Giants manager Bruce Bochy called it an illegal play.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny called the play “hard, but within the rules.”
So who’s right? Well, opinions varied Tuesday, a day after the Cardinals’ Matt Holliday injured Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro in an effort to break up a double play in Monday’s Game 2 of the National League championship series.
Scutaro was diagnosed with a strained hip, but expects to play Wednesday in Game 3. So that’s the good news.
Wording of some MLB rules are often vague and open to interpretation. And that’s why opinions on plays like the one Monday are so varied.
In Rule 6.05 (m), pertaining to a batter is out when …
“A preceding runner shall, in the umpire’s judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play.”
Seems pretty clear there. And applied to this play, Holliday and batter Allen Craig should have been ruled out, which would have been little consolation for an injured Scutaro. However, if this rule had been enforced in the past, and fines and suspensions were attached to blatant violators, then that would deter runners from doing what Holliday did.
However, it’s the comment on this rule that opens it up to interpretation.
“The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Obviously this is an umpire’s judgment play.”
Some interpret “by .. leaving the baseline” to mean that as long as the runner is in the baseline that anything he does there is fair game.
But others would look at “obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man … rather than trying to reach the base” and see that clearly Holliday’s intent was to contact Scutaro and not the base, as he didn’t contact Scutaro until after he passed the base.
This is the issue Billy Ripken took with the play on MLB Network. Ripken said he had no problems with contact on plays that occur in the baseline between first and second base. But Ripken pointed out that Scutaro positioned himself on the far end of the bag for protection, knowing that Holliday would have to slide over the bag to get to him. Holliday solved this problem by not starting his slide (i.e. hitting the ground) until after he passed the bag, and Scutaro got no relief from the umpires.
But another veteran infielder on MLB Network, Larry Bowa, didn’t understand the hub-bub over the play, saying it was just a baseball play. He added that’s the way the game has been played for years. Bowa said “we could put skirts on these guys” showing how old he is and how out-of-date his thinking is.
Baseball is by nature a non-contact sport, and it should be played that way. Any contact should be incidental.
Fans don’t go to the game to see players crash into each other. They go to football games for that.
They go to see players play, and MLB needs to make sure it can do all it can to make sure that happens.
The simple solution is to follow high school rules on sliding into a bag.
High school rules defines that a legal slide “can be either feet first or head first. If a runner slides feet first, at least one leg and buttock shall be on the ground. If a runner slides, he must slide within reach of the base with either a hand or a foot.”
And an illegal slide occurs “when a runner uses a rolling, cross-body or pop-up slide into the fielder; the runner’s raised leg is higher than the fielder’s knee when the fielder is in a standing position; the runner goes beyond the base and makes contact with or alters the play of the fielder; the runner slashes or kicks the fielder with either leg; or the runner tries to injure the infielder.”
Now that’s clear and not open to discussion. An illegal slide equals interference. If the rule is blatantly broken, ejections, fines and suspensions will ensue.
Problem solved, and it allows the best players decide which teams should advance in the postseason.