Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates

Anthony Rizzo should have been called out for his dirty slide

Monday’s game between the Cubs and Pirates was not all that interesting, but Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo offered a moment to debate on.

Over the last few years, rules have been created to minimize collisions at home plate and protect middle infielders from reckless slides to breakup double plays. The Chicago Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-0 Monday afternoon, as Anthony Rizzo went 3-for-4 for with a home run and three RBI to help that cause. But the Cubs first baseman authored a moment that will linger into Tuesday far more than the game itself.

In the top of the eighth inning, Pirates shortstop Sean Rodriguez fielded a ground ball and threw home to get the force out on Rizzo. Catcher Elias Diaz then attempted a throw to first base to complete the double play, but his throw sailed into right field, allowing two runs to score. Turns out, there as a significant reason Diaz’s throw went so far astray from its target. And it’s not just because catchers don’t necessarily throw to first base all that often.

After a replay review, Rizzo was not found in violation of the slide rule governing plays at home plate. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was ejected after arguing the ruling, and after the game he declared it must be “open season” on catchers.

Of course, Cubs manager Joe Maddon felt differently and Rizzo felt like he did nothing wrong.

It was a perfect play by Rizzo,” Maddon said. “My concern is they are teaching fans the wrong thing. The fans’ reaction to Rizz the next time he comes up indicates they think he did something wrong. … That’s how you should teach your kids to slide, to break up a double play at home plate.

“You have to go in and break the double play up,” Rizzo said. “I’m not trying to hurt anyone. Plays like that are scary, but at the same time, you have to play hard.

Maddon seems to somehow be defending the form of Rizzo’s slide, which was pretty much textbook in the sense he led with his feet. But Diaz is pretty well in front of home plate and out of the baseline, as the rule regarding catchers blocking the plate mandates, and Rizzo blatantly went out of his way to get him. If what Rizzo did does not violate the applicable rule, no slide does or ever will.

The wording of “deviating from a direct pathway” to home plate and “initiating contact” with the catcher (or whoever may be covering home plate) exactly describes and specifically indicts what Rizzo did to Diaz.

Apart from the direct violation of a fairly new rule about plays at home plate, which should have triggered the second out of a double play, Rizzo clearly violated the code between players to protect each other from potential injury when discretion allows it. If we were in a different era, Rizzo would have been wearing a pitch in his very next at-bat. But there’s still Tuesday night’s game for the Pirates to retaliate.

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