In the game of baseball it is common place to hear somebody talking about “playing the game the right way.” The right way means a few things. It means not taking a single pitch off. It means conducting yourself like a professional. It means that as a player, you are willing to sacrifice your body for the team’s success. Today, on ESPN.com, I watched Buster Olney’s video blog and could not believe what I was hearing come from his mouth.
In talking about the Indians rookie phenom catcher, Carlos Santana, Olney began to question the value of catchers blocking home plate. I get that he is talking about managing investments. From a business stand point, it makes logical sense. If this is the most important part of my organization, I need to protect my asset. In a day and age where first year professionals are touted as the greatest thing since sliced bread, owners have become much more conservative in their approach to player development. Just look at Stephen Strasburg. Shoulder stiffness, straight to the 15 day DL for you. Or look at the debate surrounding pitch counts. Are they throwing too much? Are they not throwing enough?
What Olney is suggesting is entirely different. He is talking about changing the way that the game is played. Buster asks if a chance at injury is worth it “for one run, on one play, in one game.” Is this to say that in a close game with your team fighting to hold a lead in the late innings, with a guy headed towards home, you want the catcher to get out of the way, in order to preserve the future? Ludicrous. I refuse to believe that any coach in MLB would be willing to accept this mentality. As a coach myself, I want guys to go hard for 27 outs. I want a guy who refuses to take even one pitch off. If the team has a chance to prevent a run from scoring, then by all means, the team needs to prevent that run. How in the hell could any player in their right mind actually make sure that they don’t prevent that run? It’s just not the right way to play the game.
Sure, rookie phenoms are important to an organization and its success. There is a lot of money invested in these guys and they do need some protecting. But to even throw out the idea that players should change the way they approach and play the game…to question whether or not a catcher should even block the plate? C’mon Buster. You must be out your mind. It is one thing to analyze how to practice and regulate player development. It is a completely different beast to try and change the way a professional baseball player approaches the game. My best wishes go out to the young Santana. And I hope all you younger guys out there see how he played the game. I also hope that you see the utter stupidity in Buster Olney’s words. Play the game hard for 27 outs. Never take a pitch off.