CLEVELAND: Lou Marson literally is the poster boy for veteran baseball writer Tom Verducci’s contention that Major League Baseball should outlaw runners from plowing into catchers in an attempt to knock the ball loose.
A photo of the Indians’ catcher being steamrolled by Desmond Jennings of the Tampa Bay Rays on a perfectly legal play accompanies the Sports Illustrated story.
Verducci reasons that since runners are not permitted to crash into infielders who are protecting their base, why should they have the freedom to run over the catcher?
In defense of the ancient practice, most baseball people summon up the argument that it’s always been that way. But there have been changes at other levels of baseball. Every amateur level of the game prohibits such collisions, including collegiate baseball.
Marson came out of the pileup with Jennings relatively unscathed. However, the whiplash effect of the play gave him a stiff neck that rendered Marson unable to catch for at least a few days.
Because the Tribe’s everyday catcher, Carlos Santana, is nursing a bruised left thumb, the club was forced to put Marson on the disabled list in order to call up another catcher. Even though Marson does not catch every day, he has encountered his share of collisions.
“I’m surprised I haven’t gotten hit more, because I always take the plate away,” he said. “I stand right on top of it, because I feel it might force the runner to make a decision which will slow him down a little bit.”
In the absence of banning runners from knocking down catchers, some teams have told their catchers to get out of the way. That is, stand to the side of the plate and make a tag. But that doesn’t always work.
“You can keep to the side until you get the ball, then take a jab step and tag the runner,” Marson said. “Some guys have been taught that, but sometimes the runner can evade the tag.”
If runners are not permitted to crash into the catcher when they obviously would be out, they would tailor their slides to make maximum impact, which also could endanger the catcher.
“The only way to do it [eliminate collisions] is to make the runner slide,” Marson said. “But on that play with Jennings, if he slides into the plate, I might have got hurt worse. He might have gotten my knees.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.