Marc Carig has more on the controversy du jour in Yankeeland:
In an attempt to break up a double play in the bottom of the seventh inning today, Nick Swisher slid into Twins second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka and brought him to the ground, where he lingered for a few minutes.
After the collision, Swisher said he asked Nishioka if he was okay, and he said he was. Swisher patted him on the back and walked toward the dugout.
But although Nishioka walked off under his own power, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said afterward that he has a fractured left fibula. And although it looked like Swisher was possibly trailing away from the bag, Gardenhire had no problem with the scope of the slide and did not consider it a dirty play.
He absolved Swisher of any guilt.
“That’s not an issue at all,” Gardenhire said after the Yankees’ 4-3 win. “It was a good slide, Swisher is a clean player.”
Gardnerhire’s sentiment was echoed by players, coaches, and announcers for both clubs. However, some in the media and a few fans and bloggers have suggested that Swisher’s slide was dirty. Here is the excellent Dave Gershman of BtB:
Furthermore, what Nick Swisher did was silly and uncalled for and we’ll leave it at that. It was 100% legal but one of things in the game that you don’t do. If a Twins player gets Jeter or Cano next time these two teams match up there’s likely going to be nothing but dropped jaws in the Yankee dugout. If Swisher was prompted to do such an act by either getting hit or having Nishioka perform a nasty act on a Yankee, it would have at least made a bit more sense. It would still be uncalled whether the slide was legal or not.
I think there are three issues at play here:
1) Was it a legal play?
2) Was it a dirty play?
3) If it was legal and not dirty, should it be?
Dave dispenses with the first question in his post, and I think it is pretty clear that Swisher’s ability to touch the bag makes it a legal play. Of course, just because something is not forbidden by the rules does not mean that it is the correct thing to do. This leads us to the second question, of whether the play was dirty.
While I am not one to refer to the unwritten rulebook very often, I think it makes sense to consider it in this instance. In regard to actions that are allowed by the rules but may be dirty, the players tend to police the game themselves and ensure that certain events do not take place. If the Twins felt that the slide was dirty, they would have called Swisher out for it, and there may have been some retaliation during the game itself. It seems fairly clear from the overwhelmingly non-critical reaction to the play that the “unwritten code” does not militate against Swisher’s slide. In fact, a number of players referred to it as a good, hard-nosed play, something to be admired rather than criticized. Swisher was simply acting within the moral confines of the existing baseball value system, and within those parameters, his actions were acceptable. Calling the play dirty requires the accuser to impose a personal sense of ethics upon a game that has an ethics code of its own.
This leads us to the third question. Now that we have established that the play was not dirty or illegal under the current system, do we think that is a problem and that the play should be legislated out of the game? Meaning, if the ethics of the game do not comport with the general ethical considerations of society, it might be necessary to change the rules so as to prohibit the questionable actions that the players have failed to properly police. This is a fair point and one that I can support. Requiring that players going into second base aim for the bag rather than the fielder can help prevent injuries like the one we saw yesterday without drastically altering gameplay. If MLB decided to make a rule to that effect, I would have no problem with it. But considering the written and unwritten codes as they are, I can only conclude that Swisher’s slide, while resulting in an unfortunate injury, was not a dirty play.
(Photo from Getty, via daylife.com)
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