We got to see Stephen Strasburg strike out eight Indians Sunday in his second major league start, but he wasn’t the only highly touted recent call-up to make an appearance.
Cleveland catcher Carlos Santana was playing in just his third big league game, and learned a valuable lesson in the process.
In the second inning, with Adam Dunn on second base, Washington’s Mike Morse hit a single to right field. Although the throw home was cut off by first baseman Russell Branyan, the 6-foot-6, 285-lb. Dunn thundered into Santana, flattening the catcher without so much as leaving his feet. (Watch it here.)
It called into question the unwritten rules regarding collisions at the plate, one of which says that a catcher has no business being in the baseline if he’s not holding the ball.
Could Dunn have avoided the collision had he been paying attention? Probably. Was it incumbent upon him to do so? Absolutely not.
In that situation, there’s no reason for Dunn to pay attention to anything but the space in front of him; if the catcher is standing there, Dunn has two choices—go around him or through him.
When Dunn was with Cincinnati in 2003, he found himself participating in another incident at the plate, which also involved questions about when it is and isn’t appropriate to flatten a catcher.
With the Reds holding a 10-0 lead over Philadelphia, Dunn was waved home from second on a single because the outfielder’s throw missed the cutoff man and the second baseman had to scamper to get to the ball.
In this type of situation, an acceptable interpretation of the Code says that runners can be sent home if there will be no play at the plate. There shouldn’t have been a play, so third base coach Tim Foli waved Dunn in.
From The Baseball Codes:
There was no way the throw would come close to beating Dunn. Except that the runner, sensing Foli’s lack of urgency, slowed down considerably, allowing the defense time to recover. By the time Dunn recognized his mistake, he was just steps away from catcher Mike Lieberthal, who was standing in the basepath, ball in hand. At that point, Dunn—a former football player for the University of Texas— reacted instinctively, putting everything he had into a brutal collision. And though he didn’t succeed—Lieberthal held on for the second out of the inning—when Dunn next came to bat he was thrown at by reliever Carlos Silva, and charged the mound.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do there,” said the slugger after the game. “Stop and let him tag me out? Slide? I think I did the right thing.”
In that situation, Lieberthal was entitled to the baseline, and Dunn was entitled to separate him from the baseball. (Or at least he would have been, had the score been closer.)
Against the Indians on Sunday, Santana had no business being in the baseline; intentionally or not, Dunn reminded him of that.
It’s a mistake that Santana will not likely make again.
(Thanks to SB Nation for the GIF.)