On the heels of the Eric Aybar play on Saturday night, Matthew Pouliot of NBC Sports examines how the neighborhood play came into existence, and whether it should be allowed to continue. He writes:
The neighborhood play exists because it’s dangerous standing on top of a base when a runner is set to do everything possible to prevent a relay throw. Far too dangerous. Middle infielders need protection, especially second basemen, who can’t see the runner coming from first. That double play turn is, in my opinion, the biggest reason why second basemen tend to have short careers.
So, it’s either keep the neighborhood play or rein in the baserunners. I prefer the latter option. Baseball was not a sport designed for collisions. Accidents will happen, but MLB can further discourage contact if it wishes. First, enforce the rule that says runners are called out if they don’t slide towards the bag. Most runners these days won’t even reach out towards the bag to even give the impression that they’re trying to touch second base when their legs are five feet off to the right. Call it.
Furthermore, the intentional overslide of the bag, an even more dangerous play, has to stop. Melky Cabrera performed just a modest overslide on Aybar, yet the shortstop still ended up taking a forearm to the thigh and a helmet to the groin. We see far worse every day, and there’s just no reason for it.
If a player intentionally overslides the bag, he should be called out. If he pulls off the Orlando Cabrera “slide into the bag, pop up and try to forearm the shortstop in the face” maneuver, he should be ejected.
Reigning in the base runners sounds nice, but I doubt it will have any effect to automatically call them out if they fail to slide properly. That base runner coming into second base usually knows that he’s going to be out either way. The whole point of a barrel roll slide is to disrupt the double play and affect the Second Baseman’s throw to First base. Calling a base runner out automatically would prove to be little deterrent.
Ejecting a player would be effective deterrent, but too draconian an option. Now you would leave it up to Umpires to have to decide which slides are OK and which aren’t, making the slide into 2B something of a beauty contest. Too vague, too much discretion for the Umps and therefore too open to second guessing by Managers, Sportswriters, fans and pretty much everyone except the guy who made the call. It’s a great way to make everyone unhappy.
All totaled, I think Baseball gets it right by allowing ‘the neighborhood’ play. Just try to make it look good.
Photo courtesy of The NY Daily News
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