Do you feel better after sleeping it off? Has the rage over Anthony Rizzo barreling into Austin Hedges finally subsided? Have you found enough positives in your life to outweigh the pain of seeing America’s Finest Catcher struggle to get to his feet on what could only be deemed a “clean slide” by the most biased of Cubs fans?
If so, congratulations. You are a better person than me, admittedly. If not, well, pull up a chair, let’s hash it out.
First things first: this is clearly not a slide that is legal under the “Posey Rule”. Rule 7.13 states that “A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher.” Dayne Perry of CBS Sports tweeted out a video of the play with a different, more obvious angle if you want to take another look to confirm how Rizzo violated the rule:
This is the better angle on the Rizzo slide. He's deviating. Plate ump has to call that. https://t.co/3n95cobbFc
— Dayn Perry (@daynperry) June 20, 2017
If you look at where Rizzo ended up after bowling into Hedges, he only landed near home plate because he bounced off him. Hedges, standing in front of the base, clearly provided a lane for Rizzo that he did not take. How do I know this? Well, I’m not Anthony Rizzo – who, by all accounts, is a great guy – but here’s what he said about the play, via Padres beat writer AJ Cassavel: “My understanding is that if [the catcher has] the ball, it’s game on.”
Game on? Rizzo’s knee-first slide into Hedges makes a lot more sense if he admits he was actually trying to dislodge the ball. Still, I feel like I must be interpreting this quote wrong, because how can an experienced player like Rizzo really think that is a defensible play? Or is he just trying to say something to justify what happened? I’m hoping to get some clarity on that at some point today.
This brings me to my second point: This is diffused pretty quickly, either during the game or afterwards, if Rizzo and/or the Cubs own up to a bad slide.
What’s frustrating, especially as a tough-luck Padres fan, is that Joe Maddon – again, by all accounts, a great guy – goes on record as saying “I loved it, absolutely loved it. That’s part of the game. If the catcher’s in the way, you hit him.”
Maddon isn’t going to throw Rizzo under the bus, so I don’t fault him for making a statement along these same lines at all. But to say that he “loves” the play is in poor taste. He goes out of his way to imply that Hedges was in the way, which for all intents and purposes, is an “alternative fact.” Also, um, I’m pretty sure that that is not supposed to be part of the game anymore, so that also strikes me as odd.
Lastly, if I’m being honest with myself, my feelings on the matter are slightly different if, say, Héctor Sánchez or Luis Torrens is the catcher in this situation. Yes, I would still argue that it’s a dirty slide, but emotionally, I’m less invested in the situation. Hedges is a fan favorite in San Diego, and by all accounts, the catcher of the future, so seeing a play happen like that is, as Andy Green put it, “disheartening”. Hedges is most definitely a player that Padres fans will go to battle for, for better or for worse. And on Twitter last night, many accounts, including the Padres Radio account (which basically asked for retweets if people thought they should retaliate tomorrow), went low, to the detriment of the fan-base.
For me, seeing a healthy Austin Hedges in the line up tomorrow goes a long way to moving past this. I wouldn’t advocate throwing at Rizzo or any other Cubs (which I don’t believe will happen), but you want to see some measure of justice meted out. We’ve all been cut off on the freeway by a bad driver, and seeing that person get pulled over by a motorcycle cop a mile down the road is satisfying, if not a little petty.
In the end, I think Andy Green summed it up pretty nicely: “For me, the whole point of the rule is to protect my catcher, not to necessarily get a call right on safe or out. When Austin Hedges’ health is put in jeopardy because someone took a shot at him when he’s not expecting it at all, that’s a problem.”