Saturday, April 5, 2014
Postgame notes: (Too) safe at home
By Wallace Matthews
TORONTO -- Joe Girardi seemed to think the play on which Francisco Cervelli was called out at the plate in the third inning was a significant one in the Yankees' 4-0 loss to the Blue Jays.
In fact, it was significant for another, more important reason: It illustrated the folly of baseball's attempt to legislate safety into what is an inherently dangerous part of the game.
Francisco Cervelli was called out at home plate Saturday -- which drew an argument from Joe Girardi and confusion from the catchers.
To recap: Cervelli, who had doubled, was trying to score on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury. Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus fired a one-hop bullet to Josh Thole, who fielded the throw and slapped the tag on Cervelli as he slid home. Plate umpire Dana DeMuth, who is also the crew chief, called him out.
Girardi came out to argue but needed no challenge because, under the new rules intended to minimize or eliminate home-plate collisions, the umpires automatically went in to watch a replay. After a brief delay, the call was upheld and the Yankees' first -- and it turned out, only -- scoring chance of the day had ended in an out.
Afterward, Girardi argued Thole had illegally blocked the plate, denying Cervelli a lane to home plate before he had possession of the ball. (A bigger issue was that replays showed Cervelli might actually have been safe, but that was apparently not addressed either by the manager or the umpires.) The umps ruled that Thole did nothing wrong.
OK. The problem is, however, no one involved in the play could effectively explain what the rule actually says or requires, and both Thole and Cervelli agreed that the rule, as written, is virtually impossible to follow in the heat of a game.
"Everything happens too fast," Cervelli said. "It's hard to know what to do."
"I don't even understand the rule, to be honest with you," Thole said. "I wasn't even aware that I gave him a lane to slide. I was just trying to catch the ball. It's really confusing."
Even Girardi, a former catcher, admitted the rule might be impractical to enforce.
"I think it's going to be extremely difficult," he said. "You're asking guys to change their instincts and what's normal for us [catchers]. That's why I think this play, of all the replays, this play you're going to have more controversy of any of them."
Expecting catchers, who have been trained since boyhood to block home plate, to not only look for a throw, watch the runner and rifle through the rulebook in their heads before setting their feet is a recipe for disaster. So is expecting baserunners barreling down the third-base line trying to score to alter their approach to the plate at the last second.
It's the ultimate "nanny state" mentality that will cause controversy rather than defuse it and could wind up causing injury rather than preventing it. If something can be well intended and at the same time ill conceived, this rule fits both descriptions.
"All I know is, it's a rule, and we got to follow it," Cervelli said.
Tough to do when you can't even explain what the rule is.
Not sorry:Alfonso Soriano, who has started this season 0-for-16 and had a crushing strikeout on a pitch that bounced in front of him with two runners on and the Jays clinging to a 1-0 lead in the eighth, says he thinks his at-bats have been pretty good so far.
"I had a couple of good contacts," he said. "Once I get my first hit, I'll be OK. I know who I am. The last couple years I started slow, but this has only been four games. It's not like I have to rush. I got plenty of time to recover. It's nothing to worry about. I feel more comfortable at home plate every day."
All true, but it might be a good idea to get a hit or two tomorrow before the Yankees return home Monday.
Not again! With their infield already hobbled by the injuries to Mark Teixeira and Brendan Ryan, the Yankees got another scare when Yangervis Solarte -- who had two more hits to maintain his early season average at .538 -- got nailed inside the right knee with a pitch from Aaron Loup in the seventh. At first, Solarte appeared to be hurt, but he jogged it off and stayed in the game. Girardi said he is "fine" but cautioned, "Let's see how he is tomorrow."