Game Two of the National League Championship series was a wild affair, but perhaps for the wrong reasons. Let me explain.
In the top of the first inning, Carlos Beltran walks. Matt Holliday follows that with a single to left field. The ball was hit sharply and to the wrong side of the outfield to allow Beltran to take third. When Allen Craig grounds out weakly to shortstop, this happens.
Click the image to watch the video.
Before continuing, let’s all open our copy of the 2012 Edition of the Official Rules of Baseball and flip to section 7. Oh, you don’t have a copy. Then I’ll wait while you download it from here. No, go on, I’ll wait. As long as it takes, because this is important.
Section 7 covers all of the rules that pertain to base runners, as is the case when Matt Holliday collides with Marco Scutaro. This is rule 7.08(b) which says
7.08 Any runner is out when - (b) He intentionally interferes with a thrown ball; or hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball;
That is a little bit vague, which prompted the guidance below.
Rule 7.08(b) Comment: A runner who is adjudged to have hindered a fielder who is attempting to make a play on a batted ball is out whether it was intentional or not.
Yes, the comment does say adjudged, however, it does not apply to our situation as Scutaro was already in possession of the baseball when the collision occurred. Let us continue.
If, however, the runner has contact with a legally occupied base when he hinders the fielder, he shall not be called out unless, in the umpire’s judgment, such hindrance, whether it occurs on fair or foul territory, is intentional
Which is essentially the runner having the right to the base (only) and the fielder has the right-of-way everywhere else. That does apply to our situation as Holliday was in contact with a legally occupied base(second) when the contact happened.
The guidance for Rule 7.09(e) also comes into play, in an odd way.
Any batter or runner who has just been put out, or any runner who has just scored, hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate; Rule 7.09(e) Comment: If the batter or a runner continues to advance after he has been put out, he shall not by that act alone be considered as confusing, hindering or impeding the fielders.
That covers the continuing action of Matt Holliday sliding through the base. If he had changed course or made some additional effort to get in the way of Marco Scutaro’s throw, he could have been called out, but not on the continuing action from the original play.
[Edit] Thanks to Dan McCloskey (see his comment below), Rule 6.05(m) could have some relevance to this play. This is what Bruce Bochy was referring to in his postgame press conference when he said “I thought they recently changed the rule.” The clarifying comment is the important part here.
6.05 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.
I did consider this when writing the original article, but chose not to include it because of the baseline test in the comment. It should be noted that Matt Holliday has violated this rule on many occasions, and has been penalized in accordance with the rule. With respect for Dan’s comment, I have included it in this edited version so you can decide if it applies more or less than 7.08(m). While doing so, you should also add Dan’s blog, The Left Field, to your list of daily reads.
Was it a hard play ? Absolutely.
Was it malicious ? You will have to be the judge of that, but I don’t think so – and neither will you if you keep reading. One thing to remember about Matt Holliday – he is a big man, and not the most graceful runner in the game. You should see how he chases down fly balls in the outfield. It is important to make the distinction between clumsy and malicious.
Was it interference ? Absolutely not. The rule goes on to describe the penalty if interference is called, and it would have been both Holliday and the batter, Allen Craig, being called out.
Some of you are going to be caught up on the “intentional” part of the play, so let me show you another example where the hindrance is obviously intentional. Thanks to Chris Laib for sharing this particular highlight.
Click the image to watch the video.
In this case, ironically involving Pablo Sandoval of the Giants, the runner was fine until he reached out and grabbed Zack Cozart’s leg. After a short conference, the umpires ruled interference and the batter was also out, ending the inning.
Let’s take a look at one more, this one titled “Matt Holliday’s Great Slide”. It came from the 2011 World Series. Yes, those are the same broadcasters saying something altogether different. An OMG cat look is totally acceptable after viewing this highlight.
Click the image to watch the video.
Why spend 700 words on this particular topic ? Because the sports media shows can’t seem to shut up about it. Here’s the real tragedy – every second spent arguing about this play takes away from the real story of the game, Ryan Vogelsong’s masterful pitching performance and the Giants kicking the goobers out of the Cardinals to even the series. That is the story.
I took some uncomplimentary comments in my Infield Fly Rule post, which I did not appreciate. In an attempt to prevent that on this posting, let me share one additional video. This one comes from the top of the 8th inning in a game between the Cardinals and Giants, in St. Louis, on July 24, 1988. Will Clark is the runner on first base with one out when Candy Maldonado hits a ground ball to Ozzie Smith.
That was also a clean, but hard play on the part of Will Clark. Clark was one of those players that got under the skin of opposing fans because he was very good and tended to let you know that he knew that too.
The fight that followed the play was from some residual anger left over from the 1987 NLCS combined with a thorough 5-0 beating of the Cardinals at the time. It was brutally hot that afternoon and the Cardinals had all but surrendered the game. Ozzie Smith and Oquendo took exception to Clark’s hard slide at that moment, and the rest is what you see in the video.
There are two ironies from this one. (1) Lou Brock would have done the exact same thing as Will Clark, and led to at least one serious fight between the Reds and Cardinals and (2) Will Clark would end his career in St. Louis. It took a while, but Cardinals fans eventually warmed up to “The Thrill”
Some additional NLCS notes.
Shelby Miller threw 37 pitches in relief late in Game Two. That might have been an audition for a start in Game Five. He looked sharp in his first inning of work, and had to battle through some bad defense and a questionable call from the first base umpire in his second. Right now, he looks like a better choice to take the start in the final home game of the NLCS.
Don’t forget about Jake Westbrook. As he did last year, he continues to work in case he is needed to replace an injured pitcher this round or an ineffective one in the next. If Lance Lynn continues to struggle and the Cardinals advance, Jake Westbrook might find himself back on the active roster.
For all the fun we have had with the Pete Kozma story, what we have seen in the postseason is the real Pete Kozma. He has shown some sparkling defense, including a very strong arm. The small sample size is going to inflate his slugging percentage a bit, but those RBIs are not a fluke. In the minors, he could cluster together some key hits and has added a little bit of pop to go with a modest improvement in his batting average. The one surprise has been seeing him aggressively using his speed on the bases. That is surely from a coach suggesting that if he wants to stay with the big club, he needs to use all of his tools.