Takeout Order: One Knee, to Go

Baseball’s Code can be a tricky beast. Certain plays appear to be clear-cut violations . . . until they’re proven to be otherwise.

Let a play that happened Monday at Angel Stadium serve as an example.

With Milwaukee’s Casey McGehee on first, Carlos Gomez hit a grounder to first baseman Kevin Frandsen, who threw to shortstop Erick Aybar for the force at second. The throw, however, was well to the third-base side of the bag, forcing Aybar to stretch wide to field it, leaving him vulnerable to a takeout slide from McGehee. (Watch it here.)

In most situations, McGehee’s play would be entirely appropriate. It’s the job of the runner at first to prevent a double play, usually by taking out the covering infielder with a slide.

(Slide type is also governed by the unwritten rules. Barrel rolls and high spikes are not tolerated; flying through both base and fielder feet first and spikes down is expected.)

There were, however, other factors to consider. First, McGehee could well have been letting out some frustration; that he was at first base to begin with was because Angels reliever Trevor Bell had just drilled him in the ribs.

Moreover, Aybar was in no position to complete the play, even without interference. It was all he could do to merely record the out at second, and Gomez, was far too fast to be doubled up. Aybar was exposed—a fact that McGehee exploited to relatively disastrous results, hyperextending the shortstop’s left knee when he took him out with a slide slightly to the inside part of the bag, aimed directly at Aybar’s leg.

Aybar was removed from the game and hasn’t played since.

All of this when Milwaukee held a 9-2 lead.

It all goes to show, however, that even a seemingly clear-cut case of a Code violation might not be so. Two guys with a firm understanding of the unwritten rules dismissed any notion of impropriety—and they were in Aybar’s dugout.

“I thought it was a clean slide . . .” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia in the Los Angeles Times. “The slide was right over the bag, so I can’t find much fault with it.”

Angels center fielder Torii Hunter shared his manager’s sentiment in an ESPN Los Angeles report, calling that type of slide a “lost art,” and saying, “I like the way (McGehee) is playing the game.”

“Was I going in extra hard because I got hit?” asked McGehee. “No. Unfortunately, the guy was in an awkward position. Look at the video. I didn’t try to pop up on him or roll him. Unfortunately, he got hurt. . . . They’re known for playing hard-nosed, aggressive baseball, so hopefully they understand where I’m coming from. I play the game right.”

A compelling argument can be made that McGehee was in the wrong. Scioscia and Hunter, however, backed up their words with actions: McGehee came to bat 10 more times in the series, and was not drilled once.

When in doubt, defer to the experts.

- Jason

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4 Comments

Filed under Casey McGehee, Erick Aybar, Slide properly

4 responses to “Takeout Order: One Knee, to Go

  1. Ethan

    Very interesting. So glad you got to this one. Since I saw the highlights from this game at the beginning of the week, I’ve been checking the site every day; hoping that you’d pick this one up and weigh in. What I was curious about is whether a play like this, as seen in the eyes of other players and managers, might be judged on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration a player’s track record. That is to say, if McGehee was thought of as either a dirty player or someone who plays the game the right way, based on their past and prior incidents that may have also invoked any unwritten code. And if so, then perhaps that judgment could influence what players or managers permit their opinion (on the record) to be on the matter, when questioned by the press?

    • jturbow

      That what players and managers say on the record is not necessarily so definitely crossed my mind; it’s why Anaheim’s failure to drill McGehee in subsequent at-bats is so important. Scioscia is practicing what he preaches in this regard.

      And yes, players’ reputations go a long way toward opponents’ reactions to them–especially when it comes to takeout slides. A guy who peels off on most plays will be given far less leeway should he suddenly decide to take out a middle infielder (even if it’s clean) than a runner who goes in hard every time.

      -jt-

  2. 5TOOLPLAYER

    Sadly ,the Halos now have to hope Brandon Wood will finally get his bats delivered…after 3 years.

  3. Pingback: This Week in the Unwritten Rules « The Baseball Codes

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