About That Dexter Fowler Slide

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About That Dexter Fowler Slide

Chicago Cubs

The 7th inning last night, the Cardinals were clinging to a one-run lead when a groundball to second base looked like it had an outside chance at being a double play for the Cubs. Dexter Fowler, now a Cardinal, was the runner at first base, and he slid into Addison Russell to break up that unlikely double play chance.

Fowler’s leg went wider than you’d like to see – Russell is fantastic at getting very far clear of the bag to protect himself on those turns – but it was the kind of slide that, a couple years ago would have led to some grumbling among Cubs fans (“Is that one of the first things they teach new Cardinals?”) and little more.

But a rule change last year, designed to protect infielders, altered the definition of a good, clean slide, and an illegal one:

When sliding into a base in an attempt to break up a double play, a runner has to make a “bona fide slide.” Such is defined as the runner making contact with the ground before reaching the base, being able to reach the base with a hand or foot, being able to remain on the base at the completion of the slide (except at home plate) and not changing his path for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder. The slide rule prohibits runners from using a “roll block” or attempting to initiate contact with the fielder by elevating and kicking his leg above the fielder’s knee, throwing his arm or his upper body or grabbing the fielder. When a violation of the slide rule occurs, the offending runner and the batter-runner will be called out.

Here are some visuals from the slide last night:

Applying the letter of the rule, it appears Fowler was arguably guilty of an illegal slide in a couple ways: (1) he appeared to alter his path to the base so that he could still contact Russell while also reaching the base (he did not kick his leg up above the knee, and he could reach the base – but it’s the altered path that is the issue), and (2) he slide late enough that he could not remain in contact with the base (and didn’t even really try) after the slide.

Would it have been ticky-tack to apply the rule and call Fowler and the batter out on that one? Maybe. It wasn’t an egregiously awful slide, and I don’t think Fowler was being anything other than an instinctive ballplayer. But if that’s not a violation of the rule, then why does the rule even exist?

The Cubs did not challenge Fowler’s slide, but the play was actually reviewed by Mike Matheny’s request (wanting to know if Russell left the base early to receive the throw). It seems like, on that review, the illegal slide should have been observed and called, though maybe that requires the Cubs to use their own challenge (yet another rare situation I’ll have to bone up on).

As I said, there’s a big gap between a now “illegal” slide and a “dirty” slide. This was not a “dirty” slide. It was, however, under the current rules, an illegal one.

This is all academic, as the Cubs ultimately got out of the inning unscathed, but I thought it a useful discussion given not only the players involved, but also the relative newness of the rule.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.