The conventional wisdom is hardening fast: the brutal shoulder-first slide by Scott Cousins into Buster Posey that shook the foundation of Giants baseball may have been old-school hardball, but it was a clean, legitimate hit.
Everyone anguishing over Cousins' crushing blow is just being whimpery over the demise of their chosen Golden Boy, critics say. If he'd gone around the plate and been tagged out, Cousins would have been lambasted for failing to do everything he could to score. Even Cousins himself has said there was nothing wrong with his slide, saying "It is part of the game, but it’s a hard-nosed part of the game."
I've watched the replay of that collision a dozen times, and am convinced it was one of the dirtiest slides I've seen in my 40-plus years of watching baseball. Worse than Pete Rose on Ray Fosse, by far.
Posey stood a good four feet in front of the plate, nearer to the first base line than the third base line. He was not blocking the plate but rather going out for Nate Schierholz' one-hop throw from shallow right field.
Old pros have whispered quietly and without attribution that Posey could have avoided the injury if he'd positioned himself better: he should have put his body right over the left front corner of the plate, with his legs planted firmly, in a crouch. If he'd done that, Cousins may have thought twice about sliding shoulder first because a catcher positioned solidly is like a brick wall.
But he wasn't, which made the Cousins slide all that much more a cheap shot. He knew Posey was in a bad position, and he took the opening to exploit it. Of course I believe him when he says he wasn't trying to injure Posey; that he was only trying to do what he could to score.
But, if you look at his route, and what he had to do to get there, there can be only one unassailable conclusion: he went out of his way to do his damage. Cousins had to redirect his path so that he cut out of the baseline in front of the plate to get to Posey. A straight path from third base on a sacrifice fly would have been a slide right into home plate; a hook slide around the back of the plate would have been a good eight feet from where Posey was when he caught the ball.
Rose's collision with Fosse was much more legitimate: Fosse was three feet up the third base line, squared up against the onrushing Rose. Rose had no other path to the plate but to barrel through the catcher.
The Cousins slide was all about a .158-hitting 26-year old journeyman trying to contribute to his team, looking for some glory where there hasn't been much and throwing a little bit of muscle and bravado out there for his compadres' approval.
Whether baseball should adopt new rules on home plate collisions is irrelevant. Keep the rules the same, allow the base runner license to maim, so that baseball can hold onto at least a semblance of the game's tradition of danger and contact. That's fine. But Scott Cousins' slide does not have to be accepted as legitimate.
It was a cheap shot, a Jack Tatum blow that should be scorned and derided. It should not be categorized as "hard-nosed" or "old school" but callous, violent and outrageous. Calling the slide legitimate gives it too much credit and provides Cousins with cover he doesn't deserve.
Posey himself called Cousins' shoulder-first slide "unnecessary" and that he'd consciously left him a lane to slide into.
That's putting it mildly, and Posey is being a gentleman in his phrasing. I notice that Cousins has left two messages to Posey, both of which went unreturned. I hope Posey ignores him for good.