“Courtesy of HoopIndiana”
I’ve got this thing about umpires. My dream is to write a really great comprehensive book about past and present umpires, their challenges and what they mean to the game. So last night’s NLCS game between the Cards and Giants gave me some new fodder. Here’s my thoughts on that Matt Holliday attack on Marco Scutaro at 2nd Base in the 1st inning and subsequent play:
1. THIS WAS NOT A SLIDE. All the commentary from the pundits, coaches, teammates and Holliday himself describe the play as a slide ~ a “late” slide, but a slide nonetheless. That’s crap. A baseball slide by definition means hitting the ground face or feet first and it just didn’t happen here. Look closely at the first part of the video above. Matt Holliday made an intentional leep with both feet firmly aimed at Scutaro with, by his own admission, intent to disable him to keep him from making a play. There was no slide. He turned himself full force into a 6’4″, 235# human projectile aimed directly at Scutaro’s 5’10″ 185# frame with intent to disable.
2. HOLLIDAY’S RESPONSE. “You’re trying to get to the second baseman and obviously trying to knock him down so he can’t turn a double play. As long as you’re in the baseline, it’s within the rules.” And he’s right. Rules state that a runner can take out a fielder as long as the runner is close enough to be in contact with second base while doing so.
3. HOLLIDAY HAD NO INTENTION OF SLIDING. Holliday’s “regret” that he didn’t start the slide earlier really doesn’t hold water. He had no intention of sliding to begin with. He held back on the slide intentionally, waiting for precision timing to do exactly what he did.
4. TOUGH GUY REPUTATION. It’s acknowledged that Matt Holliday is well known for his tough defensive plays. Tim McCarver stated in his post game coverage that Matt Holliday is one of the “toughest sliders” in the National League. Tough slider huh. What’s that compared to a non-tough slider? Maybe a little unethical, dirty, bush league, not too classy?
5. MLB RULES AND THE UMPIRE’S ROLE IN THE GAME. Well, okay then. MLB Rules allow a runner to take out a fielder as long as the runner is close enough to be in contact with second base while doing so (my translation). But remember, he was no longer a runner. And his “slide-that-was-not-a slide” was late ….. so late as to injure a player and enrage the fans. So where’s the umpire’s role in this scenario?
“I’m Thinking, I’m Thinking”
After the play, the umpires convened near second base to discuss, as in “what should we do if the Giants pitcher decides to throw a retaliatory pitch, like “at the head” of Holliday when he comes up to bat”? And what if it did happen and that retaliatory pitch permanently disabled or, heaven forbid, killed the batter? I’m not trying to be over-sensational here but this could happen and it has happened, granted a long time ago, but still.
6. MLB RULE 9.01(d) GIVES UMPIRES BLANKET AUTHORITY. It states that each umpire has authority to disqualify any player … for unsportsmanlike conduct or language and to eject such disqualified player from the playing field. How often has that happened? I mean, really. Oh sure, someone swears at the umpire and he’s outta there in a New York Minute. But a good clean play like this one? Not a chance. This would be comparable to football’s unnecessary roughness penalty or the unsportsmanlike conduct or more appropriately the “late hit” penalties which are designed to prevent debilitating injuries. But, of course, you don’t see that in baseball, even though the umpire has full authority to make that call.
So here’s a challenge to the Major League Baseball Umpire’s Association. ( I issued the same challenge to them back on February 23, 2012, “……Getting the Umpire Out of His Comfort Zone” but for some reason I’ve never heard back from them.
” ….. this is something that falls on the Major League Umpires Association. They’re the only ones who can get this violent aspect of the game under control and they don’t need any rule changes to do it. If they’d start bouncing players out of the game when they resort to these retaliatory pitches and the unnecessary violence at the plate and elsewhere, the players would get the message and it would stop. The question is, will they? The answer is, probably not. They’d have to move a tad out of their comfort zone and who the heck wants to do that?”
Note: I wrote this originally with an inference that Halliday was “out” before he made his “slide”. In reality, the tag on the base had been made, but the umpire had not yet called the play and we all know you’re not out until you’re called out. I’ve since deleted the reference.