There might be some fireworks the next time the San Diego Padres take on the Chicago Cubs, and it won’t be due to home runs. Controversy erupted Monday after Anthony Rizzo injured catcher Austin Hedges during a home plate collision.
The incident went down in the bottom of the sixth inning. With Rizzo standing on third with one out, Kris Bryant hit a line drive right to centerfielder Matt Szczur. Szczur caught the ball in shallow center, and fired it home when Rizzo broke for the plate.
Szczur’s throw was on line, beating Rizzo to the plate by a couple steps. Instead of sliding to avoid the tag or just running into the out, Rizzo collided with Hedges at home. Hedges held onto the ball, securing the final out of the inning. He was slow to get up after the play. When the Padres took the field in the bottom of the seventh, Hedges was removed from the game.
The Cubs overcame the play the following inning, scoring two runs and winning the game 3-2.
After the contest, Padres manager Andy Green was not happy about Rizzo’s aggressive play. He called it “an egregious violation of the rule,” and a “cheap shot,” during his postgame interview.
Andy Green says Anthony Rizzo’s slide was a ‘cheap shot’ pic.twitter.com/H1IEcqLRF4
— FOX Sports San Diego (@FOXSportsSD) June 20, 2017
Green said Hedges was sore, and wasn’t sure how long he would be out after the collision.
Rizzo was also asked about the situation, saying it was “just one of those plays.” He added that he hoped Hedges was OK.
Anthony Rizzo discusses his performance and the collision at the plate from the 3-2 win over the Padres.
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) June 20, 2017
Szczur, who played with Rizzo in the majors and minors, said he didn’t believe the first baseman was trying to intentionally injure Hedges.
Matt Szczur: “I played with Rizz for six years, and he’s not the type of player that’s going to go out intentionally to hurt somebody.”
— Dennis Lin (@sdutdennislin) June 20, 2017
No one believes that was the intent. Even Green made it clear he wasn’t calling Rizzo a “dirty player” during his postgame remarks. Green simply believes Rizzo violated the home plate collision rule.
That rule was put in place in 2014. It is sometimes known as the Buster Posey Rule, as it was instituted a few years after the San Francisco Giants catcher tore three ligaments in his ankle after a collision at home plate.
The effectiveness of the rule is up for debate. While big-time collisions have been reduced at the plate, there is often confusion over how the rule is interpreted. On some plays, catchers are penalized for blocking the plate and not giving the runner a lane. On others, runners are ruled out for making contact with the catcher when a lane is available. In cases where there is a collision, it’s up to the umpire to determine whether the contact is “egregious.” Yes, the official rule uses exactly the same term Green used during his postgame interview.
There’s no easy solution here. With snap plays, it’s easy to argue either side. Many Cubs fans are saying Rizzo didn’t have time to react, or are pointing out that collisions were never fully outlawed. Padres fans believe Rizzo had time to get out of the way, or should have given himself up. They are also upset because their catcher got hurt, and you can’t really blame them for that. No one wants to see players get hurt.
It’s unclear what will happen next. At least one beat writer believes Green would like Major League Baseball to look into a possible suspension for Rizzo.
If the league is going to act, it will have to do so quickly. The Padres and Cubs play again Tuesday, and baseball teams have a habit of taking matters into their own hands when the league fails to act.
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