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Prince Fielder almost took out Eli Whiteside at home plate last night

May 28, 2011, 10:19 AM EDT

Fielder Whiteside AP picture

The Giants nearly lost their second catcher of the week during last night’s game against the Brewers.

Prince Fielder attempted to score on a single by Jonathan Lucroy in the bottom of the eighth inning and leaned into Eli Whiteside once it was obvious he was going to be a dead duck at home plate. However, Whiteside came away unscathed after pushing his arms out at Fielder to record the final out of the inning.

As Whiteside told Joe DiGiovanni of MLB.com, he tried to prepare himself for the worst.

“If he’s coming at you, you can go at him a little bit,” said Whiteside, who flipped the ball to home-plate umpire Mike Muchlinski after the collision. “There’s no rule in the book says you can’t take it to him a little bit, you know?

Right on, Eli. Those pesky baserunners are always trying to score runs. Who do they think they are, anyway? They deserve a real punch in the mouth, do you know what I mean?

  1. paperlions - May 28, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    Having started to pay closer attention to the frequency with which players choose to run into the catcher when opportunity arises, it is clear that MOST players actually choose to slide in these situations, often going around the catcher.

    I can’t recall the last time a Cardinal player bulled over a catcher, not saying they don’t do it, I just don’t remember. I do remember many plays the last couple weeks in which players slid into home plate on close plays (including twice last night when the players could have chosen to try to injure the Rockies catcher rather than sliding).

    • D.J. Short - May 28, 2011 at 10:32 AM

      Fielder really had no choice in this specific instance. He was out by a mile, so a slide was basically pointless. He either had to give himself up or try to knock the ball loose.

      • paperlions - May 28, 2011 at 10:46 AM

        It is just one run (albeit a game tying run) in one game in May. I still think giving yourself up when you are obviously out is better than throwing your forearms into the shoulder/head/neck region of the catcher. Again, you can’t do this at any other base, it is clearly against the rules (this wasn’t really any different than the ARod slapping the glove play), so why is it allowed in the first place.

        The NFL recognizes that some plays are not in the best interest of player health or the game and try to eliminate them from play (though they can go overboard)…..MLB has this false sense of nostalgia about such plays, which no one can remember happening in the old days because players were required to slide.

        Also, the argument that players will have to be retrained is silly. This type of play is allowed no where but in pro baseball in the US….not in HS, not in college. Players are already taught to slide when they learn the game….and MOST of them continue to do so or you would have 1/2 dozen of these collisions every single day of the season.

      • D.J. Short - May 28, 2011 at 11:10 AM

        No, you can’t do that at any other base, but a fielder would be called for obstruction if they blocked the base like a catcher often does at home plate. It’s up to the individual baserunner, but I can understand why these plays become physical.

      • paperlions - May 28, 2011 at 11:37 AM

        I agree that the catcher should not be in the base path if he doesn’t have the ball, but there is no reason he can’t straddle the plate, allowing the runner complete access via a slide, while waiting for the throw just like at any other base without getting run over by the runner….also, just like any other base. All of the rules should be applied as written the same to all of the bases, catchers shouldn’t be able to block the plate without the ball and runners shouldn’t be able to bowl over the catcher.

        These are just dumb plays, there is no benefit to the game by allowing illegal plays to injure players.

      • Tim's Neighbor - May 28, 2011 at 12:26 PM

        I can’t imagine what the fans would say to some guy giving up at the plate. And the guy’s teammates. No way that’d be accepted.

        And, really, it’s not that big of a deal. No one was hurt here because Whiteside blocked the plate properly. Posey was in awful position fundamentally.

      • paperlions - May 28, 2011 at 12:53 PM

        Yeah, Tim, drunk driving isn’t that big a deal unless someone is hurt either.

        You may not realize this, but catcher don’t commit obstruction (what you call giving the plate away) all the time because they don’t have the ball, so getting run over would serve no purpose. If catchers stopped committing obstruction, no one would actually notice because the vast majority of the time on these plays they don’t do it.

      • drmonkeyarmy - May 28, 2011 at 1:24 PM

        What’s up Tim’s Neighbor? How are you today?

      • tomemos - May 28, 2011 at 1:34 PM

        “…a fielder would be called for obstruction if they blocked the base like a catcher often does at home plate.”

        Fielders block the base on unforced plays all the time. Are you saying that if a guy’s caught in a rundown he should just try to take the fielder’s head off and hope for a dropped ball?

      • D.J. Short - May 28, 2011 at 2:01 PM

        I’m talking about impeding the progress of a baserunner. And no, I don’t want more Albert Belle/Fernando Vina incidents. :-)

      • bayballtim - May 28, 2011 at 2:32 PM

        Tim-
        If you watch the play, Posey was in poor position for a collision because he was in front of home plate trying to catch the ball and turn at the same time. He was not ready for an unnecessary collision because he was not blocking the plate.\

        You blaming Posey for getting hurt is like blaming a girl for getting raped because she dressed too provocatively.

    • drmonkeyarmy - May 28, 2011 at 10:34 AM

      A very similar play to the Posey injury happened in the Phillies game last night. Beltran caught a short fly in right with Michael Martinez tagging. The Mets catcher was in a very similar position as to Posey. Martinez slide around the catcher and was safe. The throw was weak, but the point is sliding around the catcher is almost always the smarter play…assuming some of the plate is showing. More on point, I have no problem with the catcher taking it to the baserunner if it is clear a collision is coming. Who says they have to just sit there and get bowled into?

      • D.J. Short - May 28, 2011 at 10:42 AM

        Yeah, many catchers don’t have the ability to defend themselves, but they absolutely should. That being said, I don’t think any rule changes are needed.

      • D.J. Short - May 28, 2011 at 10:46 AM

        I just don’t like demonizing baserunners for playing by the rules.

      • drmonkeyarmy - May 28, 2011 at 11:09 AM

        Who is demonizing baserunners? I just think bowling over the catcher is seldom the smart baseball move. As far as rule changes, I don’t see the harm. It is funny, you get pundits all the time talking about instant replay and how baseball needs to progress. Well, look at the other sports. Hard fouls in the NBA are called flagrant, increased player protection in the NFL, supposed increased player protection in the NHL. So, yes baseball does need to get with the times. “Paperlions” has hit the nail on the head regarding this subject. Just because “it’s always been done that way” doesn’t make it right.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 28, 2011 at 11:10 AM

        Michael Martinez ≠ Prince Fielder. I don’t think Martinez could bowl anyone over anymore than I think Fielder could slide around someone.

        The biggest difference between the Posey play and the play in the Mets game is that the Mets catcher caught the ball in front of the plate then tried to swipe the tag behind him. If he was (futiley) blocking the entire plate maybe Martinez would have tried the contact play.

      • drmonkeyarmy - May 28, 2011 at 11:17 AM

        There was a lane for Cousins to hook slide. There was room. As far as Martinez goes, know way was he going to bowl over the catcher. The Phillies hook slide all the time into home and more times then not it works, including situations where they would be out if they ran over the catcher. At this point, I’m sure somebody will respond sighting an example of Victorino bowling over a catcher or something like that.

      • D.J. Short - May 28, 2011 at 11:18 AM

        I’m all about progress. Keeping things in place because that’s the way things have always been done is just plain stupid. But I can’t see how you can make large sweeping changes here.

        There is no perfect solution, but it would help if baserunners and catchers are better trained for these situations and umpires are given more leeway to regulate baserunners with the intent to hurt catchers unnecessarily.

      • cur68 - May 28, 2011 at 11:23 AM

        I don’t think any rule needs to be added. There is a rule. Says the catcher can’t block without the ball and of course other rules state the runner can’t interfere with the fielder. Just enforce it; bulling the catcher with the ball = ARod slapping the glove = interference. Blocking the plate without the ball = impeding the runner = safe runner. Leave it at that.

        The collision risks not only the catcher but the runner. These guys get paid millions to play not loaf on the DL.

      • drmonkeyarmy - May 28, 2011 at 11:38 AM

        Excellent point Cur68.

      • paperlions - May 28, 2011 at 11:43 AM

        What cur said.

        This wouldn’t require sweeping changes. Players aren’t that stupid. A single meeting with each team to explain that now runners will be called safe if a catchers commits obstruction and that runners will be called out for going after the catcher rather than the plate (i.e. for not sliding) is all that will be required….and players will adapt immediately. These are not split second things….a player knows all the way from 3rd that there will be a play at the plate, and the catcher knows a runner is coming…they have all kinds of time to make the right decision on how to approach the play.

        The plate isn’t a moving target, the catcher can easily stay out of the baseline when he doesn’t have the ball and the runner knows exactly where he has to slide to score.

  2. hank10 - May 28, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    Can you picture the divot Fielder would have put in the dirt if he did slide?

    • paperlions - May 28, 2011 at 10:47 AM

      Yeah, the better play would have been for him to jump onto the plate. If memory serves, that creates a localized tremor that would have sent Whiteside to his backside and likely dislodged the ball.

    • cur68 - May 28, 2011 at 11:25 AM

      I do not want Prince Fielder running at me; no way, no how. I’d be a smear. Credit to Whiteside for not only hanging in there but giving Prince a good thump back.

      • Old Gator - May 28, 2011 at 12:35 PM

        Try and imagine “leaving a lane” for Fielder. It’d be like dynamiting a sea level canal through Nicaragua.

      • cur68 - May 29, 2011 at 12:10 AM

        If I was the MLB catcher who’s job it was to hold onto a ball while Prince 2 Ton Fielder was bearing down on me, trust me, there’d be a lane, because I’d be next to my 1st baseman. He can have the damn run; it ain’t worth m’life.

  3. jimbo1949 - May 28, 2011 at 11:26 AM

    Yeah I saw the forearm shiver that Fielder put on Whiteside. If Eli had lowered his head and took out a few of Fielder’s teeth with his helmet it would have been “just part of the game”.

  4. spudchukar - May 28, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    I generally appreciate the intelligent comments from DJ, Cur and PL, however in this instance you are all dead wrong. First, DJ, I do not read Whiteside’s statement the same way as you. Fielder has a history of plowing catchers, mostly legit, but occasionally over the line. The forearm to the head is unnecessary, and counter productive. His aim should be at the glove and ball. I used to actually feel for the ball and try to dislodge it as we tumbled to the ground. That said, Whiteside is oh so correct to protect himself with a little aggression of his own. I was taught that the proper way to tag a runner who was trying to bulldoze you was to clobber the runner right up under the chin with ball in hand and glove. That has a way of discouraging the shivers.

    As to rule change and/or inforcement, not only will it not work, it would drastically reduce one of the most exciting plays in the game. Plus you are opening Pandora’s Box with the recommended adjustments. On almost every close play at the plate you are begging for one team or another to have merits for arguement. Anytime a catcher makes any move toward the runner with his legs he will be open for blocking criticism. Anytime any contact is made when the runner does not slide will be open for the plowing claims. And it is silly to believe the players have time to decide ahead of time whether they are going to slide or not. It is screwed up all the time. Adding more decision making to a play that is spit second, will only complicate the issue and open up more avenues for injury.

    One last comment, the play in which Posey was injured was not due to the collision. As I stated yesterday a hard slide right across the plate at Posey’s already twisted foot could have caused even greater damage than he received by the blow from Cousins. Catchers bait runners, giving them a portion of the outside(inside really) part of the plate and then kick them off with their shinguards, and this is exactly what Posey was trying to do, which resulted in him getting his toe/cleat stuck under him.

    All in all it is an exciting play, with multiple options, and I for one relish the action as it is presently conducted, and do not want the rule altered. Injuries to catchers are rare on plays at the plate. And this has nothing to do with tradition. I have a myriad of rule changes I would like to see, it is just that this is not one of them.

    • paperlions - May 28, 2011 at 12:45 PM

      Close plays at the plate are exciting, obstruction and interference are not parts of the exciting play, they don’t add to the excitement of the play, they increase the risk of injury.

    • paperlions - May 28, 2011 at 12:56 PM

      A slide wouldn’t have damaged Posey’s foot at all because his foot wasn’t blocking the plate.

      When did you pull off these feats of prestidigitation? You must have spent time in pro ball, because no level below that allows plowing the catcher.

      Runners shouldn’t have to decide to slide or not…if they play is close they should always be sliding, and if the catcher doesn’t have the ball then the runner should be called safe regardless for obstruction.

    • ceadderman - May 28, 2011 at 5:49 PM

      I completely agree with you. There really is no reason to adapt the game on one incident. Cousins didn’t do anything wrong.

      One thing I would like to point out however is that Posey while is a great and exciting player to watch(long time Giants fan here) he’s still raw and inexperienced. He has a combined 3 or 4 years as a Catcher. He handles the staff remarkably well, he’s got great instincts with a threatening runner on the bags and his bat is one of the best I have seen in a long time.

      However…

      He’s still green. He doesn’t have the experience that could have saved him in that same incident. Had he moved infield by a step or two he could have caught the ball cleanly and applied the tag without even having to block the plate. He caused his own injury as much as Cousins did for plowing into him. I’m not blaming Buster for his injury. There is a learning curve here and he clearly didn’t know better. Sadly he understands it now. Also Catchers mitts while being pretty well padded, you can feel the ball. Buster had to know he didn’t have it. He’s one of the most intuitive players in the game. So as much as I hate that the kid got injured, I don’t blame Cousins, I don’t blame MLB for leaving a 100+ year old rule intact. I blame the one guy that has the experience to know better for not teaching this kid fundamentally sound technique.

      Bochy was a Major League Catcher for his entire career. There is no excuse for not working with this kid on his technique.

      So really where is the hue and cry about a Manager who knows the position as well as anybody not stepping in and working with this kid to help him protect himself?

  5. garlicfriesandbaseball - May 28, 2011 at 1:20 PM

    Kudos to Whiteside for trying to defend himself. We’ve all just about had it here in SF – ESPN’s obvious biased statement immediately following the Posey incident put me over the top. I quote “Posey was absolutely blocking the plate.” Where do they get these guys? We should be used to their biased jibberish after enduring them throughout the 2010 playoffs. Personally, we’re not used to it and should continue to challenge them every chance we get. I’ve always supported Whiteside as he sat quietly in the shadows of Buster, who we all love, and his chutzpah last night just reinforces my high opinion of the guy.

  6. spudchukar - May 28, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    First off, I am considerably older, and pulled off these “feats” in high school, college, and during my 3 years of minor league ball, and subsequent semi-pro years. The notion that Posey wasn’t blocking the plate was due to his incompetence, not his intention. He definately was trying to block the plate, but as he began to shift his lower body to do so, he had to reach back with part of his upper body in an attempt to catch the ball. This is what caused his foot to catch under him, making him oh so vulnerable. Plus if Cousins had slid late, hard and across the plate, as you are taught (it negates the blocking of the plate somewhat, he definately would have been right in line to jam Posey’s twisted foot. Just because he hadn’t moved to the front of the plate, would not have protected him from a hard slide across the plate, which indeed could have been just as damaging in not moreso.

    And I wholeheartedly disagree with your conclusion that a catcher’s block of the plate is not part of the exciting action at the plate. In my mind it is the defining moment of the play and baseball would sorely miss an integral part to an exciting play.

    • garlicfriesandbaseball - May 28, 2011 at 1:30 PM

      Yes – the incompetent Posey. Ask Johnny Bench what he thinks of Buster Posey’s competence. Or maybe we should just listen to you instead…..

      • spudchukar - May 28, 2011 at 2:20 PM

        Garlic, at no time was I disparaging Posey’s overall talent. He and no one else got his foot caught under him at an inopportune time. You can argue with my choice of words if you like, but in my book when you err, however short in time that may be, your momentary competence comes into question.

    • cur68 - May 29, 2011 at 12:22 AM

      Spuddy; I do believe Posey actually said he left Cousin’s a lane. He was aware of what he was doing and put himself in a position to swipe Cousins not block him. Here’s the link;

      http://offthebench.nbcsports.com/2011/05/27/posey-on-cousins-collision-i-left-him-a-lane-but-he-chose-to-come-at-me/

      I looked at that play as much as I could stand it (While I’m real good after the fact, I hate seeing injuries happen. The notion of watching something go wrong just makes me ill) and Posey is definitely not directly in Cousin’s path. Cousin’s runs up the line shading to the infield, lining up Posey. If he hook slides he’s probably just as safe or out as if he plows the kid.

      By and large I defer to your greater expertise in these matters but my eyes see a guy running at another guy who isn’t looking and with lots of room for the first guy to get around to his right.

      Sure it’s one of the most exciting plays in baseball and been around since whenever. But it hurts people and it’s against the rules in any case. Lots of things change in baseball every year. This isn’t a change, just an enforcement of a known rule and the way kids are taught to play as they come up.

  7. garlicfriesandbaseball - May 28, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    And to DJ Short: “Right on, Eli. Those pesky baserunners are always trying to score runs. Who do they think they are, anyway? They deserve a real punch in the mouth, do you know what I mean?”

    Ugghh……

    You might add: Those pesky catchers are always trying to play defense. Who do they think they are ~ trying to defend against broken bones and brain injuries anyway?

    • D.J. Short - May 28, 2011 at 1:35 PM

      Tongue firmly planted in cheek there. Listen, I just don’t think the baserunners should be considered the bad guys here. As we saw with the Quintero play last night, if a catcher is obstructing the plate, baserunners don’t have many choices. Catchers should absolutely defend themselves, though.

  8. ceadderman - May 28, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    “Right on, Eli. Those pesky baserunners are always trying to score runs. Who do they think they are, anyway? They deserve a real punch in the mouth, do you know what I mean?”

    Uhhhh I think you took what he was saying out of context. He wasn’t advocating violence. He was saying that you pretty much have to take it to the runner in that situation in order to protect yourself. In this instance he was CLEARLY right.

    Also Fielder had one other choice to make…

    …HOLD UP AT 3rd and preserve the Inning. Hur Duuuuur!

    Instead Fielder chose to be a thug and have a go at Whitey thinking the Posey incident would be fresh enough to back the man off the dish. It wasn’t a heads up play, it WASN’T smart Baseball and it wasn’t necessary to score the run right then. Then of course Fielder really never has had a Baseball mind anyway. It’s sad that he’s Cecil’s kid.

  9. royalsfaninfargo - May 28, 2011 at 4:35 PM

    If Fielder was running at me with a full head of steam i think i would get out of his way. Between the rolls bouncing and the foot prints left in the baseline my skinny ass isnt going to argue! Kudos to Whiteside for hanging in there!

    • cur68 - May 29, 2011 at 12:24 AM

      I’m with you.

  10. mrcowpatty - May 28, 2011 at 10:32 PM

    Message to Mr. Fielder, damn I didn’t mean to let that 98 mph fast ball get so close to your head.

  11. itsanotherpov - Jun 3, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    I mean seriously how long does the HBP go back? Fielder has some serious issues. Barry Zito hit him with a 83 mph fastball in March of 2010 after he celebrated a walk off in September of 2009. Dude, Fielder get over it.

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