Archive for August 2010

Washington Nationals Didn’t Give Bryce Harper Enough Money

August 30, 2010

I’m back after two exciting weeks in and around Dumaguete City in the Philippines.  An awful lot has happened since I was away: Lou Piniella’s decision to retire sooner rather than later, Roger Clemens getting indicted, the Giants’ vaunted starters posting the worst ERA of any starting rotation in the National League so far in August.

One thing that especially surprised me, however, was the fact Bryce Harper signed for only $9.9 million when Steven Strasburg got $15.1 million from the same team last year.  I had expected Harper to get right around what Strasburg got.

Now that Strasburg has blown out his elbow tendon and will miss at least a full year to rehab his arm after Tommy John surgery, it’s easy to say that Strasburg got too much or that Harper got too little.  However, you could have come to the same conclusion before Strasburg’s injury simply by looking at recent draft results for college pitchers and high school position players selected with the first pick of the Draft.

The reasons that Strasburg got more money probably have to do with past signing amounts and the fact that top college pitchers are the amateur players closest to the major leagues in terms of ability at the time they are signed.  Before Strasburg’s big payday, the record first contract was Mark Prior’s $10.5 million deal back in 2001.

The prior high for a position player was given to then college 1Bman Mark Teixeira, who got a four year $9.5 million also in 2001.

Strasburg got more than Prior, and Harper got more than Teixeira.  Also, Harper had less leverage than a player his age usually has, because had he not signed, he would have had to return to junior college, the same level he played at last year, and where it would be extremely difficult for him to improve significantly in the eyes of major league organizations from his 2010 performance.  Most 18 year old high school draft picks can threaten to go to a top four-year college program, where they will play at a much higher level, comparable to full-season Class A or A+ ball.

However, none of it really makes any sense.  I mean, whose career would you rather have right now: Mark Prior’s or Mark Teixeira’s?  And it’s not just these two players.

Here’s a list of all the high school position players taken with the first pick of the Draft since 1987 when Ken Griffey, Jr. was selected: Griffey (1987), Chipper Jones (1990), Alex Rodriguez (1993), Josh Hamilton (1999), Adrien Gonzalez (2000), Joe Mauer (2001), Delmon Young (2003), Matt Bush (2004), Justin Upton (2005), Tim Beckham (2008).

It’s too early to tell with Beckham (he presently has a .347 on-base percentage in the pitcher friendly Class A+ Florida State League at age 20, which is promising for a shortstop), and Delmon Young has been kind of disappointing (although it’s worth noting he is currently hitting .305 with an .830 OPS and doesn’t turn 25 for another two weeks).

However, the only real dog of the bunch is Matt Bush, and in his case, everyone thought it was a terrible, bargain basement pick when the Padres selected him solely because he was local boy who would sign for way less than No. 1 money.

The other seven players on the list feature three sure-thing Hall-of-Famers, two guys reasonably likely to have Hall of Fame careers (Gonzalez and Mauer), another player who probably would have had at least a borderline Hall of Fame career if drugs had not derailed him for years (Hamilton), and a young major leaguer with everything you look for in a player who might develop into a Hall of Famer (Upton plays above-average defense at baseball’s most important defensive position according to fangraphs and has a career major league OPS of .823 in just over 1,500 at-bats even though he only turned 23 a couple of days ago).

Here are all the college pitchers selected with the first pick of the Draft since 1987: Andy Benes (1988), Ben McDonald (1989), Paul Wilson (1994), Kris Benson (1996), Matt Anderson (1997), Bryan Bullington (2002), Luke Hochevar (2006), David Price (2007) and Stephen Strasburg (2009).  Now that we know Strasburg will be undergoing Tommy John surgery, is there even one pitcher whose career you would rather have than any one of the seven position players listed in the preceding paragraph?

I could see someone saying they’d rather have David Price’s career than Justin Upton’s career, given what we’ve seen so far, but I sure wouldn’t.  The odds are much greater David Price will get seriously hurt more often than Upton going forward.

Of course, I can already hear some of you saying the best player isn’t always selected with the first pick of the Draft, Mark Prior and Mark Teixeira being examples.  However, the first player selected is almost always a great prospect, and when it’s a high school position player overwhelmingly regarded as one of the very best players available, the position player’s chances of future major league success are significantly greater than any pitching prospect’s chances of future success due to the pitchers’ potential for major arm injuries.

O.K., the Nationals gave Bryce Harper a five year deal, and who knows how long he’ll be in the minors before he’s ready for the show.  However, he’s so young (17) that he could spend the entire five years in the minors and still come up young enough to have a Hall of Fame or near Hall of Fame career.

Finally, it’s worth noting that at the major league level, teams all recognize how much more valuable a superstar position player is than a superstar pitcher, due to the pitcher’s greater likelihood of future injury.  That’s why the biggest player contracts go overwhelmingly to position players.  According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, eight of the ten most lucrative contracts in baseball history and sixteen of the biggest 21 have gone to position players.

P.S.  Oops — I forgot about Stephen Drew.  Justin Upton was drafted as a shortstop, but has played right field at the major league level, where his defense has been well above average.  Obviously, an above average defensive shortstop has more value than a well above average right-fielder, but I’d still rather have Upton’s career going forward than David Price’s.

Strongest and Weakest Divisions in MLB

August 11, 2010

Yesterday I wrote a post about how strong the AL East is and how hard it is for a small market team like the Orioles to compete in it (although I note that the small market Rays have managed to compete quite nicely, thank you, at least for the last three seasons).  An obvious follow-up would be to look at how MLB’s other divisions have done when playing against outside teams.

The conventional wisdom is that the AL East is the strongest division in baseball by far.  Do the actual numbers back up the conventional wisdom?

Yes, they do, at least so far in 2010.  As mentioned in yesterday’s post, AL East teams have a .555 winning percentage when playing outside their division.

No other division comes close.  The next strongest division this season is the NL West, with a .525 winning percentage against outsiders.

Only a few seasons ago, the NL West had a reputation as one of MLB’s weakest divisions.  Things can change quickly if several bad teams in a division can turn it around.  The Giants and Padres have rather suddenly become strong teams in the last two seasons.

The NL East is a close third with a .519 winning percentage against non-division opponents.

What is more interesting about the NL East, however, is how evenly matched the teams are when playing within their own division.  The Braves and Phillies have the best in-division records at 21-20 and the Mets have the worst at 21-24.  That’s parity, at least when playing within the NL East.

The weakest division in MLB this year by far is the NL Central.  It has a .434 winning percentage when playing against teams in other divisions.

The only NL Central team with an winning record outside the division is the Cardinals with a 35-29 record.  The Reds, who have made such an exciting turn-around this year, are only 30-30 when playing teams outside of the NL Central.

Here are the records and winning percentages of each division in baseball as of today (note that I have not updated the AL East’s record since yesterday) when playing non-division opponents.

AL East  188-151, .555 winning percentage

NL West  187-169, .525

NL East  182-169, .519

AL West  149-156, .489

AL Central  171-186, .479

NL Central 155-202, .434

With America’s largest metropolitan areas disproportionately located on the East or West Coasts, it should, perhaps, not be surprising that the AL Central and NL Central, comprised of mostly Mid-West teams, should be the weakest in baseball.

With the exception of the two Chicago teams and Houston, the markets in the center of the country just aren’t that big, and aren’t growing nearly as fast as metropolitan areas on the coasts or in the South and Southwest.

Just How Good Is the AL East

August 10, 2010

In looking at the MLB standings today, I couldn’t help but notice just how strong the AL East is so far this season.  Even the fourth place team, the Blue Jays, are seven games above .500, and the only bad team in the division is the Orioles.

I thought it might be interesting to see what the differences are when an AL East team is playing in its division as opposed to playing teams in other divisions.  Here are the results with in-division records first:

New York Yankees: 26-18, .591 winning percentage; 43-24, .642

Tampa Bay Rays: 27-17, .614; 41-27, .603

Boston Red Sox: 22-23, .488; 42-26, .618

Toronto Blue Jays: 25-17, .595; 34-35, .493

Baltimore Orioles:  10-35, .222; 28-39, .418

As a whole, AL East teams are 110-110 when playing each other and 188-151 (a .555 winning percentage) when playing out of division teams.

As you can see the Red Sox, Orioles and, to a lesser degree, the Yankees have all played substantially better outside of their division than within it.  The only team to do substantially better in the AL East than outside it is the Blue Jays, and that is entirely the result of the fact the Jays are a perfect 12-0 against the Orioles.

What conclusions can we draw from this?

First, the Yankees look like the best team in the division based on their ability to win both within their division and against non-division teams.  This may mean they’ll play better in the post-season than the other AL East team that makes the play-offs.

This isn’t really news, however, since everyone expects the Yankees to perform well in their post-season, given their high-priced talent and previous post-season experience.

The Rays have played exceptionally well in their division and will need to continue to do so if they are going to make the post-season.  The Red Sox have played poorly against the rest of the AL East and will need to turn that around going forward if they want to make the post-season.

Finally, although the Orioles have the worst record in baseball, they aren’t nearly as bad as they appear to be based on their overall won-loss record.  Instead, the Orioles are taking a pounding under the new weighted schedules that force them to play the other AL East teams more often.

In fact, based on the O’s record outside their division, it seems apparent that they are probably no worse than the Mariners and substantially better than the Pirates, who play in one of this year’s weakest divisions.

The only good thing about being a small market team like the Orioles stuck in a division full of free-spending, top market teams is the Orioles are virtually assured of receiving the first pick in the 2011 Draft.  Let’s hope they use it wisely and some of their good young talent from past drafts and trades begin to gel the way the Rays’s young talent has the last three seasons.

Fan Sues New York Mets Over Maple Bat Injury

August 10, 2010

According to this article, a fan who was injured in the face by a shattered maple bat has sued the Mets, the bat manufacturer and players Luis Castillo (the batter) and Ramon Castro (the owner of the bat).  I’ve been waiting for this kind of a lawsuit for some time.

Every ticket to a major league game contains a disclaimer in fine print on the back that states the purchaser assumes all risk of injuries which occur during the game.  The disclaimer has effectively shielded teams from injuries caused by batted balls and broken bats in the past.

The difference here is that it has become common knowledge in MLB, if not among less sophisticated fans, that maple bats are potentially more dangerous than bats made of ash.  For example, the article linked above states that an MLB committee released a study which concluded that maple bats are three times more likely than ash bats to shatter into multiple pieces.

It’s also common knowledge to anyone who has watched the game since maple bats began coming into common use that maple bats shatter in a way that is more likely to produce sharp edges than ash bats.

I note, however, that in this case, the fan didn’t get speared by the broken bat.  Instead, the fan was stuck by a section of the broken bat and had several facial bones fractured.  We’ll have to wait and see if the special facts surrounding the injuries suffered impact the outcome of the case.

As I said, MLB attempts to insulate itself from liability with its disclaimer that fans are assuming the risk of injury.  However, the laws of most states limit the ability of a manufacturer (or in this case, a service provider) to enforce such disclaimers for public policy reasons.

Specifically, most states will not allow all potential risks to be assumed by the customer no matter what the purchase contract says.  For example, car manufacturers and dealers cannot limit themselves from liability for dangerous defects in their products (i.e., SUVs which have a tendency to role over when making sharp turns at 45 mph, or Ford Pintos which had the unfortunate habit of having their gas tanks explode in relatively minor collisions).

Another good example would be parachute manufacturers: the product has to perform what you would expect from a parachute.  There is no way to disclaim defects which would likely result in the deaths of sky-divers.

Without getting into the law too deeply, or, in particular, analyzing New York law on the issue (the injury occurred at Shea Stadium), the case will likely boil down to whether teams are taking an unnecessary and unreasonable risk to fans’ health and bodily well-being by allowing maple bats to be used, in comparison to ash bats.

The big problem for MLB is that it has long been known that maple bats are potentially more dangerous than ash bats because of the way the maple bats tend to break compared to ash bats.  According to the article above, MLB’s own study shows as much.

The fan’s argument will be that fans expect that teams will take reasonable precautions to protect their safety, or fans wouldn’t go to the games in the first place. His attorneys will argue that it is unreasonable for teams to allow maple bats to be used when they are three times more likely to break into multiple pieces than ash bats, when teams could potentially make such injuries less likely by restricting players to ash bats.

The fan will also likely argue that the disclaimer shouldn’t be given a lot of weight because it appears in fine print and most fans never read the disclaimer anyway.  This argument has failed in bat or ball injury cases in the past, but it may come into play if the fan can prove that maple bats are inherently more dangerous to fans than ash bats.

Most likely, the case will turn on whether or not the fan can prove to the court’s or a jury’s satisfaction that the use of a maple bat made the injury more likely than if an ash bat had been used, and that additional risk created by using a maple bat was unreasonably high.

It will be interesting to see how the case plays out.  MLB has fought fan bat and ball injury lawsuits tooth and nail in the past, so I would expect the Mets to fight this lawsuit hard, if not through trial, then at least until a summary judgment motion has been denied.

In the meantime, the pending lawsuit should not serve as a reason for MLB to delay further consideration of whether maple bats should be banned.  In most states, subsequent remedial measures designed to make a product safer or reduce the risk of future injuries is not admissible by a plaintiff injured prior to the remedial measure, for the public policy reason that manufacturers should not be discouraged from making improvements or fixing defects until all pending defect litigation has been resolved.

The Best And Worst Hitting Pitchers in Baseball: Part II — The Worst

August 6, 2010

Here is my list of the worst five hitting pitchers currently playing major league baseball.  Please again note that pitchers have to have at least 100 career major league at-bats in order to weed out those who have spent their entire careers in the American League or haven’t been in the majors very long, and to weed out flukes based on very small sample sizes.

1.  Brian Moehler.  The 38 year old right-hander who appeared in 20 games for the Astros this season is by far the worst hitting pitcher I was able to find.

Moehler has a career .045 batting average (9 for 202 with two doubles as his only extra base hits) and a .152 OPS.  That’s pretty terrible.

Moehler was drafted by the Tigers and played the first six years of his major league career in the AL, which certainly didn’t give him many opportunities to develop hitting skills.

However, there is no one-to-one correlation between beginning one’s major league career in the American League and being unable to hit.  For example, Dan Haren nearly made my list of the top five hitters in MLB, despite spending most of his early career in the AL.

Similarly, Tim Hudson (.182 batting average, .446 OPS) and Johan Santana (.162, .440) are good-hitting pitchers, despite having spent the first six or more years of their respective major league careers in the AL.

2.  Clayton Kershaw.  The Dodgers young southpaw is still young enough to improve as a hitter.  However, his career numbers to date (.078 batting average with no extra base hits in 115 ABs and a .187 OPS) are horrendous.

3.  Ben Sheets.  One thing Big Ben can’t do, aside from keeping his pitching elbow healthy, is hit.  He has an .078 batting average and .200 OPS in more than 400 career ABs.  You could make a strong argument that Sheets should be No. 2 on this list given all the extra ABs he’s had compared to Kershaw.

4.  Claudio Vargas.  Vargas is the owner of a career .080 batting average and a .195 OPS.

5.  Doug Davis.  He’s another pitcher who hasn’t been able to do a thing with more than 400 major league ABs.  He has an .085 batting average and an even .200 OPS.  He’s better than Ben Sheets with the bat, but not much.

A few other exceptionally bad-hitting pitchers are: Aaron Harang (.094 batting average, .218 OPS — size doesn’t matter when it comes to hitting), Anibal Sanchez (.083, .237), Mike Pelfrey (.089, .242), Ryan Dempster (.098, .241) and Miguel Batista (.094, .257).

Roy Halladay’s .108 batting average and .225 OPS deserve mention.  However, it’s not entirely fair to include him in this list because 64 of his 102 career ABs have come this year, his first season in the NL.  After playing in the AL for 12 consecutive seasons, it’s safe to say that Doc is a little out of practice.

The Best and Worst Hitting Pitchers in Baseball: Part I — The Best

August 6, 2010

As I’m sure you know, today’s major league pitchers can barely hit a lick.  The rise of the designated hitter, not only in the American League, but also it’s wide-spread use in the minors and in the college game is perhaps the biggest factor for the demise of pitchers who can hit, but it’s hardly the only one.

Pitchers simply don’t get as many opportunities to hit today because of the steady trend of using more and more relievers throwing more and more innings, which means starting pitchers get fewer opportunities to hit, and there are more opportunities for professional hitters to be used as pinch hitters.

Also, the level of major league play has gradually improved since the professional game started in the 1870’s, which means that pitchers who make the major leagues solely based on their ability to pitch have undergone a slow but steady decline as hitters by virtue of the relative improvement of pitchers, fielders and professional hitters.

Nevertheless, there are always a few pitchers in any era who can hit, and it can also be fun to see just who the worst of the worst are.

I looked at current pitchers with at least 100 career major league at-bats in order to weed out the pitchers who just hadn’t had enough at-bats for their hitting stats to mean anything one way or another.  I found 85 pitchers currently playing with at least that many ABs.  I may have missed a couple, but I think I got most of them.

The mean batting average and OPS of these 85 qualifying pitchers are approximately .135 and .340.  That’s really pretty terrible, and it shows you just how hard it is even for professional athletes who have played baseball all their lives to hit major league pitching if the players have not been selected for the major leagues based their ability to hit.

A few pitchers can swing the stick a little bit, though.  Here is my non-scientific list of the five best hitting pitchers currently playing:

1.  Micah Owings.  Micah Owings is far and away the best hitting pitcher in baseball (at least if you exclude Rick Ankiel, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2004).  After 184 major league ABs, Owings has a .293 batting average and an .861 OPS.  That’s better than a lot of corner outfielders playing regularly at this level.

In fact, it plainly appears the Arizona Diamondbacks made a terrible mistake when, after drafting Owings in the 3rd Round of the 2005 Draft, they decided to develop him solely as a pitcher.

Owings turns 28 in late September, and it is pretty much obvious he will never develop into a good major league pitcher.  He has a career 5.11 ERA and was recently demoted by the Reds to their AAA team.  With all the young pitchers the Reds have in the pipeline, Owings’ career as a pitcher is in some jeopardy.

At this point in his career, Owings should give serious consideration to either becoming a position player, or at least playing enough in the field at AAA to become another Brooks Kieschnick, who had a couple of solid seasons for the Brewers in 2003 and 2004 as a relief pitcher and regular pinch hitter.

2.  Carlos Zambrano.  Carlos may have fallen off as a pitcher this year, and he may be hard to put up with in the clubhouse.  At least he can swing the ash.

Zambrano has a career .236 batting average with a .632 OPS.

Carlos is an all-or-nothing hitter.  He has only six walks to go with 209 strikeouts in 585 major league at-bats, but he has hit an impressive 20 HRs and 47 extra base hits.  He’s scored 61 runs and driven in another 61 in his career.  That’s better than a lot of middle infielders given 585 at-bats.

3 Dontrelle Willis.  One of the things I loved about Dontrelle was his ability to hit.  Even though he’s also now pitched his way out of the majors, he still owns a career .232 batting average and a .634 OPS.

Dontrelle doesn’t quite have Carlos Zambrano’s raw power, but he’s much more willing to take a walk (22 in 358 career ABs). I ranked Carlos higher only because Carlos has put up his numbers in considerably more ABs.

I wonder what is more discouraging to a pitcher: walking the opposing pitcher or giving up an extra base hit.  Even though the latter would seem to have more value, the pitcher on the hill can better rationalize it: the batter got lucky, he’s a good-hitting pitcher, etc.  Everyone on defense slumps their shoulders when the pitcher walks his doppelganger.

4.  Yovani Gallardo.  The Brewers young ace is another pitcher with pop at the plate.  His career .207 battting average isn’t particularly impressive, but his .661 OPS is (at least for a pitcher).  With eight HRs and eight doubles in 150 career AB’s, he’s someone opposing pitchers have to be careful with, particularly with men on base.

Gallardo already has four HRs this year in only 43 ABs.  Since the Brewers will probably hold on to him at least until he gets close to free agency, he’ll have plenty more opportunities to show if his hitting so far is for real.

5.  Adam Wainwright.  The Cardinals’ ace knows how to help his own cause.  He’s got a .230 career batting average and a solid .608 OPS.

With his relatively high batting average, Wainwright is exactly the kind of pitcher you don’t want to walk the Number Eight hitter to get to with men on base.

Honorable Mention.  CC Sabathia.  CC doesn’t quite make the list, because after playing almost his entire career in the American League, he has only 97 ABs in ten major league seasons.

Nonetheless, CC has hit .258 with a .647 OPS in those 97 ABs.  Some guys are just ballplayers pure and simple.

Other pitchers who can hit a little include: Dan Haren (.226 batting average, .580 OPS), Livan Hernandez (.223, .532), Darren Oliver (.221, .545), Russ Ortiz (.202, .549), Jason Marquis (.202, .519), Jeff Weaver (.208, .480), Javier Vasquez (.206, .486), Manny Parra (.195, .532) and Randy Wolf (.188, .500).

As you can see, there aren’t a lot of pitchers who can hit in today’s game.

More on Carlos Santana and Yesterday’s Big Collision

August 4, 2010

First, I apologize to readers who were rightfully angered and outraged that the original title of yesterday’s post about the home plate collision between the Indian’s Carlos Santana and the Red Sox Ryan Kalish stated that Carlos Santana “Got What He Deserved”.  It was a stupid thing for me to write.

No player deserves to suffer a potentially serious injury simply because he was a bit too aggressive in trying to make a play.

I wrote and published the piece immediately after watching the video.  It stirred my pet-peeve about catchers blocking the plate without the ball, which I believe violates both the letter and the spirit of the rules.  However, to blame Carlos Santana for doing something catchers routinely do and which MLB refuses to stop was just flat wrong.

Writing what I did also stirred up needless controversy and completely undermined what the post really should have been about.  The following is more along the lines of what I should have written yesterday.

Someone posted a comment to yesterday’s post stating that MLB rules clearly allow catchers to block the plate without the ball if they are in the act of “fielding” a throw from another player.  He cited the Note to MLB Rule 7.06(b) which states in its entirety:

“NOTE: The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score. The base line belongs to the runner and the catcher should be there only when he is fielding a ball or when he already has the ball in his hand.”

The first sentence of the Note and the first half of the second sentence could not be more clear: “The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score” and “The base line belongs to the runner…”

The second half of the second sentence provides two exceptions to this bright-line rule: the catcher can be in the base path if: (1) he already has the ball in his hand; or (2) when he is fielding the ball.

The comment contended that “fielding the ball” includes catching throws from other fielders.  I do not believe this is the most reasonable interpretation, and I contend it was not way the rule was originally enforced.

Instead, “fielding the ball” meant fielding a batted ball (i.e., a bunt or a swinging bunt), where as a matter of necessity the catcher must cross the base path to field the ball in play.

Let’s watch the video of yesterday’s collision again.  See how Santana set up to receive the throw from right field, and as the throw comes in toward him, his back leg slides across the foul line and into the base runner’s path?

Sliding his back leg into the path of the uncoming runner is obviously unnecessary for Santana to “field” the throw.  Instead, it is done for the sole purpose of blocking the base path and impeding the runner’s progress for an additional period of time so that the catcher (Santana) has additional time to catch the ball and apply the tag before the runner (Kalish) scores.

There’s no way that Santana’s maneuver does not violate both the letter and the spirit of the first sentence and the second half of the second sentence of the Note to Rule 7.06(b).  In fact, allowing catchers to block the plate in this manner renders those portions of the Note superfluous and irrelevant.

This is obviously a legalistic argument, but I am hardly the first person to make it.  Here’s what Bill James wrote in his Historical Baseball Abstract, 1988 Ed. at pp. 187-188:

“The modern method of blocking the plate is, quite simply, illegal.  If you read the rule book (Rule 7.06 B), it is quite clear that the catcher is not allowed to block home plate in any way, shape or form without having the ball in his hand.  Period.”

James then spends the next couple of pages explaining his research into baseball history on the subject and the evidence supporting his claim that catchers didn’t block the plate between 1900 and the Second World War the way they do today.

As I stated yesterday, I believe the reason the rule is either interpreted differently today or simply not enforced as the game has evolved is that the fans find collisions at the plate, where the runner fights to score and the catcher fights to keep him from scoring, exciting.  Nevermind that it means that more catchers and more baserunners are hurt by more collisions which could easily be prevented.

However, the rule against catchers blocking the plate is to a certain degree self-enforcing.  What I mean is catchers who routinely block off the plate as aggressively as Santana did yesterday eventually get seriously hurt because eventually a base runner will clobber him.

A number of comments to yesterday’s post assigned the blame on the play to Red Sox rookie Ryan Kalish for coming in with a high slide.  I don’t buy this argument at all.

The Note to the Rule clearly states, “the baseline belongs to the runner.”  In that case, why should Ryan Kalish, a rookie fighting to stay on a major league roster, be required to run around the catcher or slide prematurely?  In either case, he’s essentially conceding the run because the catcher is bending the rules.

Someone stated that young players are taught to either slide or throw an upright block, and not to slide late and hard.  Frankly, I played little league ball for years, and I don’t ever remember a catcher ever trying to block the plate the way major league catchers do.

In fact, I would be very surprised if high school or college players are allowed to block home plate as aggressively as the pros do, because it’s just asking for more serious injuries that could easily be prevented.

I think the game would be exciting enough if the rule were clarified to provide that unless the catcher has the ball in his hand or the throw in from another fielder reasonably requires the catcher to move into the base path in order to catch it, the catcher simply can’t be in the base paths.

If that were the rule (and it was enforced), injuries like Santana’s would be avoided.

P.S.  Here’s the text of Rule 7.06(b) with comments and notes from mlb.com.