In case you missed the St. Louis Cardinals game Saturday afternoon, let’s set the scene…
Top of the 5th inning, one out and runners at first and third for the Chicago Cubs. Anthony Rizzo hits the ball back to Carlos Martinez, who turns and throws to Aledmys Diaz covering second. Ian Happ slides straight into the bag and breaks up the play. Both Happ and Rizzo are then ruled out because of the Slide Interference Rule. As a side result, the run by Kyle Schwarber, who scored from third, did not count. The Cardinals maintained their 3-1 lead and the game moves to the bottom of the 5th.
The Cubs challenged the play, but the decision on the field was upheld.
I tweeted at the time that regardless of the team’s involved, I hate this rule. Hate is not a word I use very often, but it really describes my feelings on this rule. Don’t get me wrong, as I explained to some earlier today, the idea of cheap shots and tackles at the base to break up a double play have no place in the game. But a good, clean slide that is straight over the bag–that has been taught as proper technique for decades and decades, should not be penalized.
I’ve spoken with various Cardinals players–and others in the past who aren’t fans of the rule, but obviously with the rule in place they’ve had to accept it and today it provided the benefit of saving St. Louis a run.
But that doesn’t make it right. Major League Baseball got this rule revision wrong. And after Saturday's game both Joe Maddon and Jon Lester very passionately and articulately outlined many of the arguments against this rule.
“That had a tremendous impact on today’s game where outs were rewarded based on a fabricated rule,” began Maddon. “It was created under the umbrella, which I totally disagree that that was a non-safe play.”
“There was nothing egregiously dangerous on the part of our runner, none. And don’t give my hyperbole and office created rules cause I’m not into those things, as you guys well know. About reaching the bag. When you’re sliding on dirt and you have momentum, you just keep going. I’m sorry, you just keep going. There was no malicious intent there whatsoever, so I don’t think it breaks the intent of injury. It has nothing to do with injury. The rule does not belong in the game.”
Maddon emphasized that he did not blame the umpires, that they were only enforcing the rules in play. He also brought back the play at home from the opening series of the season in which Chris Coghlan dove over Yadier Molina to score a run.
“Jumped over the catcher’s head in an attempt to avoid a collision and almost broke his neck, so don’t give me all this protectionism-injury stuff because I’m not buying into it. I think it’s wrong. I think it’s tough for the umpires to have them enforce rules–they know it’s not part of the game. They know that the game was not intended to be manipulated in a sense where you lose based on a fabrication where we could’ve scored a run there and made the game entirely different but we’re out where there’s no play at first base whatsoever. None.
“Don’t tell me that’s protectionism. Don’t tell me the middle infielder was protected and don’t tell me a middle infielder was in danger right there. None of that holds up. So I’d like to see that rule ejected. I’d like to see the rule at the plate ejected. They have no place in our game because it’s under false pretenses.”
“There was nothing malicious about that slide,” echoed Lester. “He slid three inches past the bag. We got a double play. I’m over the rule. The rule was meant to be for guys doing dirty slides. Sliding late, taking guys out. There was nothing wrong with that slide whatsoever. We got a double play for it, cost us a run. I mean it’s…I’m over it. This game was meant to be played a certain way.
“There was nothing wrong with that slide that Happ did. I told him in the dugout, I said ‘next time, you do the exact same thing’. That’s baseball, man. We’re out there playing with a bunch of pansies right now. I’m over this damn slide rule and we’re replaying if it was too far and all this other BS.
“We’re all men out there. We’re grown men. These guys have turned double plays their entire lives, they know how to get the hell out of the way. There was nothing malicious about it and we got two outs for some reason.”
Whether or not this play would’ve changed who won today’s game, we’ll never know and is irrelevant in the bigger case of the rule. Cheap plays should not be allowed. But straight-forward sliding into a base should again be allowed as an accepted method to break up a double play.