I’ll admit that the neighborhood play/rule at second base has gotten a bit out of hand. With replay now fully integrated into baseball, we’ve been able to zero in on exactly how far off the bag second baseman and shortstops typically are in the exchange. Franky, it doesn’t look good when they are nowhere near where they’re supposed to be, and they clearly aren’t actually recording an out.
Still, at the root of the rule, there’s an effort to protect players from a potentially dangerous interaction. The game has changed a lot over the years in that regard, especially at the plate. At one point, blocking home plate with your entire body was deliberately taught to catchers and barreling through them with all your might was expected as baserunners.
While that may have been exciting, it often led to situations like this …
It’s difficult for me to carefully express how much I actually disapprove of Pete Rose’s decision in that particular moment. Before I break down why I believe what he did was inherently wrong and dangerous, let’s take a quick step back and acknowledge the moment. Take another watch of the video and figure out what game this is.
Did you catch it?
It’s an All-Star Game. The single least important game played throughout the regular season. At the time, it wasn’t even determining home field advantage at the World Series. It was literally an exhibition game – a game that was supposed to be fun – and Pete Rose left Ray Fosse with a fractured and separated shoulder. Is that really something we should celebrate under the guise of gamesmanship, intensity and “winning effort?”
And on the slide, you can let Rose speak for himself, “I did start to slide, but he left me no recourse, because there was no place to slide. There’s no sense to slide into a bag if you can’t get the bag.”
To my eye, Rose did not start to slide in that play, and frankly, I don’t think it ever crossed his mind.
But don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an indictment on Rose himself. He was doing what was done a million times; it’s the nature of the league and the era. Heck, in this video alone, the “slide” is characterized as one of the “best moments in All-Star Game history.” But given the situation, the result, the lack of empathy and attempt to avoid a collision, I can’t understand how this is even slightly condoned or praised behavior.
I’m not saying the current rules in baseball are perfect, they’re far from it, but until we trend away from praising dangerous, reckless behavior, players will keep doing it, coaches will keep teaching it and fans will keep expecting it.