Every sport consists of two sides fighting for one thing. Every team. Every player. Every manager. Every single human being involved in a silly game are all instinctively gunning for a win. A win isn't always the outcome after nine rough and painful innings are played. A win doesn't always mean playing four quarters, two halfs, or ninety minutes. Two sides battle for a win during every play, every moment in every game.
Yesterday's event at Yankee Stadium was really no different than any other American Pastime game we've seen this year, the year before, or five years ago. Two starters, two lineups, nine innings, four umpires and you get the picture. In every event or contest there's always at least one questionable play or call that boils the blood of one side and at times can result in never ending controversy. Yesterday's event was a little bit less extreme than that, but still something that people in the baseball world and especially the Twin Cities wont forget.
In the bottom of the 7th inning with one out and Nick Swisher on first base in a game where the Yankees led the Twins 4-3. Mark Teixeira hit a ground ball to Danny Valencia who quickly chucked the ball to Tsuyoshi Nishioka at second. As most baseball fans probably saw, Swisher, withhis right hand in line with second base made a very unique and suspicious slide taking out Nishioka as the second baseman threw the ball to Justin Morneau. Nishioka didn't get the double play, but he had more important things to worry about as he was in severe pain following the throw as Swisher took out his legs which raised many ongoing questions as to whether or not the slide was intentional -- Who knows if it was or wasn't, but there are several ways we can dissect this to figure out what we need to.
First and foremost, here's the play:
There are really several ways to look at this. Whatever way you look at it, the same questions will be frequently asked; Was it dirty? Is what Swisher did allowed? If it was Nishioka sliding in to Jeter would national and local media still be preaching a fair slide? Who knows. But lets go step by step.
According to the Official Rulebook:
A player who slides may be called out if he slides more than 3 feet outside of the baseline in an attempt to obstruct or make contact with a defender who is making a play. This instance can occur when a team is trying to execute a double play and the runner purposefully tries to take out the defender before he can make the throw to the next base. Depending on the amount and type of contact, a player may be ejected from the game by the umpire if the slide is deemed malicious.
If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes witha batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his
teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.
That's unfortunately not the case as Swisher clearly had his right hand on second as he took out Nishioka. However, it was a dirty play. With that said, it was completely legal. The Twins weren't exactly fighting for Swisher to be declared "out" as Nishioka was the priority but many were urked by the fact that those who saw the play and are well respected in the business called it a non-dirty play. Before Swisher's hand touched second base, his left leg was hyper-extended while his right leg was curled up. His left leg was used to purposely tackle Nishioka whether he meant harm or not. Of course, there's no way to determine whether Swisher truly meant it, but in a one-run game Swisher was almost horizontal to the bag and his legs were 5+ feet to the left of the bag. It is allowed though. MLB's rule states that a runner cannot be more than six feet to either side of the bag which Swisher clearly didn't break. Sure it looked dirty, and it was, but there are no rules for taking out a catcher at home which could easily cause a similar outcome.
Alas, the point is not that any rule should have come to effect. The point isn't that Swisher should have been called out. No one is asking for a rule to be changed. The point is that it was simply a dirty play that shouldn't have happened and there was nothing that should have triggered it.
Another thing to look at is the fact that reporters, fans, and media were so blunt in making it clear that Swisher did nothing wrong. Point being, hypothetically, if the Twins were at the plate and Nishioka, the baserunner on first, took out Derek Jeter at second base breaking his leg would the the same people calling Swisher's slide fair say the same about Nishioka's? Probably not. Also, let's just say the Yankees baserunner at the time of the slide was not Swisher but Gustavo Molina of all people -- Would fans be as quick to have Molina's back? Who knows, but it's something to think about.
It's important to put this all in to perspective though. You never want to see a new rule implemented to have this type of baserunning action avoided. The competitive nature and balance in baseball is what makes it so much fun to watch sometimes. This from a an unnamed source:
I think the game would be over-legislated. it didn't appear to be malicious and its in the best interest of the game to encourage players to be aggressive. if we punish swisher players will stop going into second hard a practice "defensive" base running
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.
These types of incidents are part of the game. The worst part is the outcome which resulted in a broken tibula of Nishioka just a day before he would meet his parents at Target Field before getting on the field and showing mom and dad what it's like to be an American ballplayer. Sure, if the aftermath wasn't so brutal it would look much better on Swisher's resume. But all in all, it was a clean slide and it's part of the game. As a baseball fan and student of the game you just hope sliding like that doesn't set a precedent of any sort or continue to occur. Meanwhile, Nishioka's leg is still broken and we hope for the best. Get well soon.