Torre 'willing to listen' to Giants on collision rules

Torre 'willing to listen' to Giants on collision rules

Torre 'willing to listen' to Giants on collision rules
PHOENIX -- Major League Baseball's top on-field official told MLB.com on Friday that he's not inclined at the moment to recommend any rule changes regarding collisions at home plate between a charging baserunner and the catcher.

"I think it's safe to say that I don't anticipate any changes, but I'm willing to listen," said Joe Torre, the former manager and big league catcher who is now MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations.

Torre said that in recent days he has spoken on the phone with Giants general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy, who have expressed emotions ranging from dismay to outrage about the 12th-inning play at the plate May 25, when catcher Buster Posey was bowled over by Marlins baserunner Scott Cousins. Posey suffered a broken left leg and torn ankle ligaments. His season is over, following surgery.

Both Giants officials have publicly said that they'd like to see MLB invoke new rules about such shoulder-to-shoulder collisions at the plate. Torre told them that he's willing to sit down with them at a future date so they can air their views.

Torre also said he has reviewed the collision via replay, and despite comments from Sabean to the contrary, "didn't see anything dirty about the collision."

"I'm trying to envision myself rounding third and heading to home," Torre said. "As you see the catcher waiting for the throw from the outfield, your thought process is to score and you may have to upend him. Do I think Cousins' design was to try to hurt him? I don't think so. I think his design was to make sure Posey didn't catch the ball and score the run. The fact that Buster didn't field the ball came too late for Cousins to change what he started to do."

Sabean implied on Thursday during a local San Francisco radio interview that Cousins intentionally tried to hurt Posey on the play on which the Marlins won the game.

"[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 going to get, pal," Sabean said in part. "We'll have a long memory."

Sabean also said that he supported Posey for not returning calls from Cousins.

"I don't blame [Posey]," Sabean said. "Why not be hard-nosed? If I never hear from Cousins again or he never plays another day in the big leagues, I think we'll all be happy."

Cousins issued a statement on Friday through his agent, Matt Sosnick. "I hope and believe that Mr. Sabean's comments were made in the heat of the moment and are based more on his fondness for Buster Posey than on any animosity towards me," Cousins said in the statement. "This situation is still an open wound for many, including myself. As I have stated previously, nobody outside of Buster feels worse about his injury than I do. I have reached out to Buster to let him know how badly I feel about his being injured during our collision at home plate."

Bochy, like Torre a former big league catcher, said he's in favor of new rules to protect catchers from being banged around.

"We're close to somebody getting hit in the neck area and getting paralyzed," Bochy said. "These guys coming in hard, that's part of the game. I was a catcher. I've been hit. Believe me, I know that. It's time that we do tweak this a little bit and protect these guys."

Torre didn't sound upset about the comments, in general, or Sabean's, in particular.

"Obviously they have an emotional attachment, and I can understand that," Torre said. "I spoke to Brian Sabean today and Bochy yesterday, and I told them I'd be willing to sit with them and whoever they want to invite to discuss it. I told them that I didn't see anything that had to be changed, but I certainly would be open to listening to them. I think they just want discussion."

For their part, the Giants tried to clarify Sabean's comments on Friday. The club released a five-paragraph statement saying that Sabean had spoken to Torre, Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest and had "reached out" to Cousins.

"Brian Sabean's comments yesterday were said out of frustration and out of true concern for Buster and were not meant to vilify Scott Cousins," the Giants said.

"The issue of catcher safety is a complicated one. There are a number of differing opinions around the circumstances of last week's collision and about what baseball should do to prevent serious injuries in the future. This issue goes far beyond last week's incident as there have been a number of recent collision-involved injuries.

"We have been in contact with Joe Torre and have asked for a thorough examination of this issue for the health and safety of all players."

Torre played 19 years in the big leagues and was largely a catcher for the first 10 seasons. He caught his last game in 1970. He also managed 29 years, retiring last season after three years with the Dodgers. He assumed his current post in February.

Torre said he could understand the Giants' frustration.

"They're obviously looking for something that could protect the catchers a little more," he said. "The best thing I could do was relate my experiences as both a player and a manager. It's my job that if somebody wants to have a discussion about something I'm certainly sensitive to that and I'm willing to do it."

Asked what experiences he related, Torre added with a laugh: "Getting my bell rung a few times. The catching position is one that when you decide to put on that equipment there are certain things that go along with it. Sometimes people get hurt. It's certainly devastating what happened to Buster. I don't want to make light of that by any stretch of the imagination. It's just very unfortunate."

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.