During the offseason, Major League Baseball changed its rules governing a runner’s slide into second base. The other night, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista was called out following a video review of his 9th-inning, rule-breaking slide and attempted interference with Tampa Bay Rays second baseman, Logan Forsythe. The slide turned into a game-ending double play.
This angered Jays manager, John Gibbons, who went on something of a tear about the new rule. Here’s an edited snippet:
Are we trying to turn the game into a joke? That was flat out embarrassing. That cost us a chance to win a Major League ball game. Was that the intent [of changed rule enforcement]? Well you know what, that’s probably the result you’re going to get.
I was talking to some guys in spring training who said ‘Wait until it happens where you end a game, a Major League game.’
It’s really an embarrassment. You know baseball is a hard-nose game, he gets down in plenty of time, going into bag, there’s really no explanation for it. You know what? Wins matter in this business. For that to come out like that. I don’t get it.
No, no, that’s, you know what, I guess maybe we’ll come out wearing dresses tomorrow. Maybe that would be maybe that’s what they’re looking for.
So help me, I judge every single post-game interview of baseball players by how clichéd they are. You know that scene in “Bull Durham” where Crash teaches Nuke how to give interviews using clichés? It’s a great scene with way too much NSFW content to embed here, so check out this link instead.
By that standard, Gibbons’ interview was actually worth something. If you listen to it and watch it (which you can do here), it makes more sense than reading it, on account of his clipped manner of speech. You get a feel for how steamed he is about the new rule.
Well, can you guess what happened next? You probably can’t, if you’re a healthy individual. What happened next is people got super upset about his line about dresses.
ESPN, which has become just insufferable and downright unwatchable with its politicking in recent years, tried to gin up some controversy over the remark. Its story immediately pivots to how supposedly offensive his remark was about dresses. I’m not joking in any way. They really did. Apparently there was some kind of firestorm Gibbons had to respond to. Which he did thusly:
“I cannot understand how it would offend anybody, to be honest with you,” Gibbons said before the game with the Rays. “It doesn’t offend my mother, my daughter, my wife, who have a great understanding of life. I do think the world needs to lighten up a little bit.
“I know who I am,” Gibbons said. “I know where my heart is. I show up every day and do the best job I can. Try to treat people the way I want to be treated, and I think for the most part I do that. But it amazes me in the world now how simple things, you try to calm things down, and it gets thrown out of whack.”
And yet people really want to cry big tears over the thing. Check this out:
Mike Bordick laughed at John Gibbons’ offensive quote. It upset me. I wrote about it. https://t.co/nOB1TA4o0e pic.twitter.com/G3h3znxqQ7
Camden Chat (@CamdenChat) April 7, 2016
Stacey Folkemer wrote on Baltimore Orioles’ fan site CamdenChat.com about how the quote was shown on a graphic during the local broadcast of the Orioles game yesterday. And that’s when things took a dark turn:
Instead of pointing out the offensiveness of the comment or even groaning over it in a way that would be acceptable, [broadcaster Gary] Thorne chuckled as he read it and [broadcaster Mike] Bordick expressed the same sentiment. They read a quote that was said by a jerk that demeaned women, and laughed at it like it was a funny joke. Bordick then went on to say that Gibbons, along with many players, found the call laughable. I won’t go into his opinion on it even if I disagree, because that’s not my point here.
It’s very disappointing when I sit here as a woman, watching my second Orioles game of the year, knowing that I’ll watch over 100 more before the season is gone, and having to listen to my guys laugh off something like that.
Here’s my full, considered response to that:
I don’t care if you’re Stacey (who actually seems like a great fan of the game otherwise) or ESPN
social justice warriors sports writers or what, put on your big girl panties at once. Having birthed a couple of babies, I know that women are physically stronger than men in certain ways. But noting the fact that we’re less physically aggressive is not an insult. I take it is a straight-up compliment, much as I admire men’s feats of strength and protection. One of the worst things about modern feminism is the lie it preaches that men and women are the same. We are complementary, and we each have our own strengths. We are different! And that’s a good thing! And light ribbing about the relative merits of one sex for particular activities is nothing to get one’s knickers in a twist over.
OK, what a waste of time. Now let’s talk about the slide rule changes.
What’s Up With the Slide Rule Changes?
Despite my defense of Gibbons’ colorful tirade, he was totally wrong. It was a good call. Watch the slide:
Rays challenge call that J Bautista didn’t violate rule 6.01(j); call overturned, violation: https://t.co/gZO9nEcqxb pic.twitter.com/7O21hhws1u
MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) April 6, 2016
Slide rules and their enforcement were due for a change even before Chase Utley broke Ruben Tejada’s leg attempting to break up an important double play during the post-season last year.
The new rules for slides say:
- The runner must make a good-faith effort to stay on the base after he slides onto it.
- The runner can’t change their pathway to the base in the middle of a slide to break up a double play.
- If the runner makes illegal contact with the infielder, it’s an automatic double play for him and the batter.
- The runner cannot aim their slide to break up a double play by rolling into the infielder around the knee.
The rules were agreed to fairly easily because they’re actually pretty reasonable. If the runner slides into an infielder who is standing on the base in order to turn a double play quickly, that’s fine. If the runner is aiming for the infielder or going way outside the baseline, that’s not.
And the best part of the new rules is that everyone agreed to allow the umpires to enforce “neighborhood play” rules. They also allow them to use replay to review the play, which is less awesome, but the replay delays is a losing battle.
What this means, though, is that infielders actually have to touch the base if they want a runner called out! How annoying has it been to watch infielders turn double plays when they weren’t anywhere near the bag. Now that their safety is being ensured, a bit, they’re going to have to tag the bag. Good.
You’ll notice that Forsythe was on the bag when he caught the ball (huzzah!) and that Bautista did not make a good-faith effort to stay on the bag. Even more problematic, he grabbed for Forsythe’s ankle. Technically that doesn’t violate the new rules. As Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal noted, it does violate the previous rule 6.01(a)(5):
It is interference by a batter or a runner when 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.
It was the additional issue of failing to make a bona fide effort to stay on base that made this a game-ending double play, since there was only one out at the beginning of the play.
New rules will take a while to get used to. The players have been playing under the old rules for a very long time. It’s understandable that Gibbon and Bautista were frustrated, but it will be a learning experience for all base runners and infielders. Expect some more confusion as the zone of enforcement is determined. We can withhold final judgment on whether the rule changes are good or bad until we see more of how they change play in action.
But there’s no need to get a sore hoo-ha or head to the fainting couch because some people are openly expressing their concern that it will turn into a less intense and hard-hitting game.