By now, you’ve seen the video. You’ve read all of the accounts. You’ve dissected the viral diagrams:
I made a diagram: pic.twitter.com/Yvmh9HUfo3
— Sac Bunt Chris (@SacBuntChris) June 20, 2017
I’m not sure there’s a whole lot more to say on the issue of Anthony Rizzo‘s “slide” into Austin Hedges from Monday night, but the internet isn’t going to stop me from trying. So here are some disjointed thoughts.
That was a dirty slide. It’s obviously hard to determine whether Rizzo attempted to injure Hedges, but he clearly went out of his way to collide with him to presumably jar the ball loose. There’s a good chance that kind of collision, initiated by a 6-foot-3, 240-pound man, will injure the person on the receiving end, the one who’s standing still and not expecting the impact. So when Rizzo decided to leave the base path and not make a play toward home plate (i.e., to break the rules), he opted to do something with a good chance of injuring Hedges. Parse things all you want, Rizzo’s actions led directly to Hedges leaving the game. To make matters worse, both Rizzo and his manager, Joe Maddon, acted like jackasses after the game.
(By the way, I’m not saying Rizzo is a dirty player. No idea. He probably isn’t one, and it was a split-second decision in effort to help his team win a ball game. It was still a dirty play in the context of the rules and general sportsmanship.)
That was an illegal slide. The rule is somewhat clear: don’t run over a catcher unless he doesn’t have the ball and is blocking the plate. This isn’t really an issue, even though it’s curious how many people have argued, for whatever reason, that it was a clean, legal slide. Even MLB admitted that it violated the rules.
MLB dropped the ball. In this world, we expect some sort of justice when someone does something bad to us, some kind of punishment to deter them from doing it again and to compensate for our hardship. When someone steals our bike, for instance, we expect the thief to receive a fine or an arrest or whatever it is they do to bike thieves, plus maybe our bike back*. The police force and criminal justice system is supposed to handle this, so we ourselves don’t have to go over and steal a bike out of the bike thief’s collection of neighborhood bikes. This whole system is set up to prevent our society from becoming a bunch of bike-stealing thieves, and sometimes it even works.
*Look, someone stole my bike in the seventh grade and I’m still not over it.
In the baseball world, it’s much easier. All the evidence is usually right there, from five different camera angles, and the stakes are generally much lower (it was a nice bike, alright). All Joe Torre and company had to do was watch the video replay a few times, consult Sac Bunt Chris’ diagram, refer to the rule book, and come to a reasonable conclusion.
“Hey, this guy went out of his way to make a dangerous play that broke the rules, and a player got hurt directly as a result of his choice and actions. He’s a nice fella with no history, so let’s suspend him for just a couple of games to 1) prevent immediate retaliation by the opposing team and 2) to provide a disincentive for other players thinking about making the same careless decision.”
As I tweeted yesterday:
And if everyone wants to stop beanball wars/retaliation, which is totally fine, then MLB should suspend Rizzo ASAP.
— Dustin (@sacbuntdustin) June 20, 2017
For baseball to move beyond vigilante justice, or whatever you want to call it, Major League Baseball itself needs to actually step in and police the game. While it’s fine and dandy that the Padres have taken the high road so far this series, many teams would have responded to Monday’s incident with a beanball or some other form of retaliation. As barbaric as that may sound—and here are my general thoughts on retaliatory beanballs—it’s the result of a system that doesn’t adequately punish players caught doing something dangerous, something that could (or did) injure another player.
It’s probably over, for now, and luckily Hedges looks like he’ll be okay. The Cubs, on the other hand, come out looking a little more unlikable, MLB comes out looking incompetent (per usual), and the Padres come out looking like the the kid who kept getting his bike stolen and never stole back, both commendable and a little sad.