If you’re a Royals fan you probably already know Royals catcher Drew Butera ran into Royals catcher Salvador Perez, which would be a highly unlikely combination except Drew was playing for Italy and Salvy was playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.
Drew rolled into one of Salvy’s knees on a play at the plate, and since then there have been a lot of jokes about Drew’s unorthodox bid for more playing time.
But Drew didn’t cause the collision; that responsibility falls on Salvy’s teammates.
What’s supposed to happen on a play at the plate
When there’s a play at the plate the catcher is supposed to put his left foot on the left-field foul line with his toes pointed at third base. That positioning means the catcher is not totally blocking the plate; with the catcher’s left foot on the line, the back half of the plate is open and that gives the runner somewhere to go.
If everything goes right the catcher receives the ball and then turns to his left to make the tag. There might be a collision, but it won’t be a head-on collision.
What happened on the Butera-Perez play at the plate
The Venezuela defense messed up in a variety of ways and those mistakes put Salvy in harm’s way.
1. For starters, the pitcher was in the wrong spot; instead of backing up home plate he stayed on the mound watching the play and that was step one in screwing up the play.
2. The first baseman was also in the wrong spot; he should have been headed to the mound area to act as the cutoff man, but instead he was loitering at first base. Position players often refer to pitchers as “non-athletes” and run them off every play they can, but because the pitcher didn’t back up home plate and the first baseman didn’t cover the mound and run the pitcher off the play, the pitcher was available to mess things up.
3. The center fielder overthrew the shortstop, who was the relay man. Drew was just rounding third when the ball came into the infield and if the center fielder had hit the cutoff man and the cutoff man had made an accurate throw home Drew would have been out easily with no collision.
4. The overthrow meant the ball was bouncing across the infield and the out-of-position pitcher decided to make a play. If the pitcher caught the ball cleanly and made an accurate throw, Drew would have once again been out easily. But the pitcher dropped the ball (which is why you run him off the play) and that meant the pitcher had to pick it up and rush his throw.
5. The pitcher then made a panicked, falling-down, off-target throw and the throw pulled Salvy up the base line and into the base path. Instead of having his left foot on the third-base line Salvy had his right foot on the third-base line, and that blocked Drew’s path to the plate.
Because the ball was mishandled the play became a close one, and when Drew started what looked like a clumsy attempt at a head-first slide, he rolled into Salvy’s knee.
Three guys caused one collision
So if the center fielder had hit the relay man and the relay man had made an accurate throw, Drew would have been out easily — no collision.
If the pitcher hadn’t dropped the ball or made an accurate throw Drew would have been out easily — no collision.
If the first baseman had done his job, covered the mound area and run the pitcher off the play he had a better chance of catching the ball cleanly and making an accurate throw; once again, Drew would have been out easily — no collision.
So if you’re going to blame someone for that play at the plate don’t blame Drew, blame Salvy’s teammates.