It’s a baseball thing.
Look again at the picture and focus on just Harrison. He kind of looks like a safety trying to jack up a helpless receiver, doesn’t he? Of course, the NFL has rules that prohibit leaving your feet to launch your body into a prone receiver. So the the potential danger level associated with such collisions forced the NFL powers on high to determine that a defenseless player must be protected. Strange. It’s almost as though the NFL doesn’t want to see its product damaged by unnecessary plays of physical aggression.
Maybe it’s that, or maybe the NFL determined that allowing players to get hurt for no good reason at all was not the best business model to use. Perhaps MLB can learn something from this and offer a simple solution. The catcher can block the plate, but the runner then has the right…nay the privilege of trying to flatten said catcher. Alternatively, the catcher can place 1 foot on the corner of the plate, and the runner must slide to avoid a collision. Under such circumstances, the catcher cannot deny the plate to the runner, and the runner cannot be allowed to slam into the catcher. Fair? Maybe. Maybe not. Regardless, it would help prevent injuries, and concussions can be extremely serious in terms of injuries. Any kind of head trauma can produce symptoms years down the road, and nobody really wants to see that happen to any player.
That’s really what this comes down to for me. Would Harrison actually approve of an opposing player hitting him or one of the Pittsburgh catchers the way he chose to hit Molina? I would hope not. Actually, I would hope that no player wants to see a collision like that. Ever. As for penalizing Harrison, I will say the same thing I’ve said time and time again. The player who injures another player purposely should be required to sit out as many games as the injured player is deemed medically unfit to play. That would deter players from going head hunting. If not, then they don’t need to be in the league anyway.
Make no mistake, either. I would not condone a Cardinals player launching himself into any other player in MLB. As much as I dislike certain players and ex-players (Nyjer, Cueto, Joe Morgan, et al), I still wouldn’t wish this on them.
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