On "The Dan Patrick Show" Thursday, A.J. Pierzynski auditioned for an analyst job somewhere down the line with 10 entertaining minutes of radio banter. They cover a lot of topics, such as Jon Lester's goo glove and Dana Demuth's reversed call from Game 1 of the World Series, and Pierzynski is up for offering his perspective in detail.
But the exchange most worth noting comes in the second half, because I've heard Pierzynski talk about the topic before, and it's enlightening when he does (jump to the 6:50 mark). Patrick asked him whether collisions at the plate should be banned, given that they're an unfortunate minor storyline throughout the playoffs.
The answer surprised Patrick, but it shouldn't surprise you if you've paid close enough attention over the years.
I'm all against it. I'm 100 percent against it. I've been run over a million times. As you know, guys come and get me all the time. We went through this when [Buster] Posey got hurt, and we went through this the last couple years, and I think if you do it right, I think you're OK.
At some point, you can't be a tough guy and try to stand there. You have to kinda almost ... not 'olé' guys, but almost take it away from them. Give them your body, and then take it away from them. And also, if you're gonna get hit, you just gotta go with it. You can't try and be the middle linebacker trying to plug a hole. You just gotta fall and let them hit you, and let their momentum take you over.
Two years ago, we had a great shot of Mike Napoli in the ALCS where he got run over by [Miguel] Cabrera. And what did he do? He got his feet out of the ground.
That's when you see most catchers' injuries, when their feet are stuck in the ground or they have a knee in the ground and in a bad position.
Indeed, he has said it before. Back in 2011, after Posey suffered his awful leg injury, Pierzynski offered sympathy without a call to action.
"It's unfortunate Buster got hurt," Pierzynski said Thursday in a deliberate tone. "He's a good young player. You never want to see a good young player get hurt on a freak accident like that.
"(But) It's part of the game and every catcher has been through nasty collisions."
Pierzynski has taken his share of shots over his 12 consecutive 1,000-inning seasons, but I imagine the wrestling enthusiast in him enjoys the moment. I think his training in that field also probably plays a part in how well he handles contact, because both ... activities ... require the guy taking the brunt of the impact to work with the guy dealing it out. I can't recall him ever getting t-boned during his Sox career, and sure enough, the two most memorable hits he names to Patrick happened in 2000 and 2001.
We can't see those, but thanks to the magic of video, we can get a look the kinds of other plays Pierzynski references.
"You have to kinda almost ... not 'olé' guys, but almost take it away from them. Give them your body, and then take it away from them."
"If you're gonna get hit, you just gotta go with it."
Earlier in the month, Pierzynski tried replacing his body with his mitt to Josh Donaldson. Donaldson follows the body instead of the ball:
When Donaldson hits him, he's got the tag in front of the plate, but his body is already moving back, which means Donaldson pushes him more than he crashes into him. That's one of the harder shots he's taken, but it didn't bother him too much:
"It was OK," Pierzynski said. "I wish I had a little more time to get the ball and get ready. It was OK. I've been hit harder and I've been hit softer. It was clean and his only option at that point. It's part of the game. It's what I signed up for. I'm glad they haven't outlawed it. It's still an exciting play."
"You just gotta fall and let them hit you, and let their momentum take you over."
Here's Pierzynski from June 12, taking a throw from David Murphy and tagging out Michael Bourn.
Bourn tried to level Pierzynski, but he got the the worst of it by mostly missing. Pierzynski fell back, Bourn tumbled past him, and Pierzynski relished letting him know with a pat on the stomach.
And we White Sox fans remember the best example of this method -- Game 163 back in 2008, when Ken Griffey Jr.'s throw beat Michael Cuddyer to the plate easily on a sac fly attempt, leaving Cuddyer only a desperation move.
Pierzynski got the tag in front of his body, and let Cuddyer barrel over him afterwards. He might've absorbed the worst of it, but he got the last laugh by showing Cuddyer the ball afterward.
"We had a great shot of Mike Napoli in the ALCS where he got run over by Cabrera. And what did he do? He got his feet out of the ground."
Here's the play he's talking about from 2011, with Napoli catching a throw from Nelson Cruz in right as Cabrera lumbered home.
Pierzynski wouldn't catch it like Napoli did, because Napoli ended up crouching in the middle of the baseline. Yet Napoli didn't pretend he was a wall, either. He started rolling backwards as Cabrera leaned in, and Napoli merely rolled with him while holding onto the ball for the out.
"That's when you see most catchers' injuries -- when their feet are stuck in the ground or they have a knee in the ground and in a bad position."
When you see the bad collisions of note the last couple years -- like Posey (video), Yadier Molina (video) or Alex Avila (video), they all have nowhere to go at the time they catch it, because they have one knee down. Carlos Santana (video) was on his feet during his leg injury, but flat-footed and straddling the baseline.
Pierzynski's method isn't perfect, at least when it comes to recording outs. He sometimes comes a little too far in front of the plate and can't get back for the tag, or he fails to field a hop cleanly while swiveling/swiping back. But he does have a point when he says that collision injuries are more preventable if the catcher is mindful of the technique and gives the baserunner an angle to the plate.
That would still seem to leave room for legislation on the extremes of the play -- a catcher camping out on the baseline without the ball, a runner pulling a Torii Hunter and squaring up a catcher off the plate -- without taking away all the contact Pierzynski signed up for. If the action naturally takes both players to the same point of the plate, that's where it gets hairier. Pierzynski's a huge college football fan, he might see what's happening with the targeting penalty and fear putting too much discretion in the hands of the umpires, even if their intentions are honorable.
But maybe that's overthinking it or giving Pierzynski too much credit, because look at those plays again. Attempting to help Donaldson up? Patting Bourn's belly? Showing Cuddyer the ball? Those are the moments that make the contact worth it for him. Once a heel...