VERO BEACH, FLORIDA – The rule makers at MLB headquarters in New York City should moonlight at Bloomingdale’s Department Store in the Big Apple.
They would make excellent window dressers at that hotsy-totsy shopping emporium.
Big league bylaw legislators are already ces’t magnifique at establishing rules that amount to mere window dressing (i.e. many are in place but not followed).
The latest example of such MLB decorative artistry came to light after a slide in the National League Division Series by Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers broke the leg of New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada.
It wasn’t until Utley’s slide — a WAY over-the-line attempt to break up a double play —that the judicial branch of MLB FINALLY enforced the long-standing rule for sliding into a base.
Utley was slapped with a two-day vacay for his bone-crunching malfeasance.
But MLB’s judge and jury, in this case — Joe Torre — brought the hammer down only after the tremendous uproar THE SLIDE generated.
Earlier this season, several middle infielders had suffered ligament damage due to similar dirty slides that somehow went unpunished, most likely because they happened out of the glare of the playoff spotlight.
Apparently, MLB also has an unwritten adjoiner that says “no fracture, no foul.”
In case you’re not familiar with the rule book item on sliding, it basically says this: when sliding into a base a runner must be able to make contact with the base with a part of his body (foot or hand, etc.).
If he cannot achieve such contact, he is to be called out.
In Utley’s case — as with the other injury-causing slides this season — Chase started his slide very late when he was even with and well to the side of second base, aiming ONLY for Tejada’s legs.
Utley couldn’t have touched second base if he was Stretchman of the Fantastic Four.
Now, MAS has no problem with a clean, hard slide into the bag. As a high school, collegiate and semipro second baseman he was often sent flying rear end-over-teakettle by such legal slides as he was attempting to turn a twin killing.
And never whined.
The second baseman is taught to either push back off the bag or step across it while making his pivot to avoid the sliding runner.
Shortstops are taught to gracefully graze the base and then glide sideways out of harm’s way.
And, if necessary, both positions are taught to leap over the slider if he gets too close.
Problem is, sometimes the base runner gets into your legs before you can either escape or go airborne.
Mere hazards of the trade.
But when baseball’s machismo becomes its stupidity, MAS says enough already!
Utley did not slide anywhere near the bag. It was a downright dirty, dangerous slide.
Torre, MLB’s chief disciplinarian, applied his best “I don’t know how to define pornography, I just know it when I see it” logic in suspending Utley.
Said Joe in meting out Utley’s punishment: “I admire Chase’s hard style of playing but he did slide a LITTLE late.”
Gee, ya think, Joe?
Any later and Utley would have jammed his ankles on the left field wall.
Another rule non-application that irritates MAS to no end, is the mismanagement of the well-intentioned change made to protect catchers from catastrophic collisions.
Like the one involving Pete Rose and Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game, when Pete played steamroller and Fosse pavement.
It wasn’t until San Francisco Giants All-Star catcher Buster Posey suffered what could have been a career-ending collision injury that the change was adopted.
And then eventually perverted.
The new rule states that catchers must leave a clear path to the plate and runners must use that lane — and may no longer gleefully flatten the sitting ducks wearing the tools of ignorance.
The actuality of the matter is that now catchers can and DO block the plate with impunity.
Check out the catcher’s front foot these days on a play at home. It is almost always planted solidly in terra firma fronting the plate.
Yet the catchers are NEVER called for obstruction of home plate.
And you can’t even touch them.
The result: the most-sissified slides into the dish that MAS has seen in years.
Or in other words, the way they’ve been sliding into home forever in Japan.
Now the only guys suffering injuries are base runners doing the sliding.
They are forced, in attempting to reach around the catcher and touch home plate, to contort their bodies in such a way that they are now the ones most at risk of injury — to their fingers, hands, elbows, knees, hips and legs.
And then there’s perhaps MAS’ biggest peeve of all: the total disregard in MLB for the rule book strike.
You know, the one that says: any pitch over the plate between the letters and knees is a strike.
Pitifully, it’s ignored by virtually every MLB ump. Most of the men-in-blue feel they’re above the letter of the law and proceed to treat us daily to their individual “interpretation” of a strike.
In other words, a pitch a foot off the plate?
Or one shin high?
Over the heart of the plate?
Poor Sandy Alderson. He must feel like Don Quixote.
A few years back, as the commish’s right hand man, Alderson sought to implement QuesTec, a camera/computer thingy behind home plate designed to track pitches and hopefully make umps follow the rule book by pointing out their missed calls.
Shortly thereafter, Alderson was mysteriously shuffling off to the New York Mets front office.
The umpires union had squashed Alderson’s Quixotic attempt to do the right thing like, well, Rose squashed Fosse.
End result: A continuation of the decades-old bickering between hitters and umps over Greg Maddux-type pitches eight inches off the plate being called strikes by the likes of Eric Gregg.
And pitchers griping about offerings right down Broadway being balls.
When the Utley-Tejada brouhaha blows over, MAS fears base slide rule enforcement will suffer the same fate as macho home plate plays and the by-the-book strike.
Will the MLB behavior police continue to strictly apply said sliding rule after seeing Ruben Tejada use a cane to walk out for on-field intros when the Mets-Dodgers series shifted to New York?
Or revert to simply admiring their gorgeous display window setup?
Contact Man About Sports at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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