A tough moment early in today’s game when Chris Coghlan went in hard at second base after an Anthony Rizzo grounder, trying to break up a double play. Kang was wide of the bag, but slightly forward, and was firmly planted when Coghlan impacted him, resulting in a knee injury:
Coghlan reportedly sent well-wishes to Kang at the hospital thereafter, and Kang’s agent released a statement:
Statement from agent Alan Nero on behalf of Jung Ho Kang. pic.twitter.com/BDr4Vx0U6p
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) September 17, 2015
The Pirates for now are saying only that Kang has a knee injury, and he’s getting further tests done.
Let’s be clear on some things up front: Kang’s positioning, which allowed him to get enough pace on the ball and get it quickly enough to first to turn two, played a part in the injury, but no one should be blaming him for getting hurt. Similarly, what Coghlan did was a completely legal, historically-accepted thing. He went in hard, within reaching distance of the bag, and tried to take out the defender. It’s been happening since time immemorial, and it’s something of an unfortunate coincidence that an injury like this has happened before involving Coghlan.
I think the question we have to ask, though, is whether we want that to be a completely legal, historically-accepted play. If we did away with the neighborhood rule – i.e., as long as the defender is in the neighborhood of the base and turning two, he can still record the out even if he isn’t technically on the base when he receives the ball – by making those plays reviewable, but also made it illegal to target a defender with a hard slide unless he’s actually blocking the base, then defenders will be better protected, and calls will be more accurate. Win-win.
The obvious flaw in this plan is the subjectivity in whether a defender is blocking a base and/or whether he was inappropriately targeted by the runner. As we’ve seen with the plate-blocking rule, this can be a problem.
Am I missing an obvious solution? Or should there be no “solution,” and things should just continue the way they have been? Injuries will always happen, after all, and maybe this is part of the acceptable risk. For my part, I just don’t love that plowing a player is part of good baseball strategy. I think we could try and figure out a rule or two that makes this a little better.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, the news for Kang is terrible, as he’s reportedly suffered a torn MCL and a broken tibia, and his season is over. It’s a really tough blow for the Pirates at this stage in the year, as the versatile and powerful Kang had been a huge part of their success. For Kang, it’s an awful way to end a fantastic debut season. You hate to see injuries like this to anyone in the game, and hopefully Kang will recover fully.
The implications here are obviously relatively significant, as Kang’s absence will undoubtedly impact the Pirates over the rest of the season and the playoffs.