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Raze the neighborhood; take out the takeout

Oct 19, 2009, 3:46 AM EDT

Baseball was never meant to be a game of contact.
Sure, we all know how Ty Cobb went into second base spikes high, but we wouldn’t tolerate those attempts to injure players today. So why do we allow the forearm shiver or the barrel roll?
Those ridiculous slides into second base are the reason we have the neighborhood play, a big topic of controversy since Erick Aybar wasn’t given credit for straddling the bag on what would have been a double play Saturday night. It was obvious the umpire got the call right in saying Aybar never touched the base. The problem is that Aybar would have gotten that out call 95 percent of the time. Inconsistency is the major issue, of course, and Jerry Layne picked a big moment to start enforcing the rules.
So, will we see any changes in the future because of Saturday’s events? It’s safe to assume the majority of major league umps saw that call last night and might be more prone to making it in the future. It’ll certainly take several more instances of seeing it happen for infielders to start changing the way they position themselves at the bag. Odds are that it will be mostly business as usual, and that’s too bad, because MLB could use a change.
The neighborhood play exists because it’s dangerous standing on top of a base when a runner is set to do everything possible to prevent a relay throw. Far too dangerous. Middle infielders need protection, especially second basemen, who can’t see the runner coming from first. That double play turn is, in my opinion, the biggest reason why second basemen tend to have short careers.
So, it’s either keep the neighborhood play or rein in the baserunners. I prefer the latter option. Baseball was not a sport designed for collisions. Accidents will happen, but MLB can further discourage contact if it wishes. First, enforce the rule that says runners are called out if they don’t slide towards the bag. Most runners these days won’t even reach out towards the bag to even give the impression that they’re trying to touch second base when their legs are five feet off to the right. Call it.
Furthermore, the intentional overslide of the bag, an even more dangerous play, has to stop. Melky Cabrera performed just a modest overslide on Aybar, yet the shortstop still ended up taking a forearm to the thigh and a helmet to the groin. We see far worse every day, and there’s just no reason for it.
If a player intentionally overslides the bag, he should be called out. If he pulls off the Orlando Cabrera “slide into the bag, pop up and try to forearm the shortstop in the face” maneuver, he should be ejected.
Force the shortstop and second baseman to touch the bag, but make it safe for them to do so. It should be easy enough to pull off.

  1. RM - Oct 19, 2009 at 8:06 AM

    My understanding of the “neighborhood” play is that the fielder at least touches the bag at some time, even if he doesn’t have time it perfectly with receiving the ball. Aybar never even touched the bag. That seems to trump the “out” call.

  2. sl - Oct 19, 2009 at 8:23 AM

    Joe Buck showed a lot of nerve saying the runner should have been called out when Aybar clearly didn’t touch the bag. Are you kidding me? They show replay after replay of every close call at first and then make a comment like that? The “neighborhood play” is when a middle infielder drags their foot over the bag during the double play, not blatantly stradling it so they can make a stronger throw. If you don’t touch the bag with possession of the baseball during a force play, the runner is safe.

  3. Dave - Oct 19, 2009 at 9:51 AM

    I think Buck was saying he should have been safe from a percieved notion that the ump was calling outs earlier in the game when in the “neighborhood”…however he rightly backpedaled when he stated that the replays showed that Aybar had touched the bag in all the other double play’s.

  4. Omega - Oct 19, 2009 at 11:07 AM

    First and foremost, Joe Buck has no business being anywhere near a baseball game with a mic in his hand.
    That being said, the Ump was right, Aybar was wrong.

  5. muld0023 - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:47 PM

    couldn’t agree more. Joe Buck is a travesty to MLB and the NFL. He should be banned from broadcasting for his years of ineptitude.
    And, the ump was right.

  6. Yan - Oct 20, 2009 at 9:02 AM

    The neighborhood play is not in the rules, therefore it shouldn’t be enforced. When doing for a double play, the middle infielder has a choice to make – touch the base and go for the sure out, or risk getting hit.
    It’s up to the infielder what choice to make. After a few months of a season, it will be clear which are the good middle infielders and which ones will turn into Chuck Knoblach.
    There is no neighborhood play at third base. There is no neighborhood play at first or home either. That being said… if the base runner strays outside the line, CALL IT. That is why there is a rule book.
    These guys make millions of dollars per year, they can take a chance getting hit.

  7. Andrew - Oct 20, 2009 at 7:10 PM

    Jeter and Cano make millions a year (27 Mil + combined). Howie and Aybar combined won’t make 1 million combined this year.
    Aybar should have touched the bag. The ump got the call right. Yankees multimillion dollar spikes don’t give them the right to slide as out of the way or hard as we have seen in the past.
    You see how outraged people were the Aybar didn’t get the call. Can you imagine how hard ESPN and MLB east coast biased people would come down if Jeter got called out taking out someone at second. It’ll never happen.

  8. Mike - Nov 2, 2009 at 5:59 PM

    When did the neighborhood play originate?

  9. sweaty armpits - Feb 8, 2010 at 4:44 PM

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