The big story from last night was not the San Francisco Giants tying the series against the St Louis Cardinals, but Matt Holliday breaking up a double-play by taking our Marco Scutaro with a hard slide into second. If you missed it, take a look.
I think we need to understand the difference between a dirty play, and an aggressive play that could be illegal. Let’s look at what the rule book says about the play in question.
In sliding to a base, the runner should be able to reach the base with his hand or foot.
A runner who, in the judgment of the umpire, contacts or attempts to make contact with a fielder
with a slide or roll block that is not a bona fide effort to reach and stay on the base may be called
out for interference and, when appropriate, a double play may be called.
Any definite change in direction by the runner to contact the fielder would be considered
If a runner hits the dirt, slides, and rolls, it does not constitute a rolling block unless the runner
leaves his feet and makes contact with the fielder before the runner slides on the ground. If the
initial contact is with the fielder instead of the ground for the purpose of breaking up a double
play, it is a roll block.
It is interference by a batter or a runner when —
(d) Any batter or runner who has just been put out hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate;
A batter is out when —
(m)A preceding runner shall, in the umpire’s judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play:
Rule 6.05(m) Comment: The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Obviously this is an umpire’s judgment play.
Based upon the MLB rule book, Holliday could have been called for interference. I say “could” because it is still in the judgment of the umpire. Now, my judgment, from being able to watch replay, and not having my eyes focused on 2nd as it unfolds on my TV, I would say that Holliday broke the rules and should have been called out, as well as Allen Craig, who hit what seemed to be a tailor-made 6-4-3 double-play grounder. It did not appear as if Holliday attempted to slide into the bag at any point, and went straight for Scutaro. This is a play that happens often in the Majors, and rarely is interference called. Umpires tend to use their own interpretation of the rules, and again, there is that gray area of “judgment.”
Based upon this and the evidence and the use of replay, we should all be able to agree that the play in question was 1. Aggressive. 2. Illegal by nature of MLB rules. Now, was it dirty? Well, this is even more of a judgment call, as one would have to decide on his intent. That being, was Holliday deliberate in his intent to take Scutaro out, no matter what the collateral damage was. Did he intend to hurt Scutaro on the play? Obviously, he did hurt him. Though the Giants SS continued to play, and came up with a big hit later on, Scutaro did leave the game due to the injury suffered on Holliday’s slide. But that can’t be used to determine the intent. It is just too difficult to judge something like that. I think a player’s history and style of play should be included in the judgement. What Holliday did, like we said, often happens in baseball. This wasn’t Ty Cobb sliding into second, with sharpened spikes headed towards Scutaro’s face. Was Holliday’s slide dirty? No it was not. Not at all.
With the stakes of the series being as high as they are, the intensity of each playoff game often clouds our thinking in matters like this. But once the dust settles, it is clear that while the play probably should have been called dead, with both base runners being called out, it was just aggressive baseball. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we want from our favorite players?