Category Archives: Slide properly

Holliday’s Had It: Calls out Cain for ‘Less Than Tough’ Retaliation

For those who think that Matt Cain waited to long to retaliate against Matt Holliday—the outfielder’s questionable slide into Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro occurred in Game 2 of the NLCS, and he was drilled a week later, in Game 7, once the series was salted away—Holliday put that timetable to shame.

Precisely one month after his slide, and three weeks after Cain drilled him, Holliday addressed the topic in an Insidestl.com report, calling it, among other things, “less than tough”:

[The pitch] seems on purpose. I wish that if he wanted to hit me, he would’ve just done it on the first pitch in the next game he had pitched. You know, if you’re going to do it, do it, get it out of the way. But to do it, I don’t remember what the score was but it was out of hand, that’s about it. I thought the timing of it was….I don’t want to get into it. I wasn’t thrilled about it. . . .

If you’re going to do it, I think that is when you do it. I wouldn’t be happy about it anytime. I just thought that in the situation that it actually did happen it was less than tough.

It might seem odd for Holliday to express displeasure with Cain’s delay weeks after the fact, when he could have done it immediately following the game in which it happened. To be fair, he was answering a question, not promoting an agenda, and it’s not like Cardinals players had much media time once they’d packed their bags for the winter upon returning to St. Louis.

It’s unlikely that this will further ill feelings come 2013, but also serves to remind us that another incident—one of Cain’s pitches slips, perhaps, or Holliday again takes out a middle infielder—will not be easily digested by the other side.

(Via HardballTalk.)

 

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Slide, Baby, Slide: Holliday Hammers Home Controversy in Game 2

The Giants said all the right things Monday about Matt Holliday’s slide. Although they universally questioned its timing, placement and function, to a man they denied feeling like Holliday intended to injure Marco Scutaro.

Unfortunately, he did injure Scutaro. After Holliday took San Francisco’s second baseman out, breaking up a double-play with a chop block to the knees, Scutaro responded with two hits in three at-bats before being removed from the game and taken to the hospital for tests. (Watch it here, or a gif of the play here.)

The Giants, hewing to propriety, said all the right things. Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, however, summed up the parameters fairly neatly in an interview for The Baseball Codes.

“The only time I have a problem with any opponent is if you slide on the back side of the base—if you jump over the base and then slide,” he said. “If you slide in front of the base, even you end up against the wall in left field, I could care less—as long as you start in front of that base. But if you jump slide on the back side of that base, that shows intent to separate somebody’s knees or legs, and that’s dirty play.”

Holliday’s slide met that description perfectly: He left the ground in front of the base and landed on the back side of the bag—directly into Scutaro’s legs. Bruce Bochy called the slide “illegal.”

A counter opinion comes from Mike Krukow, the ex-Giants pitcher who called Holliday’s slide as a member of the team’s broadcast crew. From The Baseball Codes:

Low barrel rolls [are] acceptable. When A-Rod took out Jeff Kent and sprained Kent’s right knee in 1998, he [low] barrel-rolled him. On TV that night, Kuip [Krukow’s broadcast partner, Duane Kuiper, a twelve-year major-league second baseman] and I said, That’s a legit play. After the game, Kent was pissed about it. He said that was a horseshit slide. No, it’s not. Basically, a low barrel roll— anything within arm’s distance of the bag—is acceptable. (Acceptable or not, the following night, Giants pitcher Orel Hershiser drilled Rodriguez in the shoulder.)

The Giants did not respond on Monday—Holliday went 0-for-3 against Ryan Vogelsong and Jeremy Affeldt the rest of the way—even with first base open in the third, and a four-run lead in the fifth and eighth. Bochy said that Scutaro is probable for tonight’s Game 3, and downplayed any talk of retaliation, but if it’s determined that Scutaro will miss time, it wouldn’t be shocking to see some fireworks. (“If one gets away,” Matt Cain told Andrew Baggarly, “one gets away.”)

Even Cardinals manager Mike Matheny seems to understand this. “We do play hard and we understand that they play hard,” he said in a San Jose Mercury News report. “That’s the way the game goes.”

For his part, Holliday responded appropriately after the fact, checking with catcher Buster Posey about Scutaro’s well being prior to his next at-bat (asked if he scolded Holliday during the exchange, Posey laughed and said no), and calling the clubhouse after the game. (Scutaro had already left to have tests done.)

Holliday has a reputation for going in hard to bases, so Monday’s slide was not out of character in that regard. Hal McRae had a similar reputation, but he took things to such an extent that legislation was enacted to counter his tactics. McRae’s takeout slide of New York’s Willie Randolph in the 1978 playoffs helped lead to the “Hal McRae rule,” stipulating that a runner must have at least a pretense of reaching the base while taking out an opposing fielder.

At least Holliday touched the bag.

Until Game 3 tonight, settle for the below clip of Joe Morgan taking out Dick Green in the 1972 World Series (It’s the second play in the clip.), which has been making the rounds. It’s primarily valuable to help illustrate the fact that baseball has toned down its act, and that—partly thanks to things like the Hal McRae rule—significant amounts of basepath violence have been removed from the action.

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It’s Been a Bad Week for Takeout Slides, at Least as far as Middle Infielders are Concerned

How much is too much, and when is enough when it comes to takeout slides? These questions were asked multiple times and with no firm answer in Houston and New York last week.

Start with Bill Hall. Was flying into Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez on a play at second base, as the Astros second baeman did Friday, too much? It was certainly aggressive. Ramirez, firmly planted behind and to the left of second base as he attempted to turn a double-play, provided a stationary target as Hall went out of his way to take him out. (Watch it here.)

That, however, is what players are taught to do—interrupt the fielder at any cost, so long as it’s clean. And Hall’s slide was clean, if a touch late. He went in feet first and spikes down, with one clear purpose: prevent the double-play. That he went out of his way—but not too far out of his way—to do it falls well within the definition of getting the job done.

“Clean play? Dirty play? That’s hard to tell unless it’s very obvious,” said Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez in the Palm Beach Post. “He came hard but he was in range. He was touching the base. That’s the way he plays and that’s the way it should be—play hard.”

Hall ended up going shin-to-shin with Ramirez, knocking them both down for several minutes. Hall returned to the game; Ramirez sat out until Tuesday.

A day prior, Nick Swisher of the New York Yankees took out Twins second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka in a similar play, with far graver consequences. Swisher’s slide—like Hall’s, off the base and intended to break up the double-play—broke the second baseman’s fibula, just six games into his big league career. (Watch it here.)

The reason both infielders were hurt is that neither of them jumped. Ramirez fielded the throw in an awkward place coming from the shortstop position and had to adjust; Nishioka might simply never have learned any difference.

Twins broadcaster Dan Gladden, who spent a year playing in Japan (winning the Japan Series with the Yomiuri Giants in 1994), was quoted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune talking about the dearth of such tactics in that country.

“When I got over there I told them, ‘I don’t slide to the bag. We are taught to break up double plays,’ ” he said. “The coach told me, ‘We expect the Americans to play that way.’ “

Swisher went so far as to visit Nishioka in the X-ray room at Yankee Stadium to offer a personal apology for the inadvertent injury. Nishioka told him there was no apology necessary. And that was it. No retaliatory strikes the following day. No bad blood resulting from a hard, clean play.

The same can not be said for the Marlins. Ramirez was injured far less severely than Nishioka, but despite the fact that he publicly exonerated Hall—“My opinion is he was trying to break up a double play,” he said in the Post. “He told [Marlins infielder Greg] Dobbs that he was sorry but … he was trying to do his job.”—his teammates clearly had a score to settle.

Saturday’s game was too consistently close to consider a retaliatory strike, but on Sunday, with a 6-1 lead in the seventh inning, Edward Mujica drilled Hall in the hip. The intent was clear; Mujica has hit only three guys over the course of his six-year career and walks almost nobody. His control is exquisite. He was quickly ejected.

Ramirez being the face of his franchise certainly had something to do with it. The fact that he has a history of calling out Marlins pitchers for lack of retaliatory response may also have factored in. (Then again, Mujica was with San Diego during that particular tirade, and may have been entirely ignorant of it.)

Had Hall been out of line with his slide, with a barrel roll or some other questionable tactic—in other words, had he deserved the response—it might have ended there. As it was, Houston reliever Anuery Rodriguez stood up for his guy by plunking Gaby Sanchez in the ninth. This one was easy to see coming; Rodriguez is a rookie with a double-digit ERA. His performance on the field is not winning much respect from his teammates, so he felt the need to earn it in a different capacity. He, too, was ejected. (Watch both ejections here.)

The Marlins and Astros meet once more this season, in July. There’s no reason for renewed hostilities at that point—but then again there rarely is. Stay tuned.

- Jason

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Utley’s Slide Draws Mets’ Ire

Chase Utley plays hard. On this count, he has been exceedingly consistent throughout his career.

On Friday, he played hard. The Mets should have expected it. Instead, they offered barely-veiled threats of retaliation.

The play in question was a slide into second base in the fifth inning, as Utley tried in vain to break up a double-play, taking out second baseman Ruben Tejada in the process. (Watch it here.)

The slide was far from perfect; it was late, it was a touch awkward and Utley didn’t begin to slide until he was virtually atop the base, leaving him to land well beyond the bag, at Tejada’s knees.

Fault the execution, but not the intent or the intensity.

This is not the tack the Mets took. Jose Reyes called it “a little dirty.” David Wright said the Mets would “have to reevaluate the way we go into second base,” a not-so-subtle reference to retaliatory basepath tactics. “If he doesn’t mind guys coming in like that when he’s turning a double play,” said Wright in the New York Post, “we don’t have any problem with it.”

These, of course, are Tejada’s fellow infielders, and they might feel obliged to stick up for their own. Their own manager, however, had a different take.

“That’s a style that needs to get back into the game of baseball,” said Jerry Manuel. “You’re not trying to hurt anybody, but you have to go hard.”

Sure enough, Utley was not hit by a pitch through the remainder of the series. One of his saving virtues might have been that he’s so consistent with his intensity. Infielders will put up with considerably more abuse from guys who play all out, all the time, than from those who pick their spots.

From the Baseball Codes:

“When I was playing second base in Pittsburgh and we were running for the pennant,” said Phil Garner, “(Bill) Buckner absolutely smoked me on a double play— damn near broke both my legs.” Garner wasn’t ticked off at the play itself, which was clean and not unlike the treatment he regularly received from players like Don Baylor and Hal McRae (who was so consistently ferocious on the base paths that the 1978 rule disallowing the hindrance of a fielder who has just made a play is known informally as the “Hal McRae Rule”). Garner was angry because he’d never seen it before from Buckner. “This sumbitch slides thirty feet short for 160 ballgames, and now, in the 161st he’s going to slide in hard?” said Garner. “Fuck that. Play the game hard in Game 1 just like you did that day.” Buckner hadn’t violated any of baseball’s written rules—his play wasn’t dirty, just devious—but in Garner’s mind he’d clearly violated the Code. The next time Garner had the chance to turn Buckner into the lead out of a double play, he aimed his relay throw directly between the baserunner’s eyes. Buckner threw up a hand in self-defense; he deflected the ball but broke a finger in the process. Message sent.

Or take Carlos Delgado, who, while on base as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2004, took out Red Sox first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz with a forearm shiver. One problem with the play, at least to Mientkiewicz, was that he wasn’t playing first base at the time but had volunteered to man second after Boston experienced an unforeseen shortage of players at the position. The infielder had, at that point, played all of one inning there in his seven-year major-league career and was by no means comfortable.

Also, in Mientkiewicz’s opinion, such takeouts weren’t a regular part of Delgado’s repertoire. “I’d seen him veer off on double plays for five years and not even slide into second,” he said. “Yet he sees somebody playing second who’s never played there before and he takes full advantage of it. If Aaron Rowand had knocked me on my ass I don’t think I’d have been that mad, because Aaron goes full tilt from the word ‘go.’ . . . If I were to always see Carlos taking guys out at shortstop, I never would have said a word.”

When Mientkiewicz got up screaming, the pair had to be separated. Red Sox pitcher Derek Lowe drilled the Toronto All-Star during his next at-bat, and Delgado was forced to avoid several other pitches during the course of the three-game series. (“Curt Schilling missed him once and came to me and apologized,” said Mientkiewicz.)

At least Utley hasn’t had to face that level of response. Yet.

- Jason

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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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Delgado Rounding First . . .

Major League baseball is reporting that the Blue Jays aren’t much interested in bringing back Carlos Delgado for a second stint with the club. General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has cited a desire to chase long-term success with a young corps of players, a strategy that doesn’t exactly embrace a fading 37-year-old slugger.

Delgado came to prominence with the Blue Jays as one of the game’s great first basemen, but his most significant appearance in The Baseball Codes has less to do with his hitting than with his baserunning. It concerns a specific play from 2004, in which Delgado took out Red Sox first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz with a forearm shiver. The following excerpt has more.

One problem with the play, at least to Mientkiewicz, was that he wasn’t playing first base at the time, but had volunteered to man second after Boston experienced an unforeseen shortage of players at the position. The infielder had, at that point, played all of one inning there in his seven-year major league career and was by no means comfortable.

There was also the fact that in Mientkiewicz’s opinion, such takeouts weren’t a regular part of Delgado’s repertoire. “I’d seen him veer off on double plays for five years and not even slide into second,” he said. “Yet he sees somebody playing second who’s never played there before and he took full advantage of it. If Aaron Rowand had knocked me on my ass I don’t think I’d have been that mad, because Aaron goes full tilt from the word go. . . . If I were to always see Carlos taking guys out at shortstop, I never would have said a word.”

When Mientkiewicz got up screaming, the pair had to be separated. Red Sox pitcher Derek Lowe drilled Toronto’s All-Star during his next at-bat, and Delgado was forced to avoid several other pitches during the course of the three-game series. (“Curt Schilling missed him once and came to me and apologized,” said Mientkiewicz.)

Not in the book but no less interesting is the following, from our interview with Mientkiewicz:

“I was mad for a split-second, but when I came back I said, “You know, he did what he was supposed to do.” But the fact that he doesn’t play that way all the time, that’s when I got mad. . . . I remember the remark I made to him: ‘You know, if you played in a game like this every day, you wouldn’t be 17 games back.’ . . . I never had a problem with Carlos before that, and I still talked to him afterward. But there are veteran guys in Boston, and every time he came up for the next four games, he got drilled. And he didn’t start a big ruckus—he just took his hit-by-pitch and went to first base.”

- Jason

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