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Johnny Bench critiques Buster Posey’s positioning at home plate

Jun 4, 2011, 3:13 PM EDT

Johnny Bench AP

This whole Buster PoseyScott Cousins controversy will go away eventually.

Though it’s taken entirely too long, everyone involved is beginning to say the right things. Adults acting like adults. What a concept? Still, when a Hall of Fame catcher like Johnny Bench weighs in on the situation, well, you have no choice but to give him your full attention.

In a wide-ranging interview with Tulsa World earlier this week, the 10-time Gold Glove backstop was highly critical of Buster Posey’s positioning at home plate during the much-debated play in question.

“When I heard about the injury, I was anxious to see how this happened. Buster put himself in such a bad position. First of all, my catchers don’t sit in front of home plate. They stand away from home plate and work back to the plate. But we (catchers) are just fair game. You’ve got a guy running around third base at 210 to 220 pounds with 3 percent body fat and with sprinter’s speed. I teach my kids to stay away from the plate when you don’t have the ball so the runner actually sees home plate and his thought is, slide. But Buster is laying in front of home plate, and it’s like having a disabled car in the middle of a four-lane highway. You’re just going to get smacked. Show them the plate. You can always catch the ball and step, or step and catch the ball, as long as you’ve got the runner on the ground. And if you have the runner on the ground, there’s less chance of any severe collision.”

Let’s see, should we trust the opinion of someone who is considered the best defensive catcher of all-time or Brian Sabean? That’s a tough one.

For what it’s worth, former catcher and current MLB VP of operations Joe Torre told Barry M. Bloom of that while he will “listen” to concerns, he doesn’t see any rule changes on the horizon.

  1. snorkybluefog - Jun 4, 2011 at 3:18 PM

    That scribbling sound you may be hearing is Buster Posey removing Johnny Bench from his Christmas card list.

  2. ncphilliesguy - Jun 4, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    This should end all the controversy. It won’t, but it should.

  3. yettyskills - Jun 4, 2011 at 3:42 PM

    End of discussion, been saying it the whole time, Posey did so many things wrong.

  4. baseballisboring - Jun 4, 2011 at 3:44 PM

    I am inclined to listen to Johnny Bench’s thoughts on this matter

    • royalsfaninfargo - Jun 4, 2011 at 3:50 PM

      I am to. The larger question is, are the Giants willing to listen to him?

  5. gogigantos - Jun 4, 2011 at 3:53 PM

    such hands
    don’t want to play poker with that face
    has coaching changed? behind the plate and working forward he learned from the experience of getting broken up? Why not coaching this top to bottom everywhere, at all ages and for many years??
    I think he might be good for a couple innings behind the dish still
    no runs, not drips, no errors

  6. gogigantos - Jun 4, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    is that a mullet??
    he can play my softball team, middle aged man hardball team too, any time
    clone that one for sure

  7. paperlions - Jun 4, 2011 at 3:56 PM

    I would listen to Bench as well, as soon as he explains how standing in fair territory is “laying in front of home plate”. Too many of these “expert” opinions read like the person watched the video once at full speed and didn’t bother to watch it again looking for details when so many things happened in quick succession. So many of these opinions state things that are false, that would not be stated by someone that bothered to watch the play carefully.

    Cousins did not knock the ball out, Posey never had it (which many state).

    Posey was never in the base base line or blocking the plate. Cousins crossed over into fair territory to run over him. Exactly how far away from the Plate would Bench like him to have been?

    I personally love the critique on his “technique”, as if there is some way stand that will avoid injury when you are blindsided by a 230 LB freight train while you are in the process of trying to field a short-hopper and make a sweep tag all at once to a target you can’t look at.

    If people aren’t going to bother to watch the play enough to say something consistent with the facts, they should just refrain from saying anything….and that applies especially to people that many will look to as “experts”.

    • ncphilliesguy - Jun 4, 2011 at 4:05 PM

      Is Johnny Bench really an “expert”? I think he is THE EXPERT. Who else’s opinion would you value? Abner Doubleday?

      • jimbo1949 - Jun 4, 2011 at 4:23 PM

        Only if I wanted to know what happened at Fort Sumter 150 years ago.

      • bigdicktater - Jun 5, 2011 at 1:06 PM

        Jimbo: I don’t think the folks that gave you a thumbs down know their history as well as you do.

    • clydeserra - Jun 4, 2011 at 4:55 PM

      You realize that home plate is in fair territory, right?

    • raysfan1 - Jun 4, 2011 at 6:23 PM

      Bench assists at Reds’ spring training camps with coaching catchers, has known Posey since he was at FL State, and has more than a passing interest in catchers in general. I list all that to say I doubt he’s watched that video only once and then looked for an opportunity to speak. (In fact, the Tulsa World reporter specifically asked his opinion; he likely would not have offered it otherwise.)
      How far in away from the plate would Bench like him to have been? I think far enough that his left foot isn’t in the basepath between third base and the plate. At least to my eyes, and I’ve watched to video multiple times too, that is where it was.

    • jeffbbf - Jun 5, 2011 at 1:27 AM

      paperlions…Really, let it go. it’s obvious you never played the game past age 12- if you are blocking the baseline, you are halfway in foul territory – the baseline takes you on the outside of home plate. If a catcher stands with his left foot on the inside of the 3rd base line, he is blocknig 80% of home plate. The runner has his head down, running as fast as he can, looking for the middle of home plate. He saw 80% of Posey, 20% of open base. And yes, according to the weekend softball warrior, he should have tried to sneak in to that 20% of the base without even thinking of trying to knock the ball out of Posey’s hand. Posey thought he had the ball, which is why he swiped the tag. Why wouldn’t the runner? Your arguments are tired and worn out. Try listening to the greatest catcher of all time who contradicts everything you are saying. But know more than him.

    • cktai - Jun 5, 2011 at 5:59 AM

      [quote] Too many of these “expert” opinions read like the person watched the video once at full speed and didn’t bother to watch it again looking for details when so many things happened in quick succession.[unquote]

      Hey guess what, Scott Cousins only watched the play once at full speed, and when he watched it, he perceived that Posey was blocking the plate. Whether or not Posey was actually blocking the plate, and exactly what percentage of the plate could have been visible when looking from different angles at slow motions is all irrelevant for the decision that Cousins made. In that split-second, one chance only look he had, he thought Posey blocked the plate, so he acted accordingly.

  8. halladaysbicepts - Jun 4, 2011 at 4:08 PM

    Look, this whole Posey issue is getting ridiculous. As much as I enjoyed watching Johnny Bench play (I think he’s the greatest all around catcher who ever lived), we now don’t need his two cents. Everybody but the Pope has commented on this. What a disgrace!

    Who next to offer their opinion? Yogi Berra? Maybe we can get his comment in between his Depends diaper changes.

    • jimbo1949 - Jun 4, 2011 at 4:27 PM

      crawl back into your bottle and screw yourself into your cap.

      • halladaysbicepts - Jun 4, 2011 at 4:32 PM

        It’s a joke, jimbo. Lighten up.

    • raysfan1 - Jun 4, 2011 at 5:58 PM

      Bench is from Oklahoma & is still a pretty big deal here. When he was in Tulsa touring an orthopedics hospital, it was pretty natural for the Tulsa World to send someone out to interview him. Due to the notoriety of Posey’s injury, plus of course the fact the Bench is a HoF catcher, it was also only natural that they’d ask him his opinion of the collision that caused the injury.

    • ray14sgirl - Jun 4, 2011 at 8:09 PM

      not funny

    • swisher4mayor - Jun 6, 2011 at 2:53 PM

      someday bicepts…..someday youll experience the feeling of more than 3 thumbs up….someday

  9. skerney - Jun 4, 2011 at 4:15 PM

    Screw the guy who bothered johnny bench with this nonsense. Another day of someone elses take on this tired act. Even if it is jonny bench, i don’t care what anyone thinks about this anymore.

  10. ticketstopper - Jun 4, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    Posey’s positioning isn’t the issue.

    Cousins did not act illegally, but there is no question whatsoever that he had decided to slam into Posey no matter what.

    It is fair to say that he could not know for sure whether Posey had the ball, but then again he didn’t need to slam into Posey because the plate was open.

    Posey wasn’t blocking the plate.

    The borderline dirty part is where Cousins went out of his way to slam Posey. I am sure he didn’t intend to end Posey’s season, but the reality is that the same type of play is not permitted at any othe base.

    This is the issue.

  11. aroomadazda - Jun 4, 2011 at 4:43 PM

    paperlions has it right. I don’t know what Bench was watching, but the play I watched showed that Posey was clearly NOT blocking the plate. He was in fair territory, thought perhaps he had the ball and was turning to apply the tag. There was PLENTY of the plate for Cousins to slide into. In fact, Cousins did seem to cross over into fair territory himself to plow into Posey. Having said all that, stuff happens. It seems like it is time to move on and stop the recriminating talk. Sabean was way out of line with the comments that he made. Bench, however, needs to watch the play again. And, perhaps it is time to review the rules regarding this type of play, especially when the catcher in question was clearly not blocking the plate.

  12. thefuzziestkitty - Jun 4, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    I totally agree with the “Who bother Johnny Bench with this?” comment, but there’s something else here. Quite a few catchers have issued statements on this topic and I don’t think their opinions are worthwhile. Many with baseball experience have mentioned that they’ve been taught from a very young age to play in such ways. Coaches teach this sort of play. Players of all ages and skill levels trust their coaches to give them advice. Professional players have been drinking this Kool-aid their entire lives.

    Now, if baseball coaches as a whole have been giving the same baseball advice for 100+ years, why would anyone who makes or made a living off the game try to interfere with such an established part of game culture? In baseball, there’s a stigma that any rule change is a sign of weakness. As soon as anyone steps out of line, they aren’t tough. They lack balls or something. On a wider scale, this means that questioning the norms is a bad thing. This is the major problem.

    We cannot expect a professional baseball player, especially a catcher – the posterboy of a tough player – to speak out for new safety regulations. The decrease in physical risk just isn’t worth the ostracizing by the collective bravado of baseball history. Many catchers firmly believe they are acting in their best interest when in reality they have simply succumbed to the peer pressure that has consumed each and every one of us in Baseballworld. Change will not come from a player. I wish I knew where it would come from.

    • D.J. Short - Jun 4, 2011 at 6:07 PM

      Very interesting take.

    • thomas2727 - Jun 4, 2011 at 6:31 PM

      Exactly. This is the same type of baseball peer pressure that had a large percentage players chewing tobacco in dugouts for over 100 years

      • fquaye149 - Jun 4, 2011 at 7:46 PM

        Well…okay…except it really isn’t. Johnny Bench isn’t saying “As a catcher you’re supposed to take a beating. Posey needs to quit being a wimp and rubbing dirt on it.” The quotation above seems to say, “There’s a right and a wrong way to avoid contact on a play at the plate. There’s nothing wrong with avoiding contact but Posey didn’t do it the right way.”

        There’s no doubt there’s a “macho posturing” aspect to MLB players–particularly ex-MLB players. But I’m not sure where in Bench’s statement is there anything resembling that. If anything he’s advocating that Posey better learn to avoid contact….which seems to be about the opposite of what two of the three above commenters are reading into this.

      • fquaye149 - Jun 4, 2011 at 7:47 PM

        I mean, read this line from Bench’s statement: ” I teach my kids to stay away from the plate when you don’t have the ball so the runner actually sees home plate and his thought is, slide.”

        Does that sound at all like a macho ex-jock talking about how contact at home plate is “no big deal” and “the rules don’t need to be changed because in my day players were tough”?

  13. fquaye149 - Jun 4, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    People on this site are being so ridiculous about this play. The “Posey wasn’t in the way” contingency has got to be the most stridently self-certain group of people I’ve met this side of conspiracy theorists.

    Yes, it’s possible to argue he gave Cousins a clear path to the plate. Sure. But so many posters on this board refuse to acknowledge that it’s possible to argue that Posey was obstructing the plate. “Johnny Bench should watch the play again! After all, his opinion differs from mine!”

    Because that’s what it is: an opinion. I’ve seen the play. I think Posey was obstructing the front left corner of it. Bill James saw the play. He says the same thing. Now an actual MLB catcher–one of the best to play the game–says Posey’s positioning was wrong. And you’re telling all these people they’re being ignorant? Come off it. It’s an opinion that you have. And your opinion–while it’s something you have a right to–is certainly a bit less valid than Bench’s. So don’t play this “I don’t know what tape Bench was watching” b.s. He was watching the same tape you did, undoubtedly just as closely as you were, and he came to a different conclusion. That doesn’t mean he’s right. But the vitriol, sanctimony and self-satisfaction among “Posey did no wrong”ers on these commenting boards is mindboggling

    • micker716 - Jun 4, 2011 at 6:25 PM

      Exactly. People are watching the play, in slow motion, on their video screens having already decided “Posey wasn’t in the way”. Nothing will change that opinion. That would mean admitting they might be wrong. That other opinions are valid. That will never happen. Johnny freaking Bench needs to watch the play again? Are you serious?

  14. nps6724 - Jun 4, 2011 at 7:15 PM

    What does Johnny Bench know about catching anyway?

    • ray14sgirl - Jun 4, 2011 at 8:08 PM

      that is scarcasm, right?

      • nps6724 - Jun 4, 2011 at 8:39 PM

        What do you think?

    • PanchoHerreraFanClub - Jun 5, 2011 at 9:18 AM

      I really don’t know what to know until Tim McCarver weighs in on the subject. Wake me when he has finished.

  15. stew48 - Jun 4, 2011 at 7:30 PM

    Having watched the replay several times, I was very surprised at Bench’s comment. I just happen to be one of those who thought a clear path to the plate existed and Cousins had decided he had to run into the catcher; only, the catcher was in front of the plate, so he veered to his left and bam! Now, of course, my opinion is just that, but having it doesn’t make me anything different that before I expressed it.

    • ray14sgirl - Jun 4, 2011 at 8:16 PM

      Is it possible that Cousins was anticipating Posey making the catch and moving in front of the plate to block it, which would then mean having to make contact? This type of play happens all the time in baseball.

      • clydeserra - Jun 4, 2011 at 9:12 PM

        This is exactly what was happening.

  16. biglouie15 - Jun 4, 2011 at 9:11 PM

    Having seen the replays more than a half-dozen times, I wanted to give Cousins the benefit of the doubt but the more I saw it, the more I was convinced he lowered his head and shoulders and went right at Posey. The 3rd base side of the plate was uncovered and he had the opportunity to slide into the right hand batters box and tag the plate with his left hand.

    In my opinion, he made no motion to tag the plate, his sole intent was to spear Posey.

    • cur68 - Jun 5, 2011 at 12:30 AM

      how i saw it too.

  17. aronmantoo - Jun 4, 2011 at 9:58 PM

    Pete Rose destroyed Ray Fosse at home plate in an all star game. It didn’t get this much press. If it was a second or third string catcher it might not even gotten a patragraph

  18. dwishinsky - Jun 4, 2011 at 11:03 PM

    Part of the problem with this is everyone watching it in slow motion. The play happened at full speed. Decisions are made at full speed not super slo mo. Its very easy to determine if a ball is fair/foul in slo mo. If a pitch is a strike/ball in slow motion. Cousins isn’t a villain he saw what he saw and made his decision, so did Posey. Sucks Posey got injured. Sucks Cousins got vilified. I’m tired of hearing about all this though and people saying “watch it frame by frame”. No one drives a car “frame by frame” which is why we have car accidents. No one plays baseball “frame by frame” which is why this happened.

  19. haligert - Jun 5, 2011 at 8:51 AM

    I’ve watched this video re-play several times and from the different angles. Clearly Cousins leaves the foul ground base path area and heads into the fair territory part of the base path at about 10 + feet from the plate. I will not say that it was Cousins intent to hurt Posey but “it appears to me” (in other words just my perception) his intent was more about taking out Posey then sliding safely into home. Like many other sports “stuff often happens in the moment”. It is unfortunate for Posey to be sidelined for the rest of the season, and wrong for Cousins (and family) to be getting “death threats”. Everyone is entitled to their own “perception/opinion” as is Mr. Bench (we live in a country that thanks to the committment of our soldiers is one with free thought and speech).

  20. doslea33 - Jun 5, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    I’ve never played major league baseball so I don’t know what I am talking about.

    If Johnny Bench said it was Buster Posey’s fault, it was Buster Posey’s fault.

  21. paperlions - Jun 5, 2011 at 10:28 AM

    The reason people are certain Posey gave Cousins a path to the plate is because the fact is so clear on the video. In fact, if you pause it at the point of impact, you can see the ball on the ground between Posey and the plate. In other words, not only did Posey give him the plate, but there was clearly space between Posey and the plate.

    It is hard not to feel certain of something when there is clear video evidence of it. You won’t find any comment I’ve made that says the Cousins play was dirty, but it clearly was not necessary. I have no horse in this race not caring about the Marlins, Giants, NL East, or NL West. I’m just annoyed by so many people showing their bias by ignoring strong video evidence….like Bench deciding that Posey must have done something wrong, when in reality, it was just an unlucky event.

    If you read Bench’s comments and then watch the video, Posey appears to be doing EXACTLY what Bench says he teaches kids to do. He did give Cousins a clear lane, but Cousins didn’t think “slide”. Rather, he chose to ignore the plate and run over the catcher.

    • doslea33 - Jun 5, 2011 at 10:44 AM

      And of course being a MLB hall of fame catcher, you would know.

      Pardon me if trust Johnny Bench’s eyes more than yours.

      • paperlions - Jun 5, 2011 at 10:59 AM

        Instead, why don’t you trust your own eyes and form your own opinion?

        If you pause it at the point of collision (the 15 sec mark), you can see that both of Posey’s knees are on the ground in FRONT of the batters box. He is at least 2 feet from the front edge of the plate.

      • raysfan1 - Jun 5, 2011 at 12:39 PM

        …yep, Posey’s body is in front of the plate, but at that same point in the clip please notice that the left foot and ankle are between the runner and the plate–which is what I said above in my earlier posting.

      • ditto65 - Jun 5, 2011 at 2:44 PM

        And Posey is turning to apply the tag.

        As if he has the ball.

        The baserunner’s job now is to knock that ball loose, not concede defeat and slide.

    • haligert - Jun 5, 2011 at 6:45 PM

      I concur with your observations. It’s about the the conclusiveness of the video. There will always be others who just feel the need to comment in a negative manner and “stir the pot”.

  22. JB (the original) - Jun 5, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    You know, if Buster Posey wasn’t pinned a “star of the future”/savior player this controversy wouldn’t even exist. It was a clean hard play, where both players could have done things (positioning/sliding) differently, but it played out as it did, and he got hurt. Now tell, me, how is this any different than Nick Swisher’s take-out slide of Nishioka which broke his leg? Nishi’s positioning, Swisher’s “slide”, again, things could been differently, but the fact is, clean hard play and someone got hurt. So where’s all the screaming and yelling to change the rules to eliminate take out slides? Where’s all the death threats to Nick Swisher? (not that he should be getting any, but just making the comparison). Sh*t happens, sometimes to superstars, sometimes not. Let it go and move on to tomorrow…..

    • raysfan1 - Jun 5, 2011 at 1:45 PM

      “…both players could have done things (positioning/sliding) differently, but it played out as it did, and he got hurt…”
      Yes, exactly, JB. Thank you.
      I’d like to think though that all MLB teams use tapes like this to teach situational awareness to the players in order to try to minimize the frequency of these injuries though, because they are preventable. Without rules changes.

  23. metalhead65 - Jun 5, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    when the best catcher to ever play the game speaks then you listen and learn and that is the end of the discussion. I do not care what other so called experts have to say, his opinion is the only one that should matter.

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