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.
Determined to avoid compromising NLCS victory by retaliating for Matt Holliday’s Game 2 slide into Marco Scutaro—which was called everything from illegal (by Bruce Bochy) to dirty (by all manner of Giants fans)—Matt Cain waited until it would hurt the Cardinals most, and the Giants least, to respond.
St. Louis, trailing 7-0 in the sixth inning of Monday’s deciding Game 7 on an electric San Francisco night, appeared too stunned by the score to be able even to fully absorb the intent behind the pitch. Before the ball connected with Holliday’s left tricep, it had long since been assumed that the Giants would let his slide go unanswered.
Cain, we now know, has a longer memory than the Cardinals anticipated. (Watch it here.)
St. Louis players were already wearing long faces as they counted down outs toward what already appeared to be an inevitable, inexorable slide from the postseason. Before the drilling—as sure an intentional pitch as has been thrown all season—it seemed impossible that the Giants or their home crowd could be any more pumped up than they already were.
As soon as ball bounced off batter, however, it was clear that such a notion was folly. AT&T Park, we found out, does indeed go to 11—especially when the frontier justice runs in their favor.
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 Caintold 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.