It’s time to consider ‘McCarver Rule’

In April 2010, MLB on FOX’s Tim McCarver proposed an idea to Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, a rule change to better protect major-league catchers.

McCarver’s suggestion: Any baserunner who goes after a catcher’s head at home plate should be automatically ejected and fined, his run taken off the board.

"I’m all for it," La Russa, a member of baseball’s special committee for on-field matters, told McCarver before an MLB on FOX broadcast.

Alas, for Giants catcher Buster Posey, it’s too late.

If the McCarver Rule had been in place, the Marlins’ Scott Cousins would have risked ejection for barreling into Posey the way he did on Wednesday night.

Cousins struck Posey between the catcher’s right shoulder and his head. The force of the collision knocked off Posey’s helmet — and fractured Posey’s left leg.

Posey, one of the game’s bright young stars, suffered a broken fibula and severely strained ligaments. He will require surgery on his ankle and miss at least six to eight weeks.

Cousins didn’t go directly for Posey’s head. But McCarver said Thursday that the rule could be for hits above the shoulder or even above the shinguard, considering that catchers usually are in a crouch when they are hit.

McCarver, a major-league catcher for 21 seasons, said the idea occurred to him after he spoke last year with former Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny, who was forced to retire due to concussion symptoms.

"Baseball should be protecting the catcher like football protects the quarterback," McCarver said.

"Obviously, you can make a case that a catcher in baseball is not as important as quarterback in football. But I’m not sure about that. There is a dearth of good catching coming into the game."

McCarver, after receiving positive feedback from La Russa when he initially broached the idea, said he proposed it to Angels manager Mike Scioscia at last year’s All-Star Game.

Sciosia, a former major-league catcher who was renowned for his skill at blocking the plate, also is a member of the special committee for on-field matters.

He didn’t care for McCarver’s proposed rule change.

"Scioscia told me he didn’t like it," McCarver said. "He said the reason he didn’t like it was that (blocking the plate) was the last vestige of courage the game has.

"I thought it was well-put. I didn’t agree with it. I still think something should be done."

The play on which Posey suffered his injuries began when the Marlins’ Emilio Bonifacio hit a flyball to shallow right field.

McCarver said that on a ball hit to right, the proper play for a catcher is to initially yield part of the plate for a runner to slide into, then "close down" after catching the ball.

Posey set up in front of the plate, giving Cousins plenty of room to slide. But Cousins went right for Posey, who failed to control right fielder Nate Schierholz’s throw on the short hop even before getting hit.

"If you eliminate any shots, you eliminate cheap shots," McCarver said. "You force the runner to slide straight in or go to the lower part of the body.

"What (Cousins) did, he replaced home plate with the catcher. He had no intent of going into home plate. And the rule says you can do that.

"People can have their own views of whether it was a cheap shot. But those are the rules. Unless you change the rule, you’re not going to change guys from taking shots at catchers."

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