Dekes—fielders making runners think that something is happening on the field that’s not actually happening—can be marvelous things.
In baseball’s unwritten rulebook, they are only problematic when they put somebody in danger—primarily in the form of a late phantom tag, laid down when the ball is actually someplace else, forcing a runner into a hurried and awkward slide.
Barring that, however, the play can be a wonder to behold. Take, for example, Philadelphia shortstop Pedro Florimon, who last Saturday retired Trea Turner with some delightful trickery. The Nationals were down 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning when Turner drew a leadoff walk and, on the first pitch to the next batter, Matt Wieters, took off for second.
The trouble for Turner was that Wieters popped the ball up to second base. The other trouble for Turner was that he never peeked toward the plate to gauge what was happening. Thus, when Florimon drifted to the bag as if to receive a throw from catcher Andrew Knapp, Turner had little reason to disbelieve that Florimon was actually receiving a throw from catcher Andrew Knapp. The shortstop even punctuated the act by laying a tag upon the unsuspecting baserunner as he stood atop the bag.
Second baseman Cesar Hernandez, meanwhile, was able to complete the easiest double-play of his life, finishing the play while Turner was still in a state of puzzlement at second. (Watch the whole thing here.)
“Usually, I hear the ball off the bat, so a lot of times if I hear it, I’ll look up,” Turner said after the game in a Washington Post report. “I didn’t hear it that time.”
It is the responsibility of every baserunner to have a handle on whatever situation he finds himself in. Failure to glance plateward cost Lonnie Smith in the most famous deke of modern times, in the 1991 World Series, and it cost Turner last weekend.
It’s likely not a mistake he’ll ever make a second time.