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All kinds of ugly: Miguel Cabrera getting thrown out at home last night

Oct 13, 2011, 5:59 AM EDT

Detroit Tigers baserunner Cabrera is out at home plate as Texas Rangers catcher Napoli makes the tag in the eighth inning in Game 4 in their MLB American League Championship Series baseball playoffs in Detroit

Can we just pretend the bottom of the eighth inning in last night’s Tigers-Rangers game didn’t happen?

For those of you who missed it, with one out, Miguel Cabrera came up to bat.  For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, Ron Washington had, to that point, been pitching to Cabrera with men on base, getting burned for it on a couple of occasions.  With no one on base, however, Washington figured it was time to intentionally walk the guy. Um, OK. You don’t see that very often — someone tweeted last night that it was only the 10th time in playoff history that a guy was given a free pass with no one on base — but I can understand Washington’s thought process.

Next up was Victor Martinez, and he immediately made Washington’s move look bad, singling to right. Cabrera made it to third base as fast as his big legs could carry him. Which is to say not very fast, but he got there, finishing off his run with a slide that made me cringe a little.  Let’s call it foreshadowing.

Then comes Delmon Young who, because of a combination of (a) his oblique injury; and (b) being Delmon Young, had looked awful at the plate thus far. Mike Adams, however, gave him two pitches in the strike zone for some reason, the first one he fouled off and the second one he lofted to mid-right field where Nelson Cruz caught it and — because Cabrera was tagging up — prepared to throw.  Now would be a good time to put on some mood music.

Does any one know where the love of God goes, when the waves turn the minutes to hours? The searches all say he’d have been safe on the play if they’d he’d put fifteen more feet behind him…

OK, enough of that. And I don’t know that fifteen feet would have helped.  I’ll grant that, yes, it was a great throw by Nelson Cruz that nailed Cabrera and given Mike Napoli‘s failure to hold on to a ball while getting barreled over by someone as tiny as Sean Rodriguez in the ALDS, there was a decent shot he’d lost it when hit by the Mack truck that is Miguel Cabrera.

But it’s a fact that Cabrera’s “running” on the play has been classified as a crime against humanity by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Fox executives have been arrested for showing it in slow motion the next inning, which only compounded the crime. It’s something that will haunt me for the rest of my days.

Perhaps I’ve overstated things. I suppose I’ve seen worse gambles than Gene Lamont’s gamble of sending Cabrera — a man who apparently considers salads and road work to be his mortal enemy — against one of the best right field arms in the game.  I just can’t remember one in such a critical situation that ended up looking as bad as that one and looming as large.

  1. meyerwolf - Oct 13, 2011 at 6:21 AM

    Sure, Craig, the decision was all kinds of horrible. But it was worth it, if only for the look on Cabrera’s face as he was barreling down on Napoli: a smile, sadistic, self-mocking, I do not know, but what a face.

  2. meyerwolf - Oct 13, 2011 at 6:30 AM

    http://tinypic.com/r/21ax1r6/7

    Epic.

    • aceshigh11 - Oct 13, 2011 at 9:38 AM

      Ha, he looks a little like a jolly Mr. Stay-Puft in that shot.

  3. bobdira - Oct 13, 2011 at 6:38 AM

    Cabrera looked like a fully loaded dump truck trying to get out of first gear. Unfortunately it was only later that we learned there is only one gear on that tranny.

    He was the epitome of the statement made years ago by John Kruk……I’m not an athlete, Mamm, I’m a dump truck.

  4. philliesblow - Oct 13, 2011 at 8:14 AM

    You had to send Cabrera on that play becasue Alex Avila was on deck waiting to strike out or ground out anyway, leaving Cabrera stranded on 3rd. The real mistake, as Craig pointed out, was Adams actually putting a ball anywhere within reach of Doughy Delmon, who was just dying to swing at sliders 3 feet outside the strike zone.

  5. deep64blue - Oct 13, 2011 at 8:25 AM

    Interesting thought from Joe Sheehan – should they have sent a pinch runner in for Cabrera? Would have been one hell of a gutsy call but might have won them the game.

    • roycethebaseballhack - Oct 13, 2011 at 10:00 AM

      It is an interesting thought. The Rangers Radio team discussed the same thing, but Leyland had limited options off the bench at that point. Otherwise, he would have pinch run for him after the walk. It was clearly a gamble, but that inning was nothing but both Wash and Leyland taking calculated gambles. Worked out great for my Rangers, and it was glorious baseball.

      • Detroit Michael - Oct 13, 2011 at 10:22 AM

        I can understand if Leyland didn’t think he should pull Cabrera for a pinchrunner. I wouldn’t have done it when he was on first base.

        However, he had plenty of options. He could put in Andy Dirks and move Don Kelly to first base. He could put in Danny Worth, shifting Santiago to SS and Peralta to 1B. Leyland used only 10 position players in the game, so he wasn’t running short of options at all.

  6. Jonny 5 - Oct 13, 2011 at 8:38 AM

    When I see a guy take out the catcher like that without even trying to touch the base I wish I was in charge of the MLB. I’d fine him. You must touch the base while smashing the guy or you committed a no-no in my book. Yeah, it was ugly, real ugly. He came in standing and aimed directly for face and glove with no thought of touching the base. Something is wrong with that imo and not attempting to tag home plate while running a man down should be penalized.

    Now that that’s off my chest. He had a look like someone put a fine piece of warm pie in front of him as he was running. That’s the only time I ever saw that look… Ref. meyerwolf – Oct 13, 2011 at 6:30 AM

    http://tinypic.com/r/21ax1r6/7

    • purnellmeagrejr - Oct 13, 2011 at 8:52 AM

      if that dude with all the protective gear on him wasn’t there he would have tagged home plate.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 13, 2011 at 9:31 AM

        He had the ball, dude was out, by a long shot. You slide hard for the plate, that’s the right play there. I’d actually like to base my p.o.v on the fact that possession of the ball was already established, (so if baseball were a little more perfect) any tag made even if it knocks the ball loose is still an out as long as possession was clearly established by the catcher before the collision. That’s how I see it. That’s how I’d like to see things handled.

      • phillyphreak - Oct 13, 2011 at 9:43 AM

        What about when a runner dislodges a ball from an infielders glove at 2nd or 3rd?

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 13, 2011 at 10:57 AM

        First of all it’s always a sliding play, unlike at home plate.You have to be within an arms length from the plate and be reaching for the plate. If you do this than dislodging the ball is fine. A “hard slide” if you will. If the ball comes out during the exchange (after the tag) it’s still an out. The same should apply at home plate.

        Look at it this way. If the player going to steal second didn’t slide in hard and instead came in standing just knocking the second baseman on his ass, would that be allowed? I’d say the ump would have to call interference on the play. The same should apply at home plate.

      • phillyphreak - Oct 13, 2011 at 11:17 AM

        There are plays every day where a runner slides INTO the 2B or SS trying to break up the double play. Sometimes the infielder jumps over or sidesteps but sometimes they get taken out (potential injury from the knee down). If you want to say that the runner shouldn’t be able to run over the catcher, then the runner shouldn’t be able to take out the infielder at 2nd (or 3rd I guess too). And to me, that’s just an overreaction.

        The other thing is that the infielders aren’t usually blocking the base directly (aside from glove or foot) and runners still try to take them out. Catchers, especially as in last night’s play, stand in the base path in many cases.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 13, 2011 at 11:28 AM

        Sliding at foot level is nowhere near diving into another player shoulder or forearm first. Read what I said. I would have had no problem if Cabrera did a hard slide. I actually said that would be the right play imo. A hard slide and basic football blocking/tackling to dislodge the ball are two different things altogether.

    • bobdira - Oct 13, 2011 at 8:59 AM

      When the catcher takes a position completely blocking the plate the runner has every right to create a collision and try to score before during or after any collision. It can’t be one way or the other with a rule like this it has to be one on one evenly.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 13, 2011 at 9:33 AM

        If he jumped over the plate without touching it, he wasn’t trying to score. He was trying to bowl over the catcher.

      • cktai - Oct 13, 2011 at 9:33 AM

        The catcher had the ball, so he could have easily tagged the runner out, which you want to do before someone reaches the base, so naturally you stand a few steps in front of the base. That does not automatically mean you are “blocking the plate”. It is a stupid rule that you are allowed to try and injure the catcher in such a way that he will release the ball, and are rewarded if you succeed in doing so.

        You don’t see baserunners trying to steamroll the second baseman on a stolen base attempt and you don’t see baserunners trying to steamroll their way out of a run-down.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 13, 2011 at 9:46 AM

        cktai, exactly…..

        It’s “ump permitted” interference with the play (only allowed at home plate), when there is no rule permitting it. Although there is a rule against interference. I see this as enforcing standing rules properly, no changes to the rules need to be made imo.

      • phillyphreak - Oct 13, 2011 at 10:20 AM

        But you do see runners go into second base hard to break up double plays, sometimes really wide of the bag to do so. It’s the same concept.

        Napoli was clearly in front of the plate and no slide, no matter how hard, would have scored Cabrera. The only way is to dislodge the ball. Also, isn’t there a possibility that a slide could also injure the catcher?

      • jwbiii - Oct 13, 2011 at 10:22 AM

        “When the catcher takes a position blocking the plate the runner has every right to”
        give him a face full of spikes.

      • phillyphreak - Oct 13, 2011 at 11:20 AM

        But he didn’t jump over the plate. He was obviously trying to score and in the collision his foot went over the base. It’s not like if he would have dislodged the ball from Napoli that he would have just walked back to the dugout without touching the plate and flashed some awesome “you just got trucked” sign.

    • phillyphreak - Oct 13, 2011 at 11:47 AM

      1) I think sliding into someone’s legs also creates a possibility of injury. Just because the runner doesn’t lead with his shoulder, it does not mean it’s safer. I’m not sure if safety is one thing you’re concerned with, but I don’t really see a reason to complain about this other than injury prevention.

      2) Your premise in the initial post was that Cabrera had no intention of touching home plate. I disagree, because in order to score a run one needs to touch home plate. If he has to dislodge the ball first then so be it. The real question is why is it on the runner to avoid the collision and not the catcher? Can’t the catcher move over and just swipe tag?

      3) If you want to create a “possession” rule at home, then you have to apply it at every base. So no more rundowns, no need to tag the runner on a non-force play etc. The rules you make shouldn’t only apply to one base. Or catchers can’t be allowed to completely block the base path anymore.

      4) And FWIW, players that slide hard into home also sometimes miss the base (a few plays like this by Victorino come to mind) and have to go back to touch it. So missing the base can’t be used as evidence for intent to harm.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 13, 2011 at 12:01 PM

        1)A hard slide is much safer than being a human missile hitting people high. It also still involves trying to tag the base before being tagged out. Not creaming the defender just to knock the ball loose after being tagged out.
        2) His only obvious intention was to knock the catcher and therefore the ball loose.
        3) Home plate is the only plate where this rundown is allowed, so your application of the rules to every base is also irrelevant
        4) the difference was Victorino slid hard, he didn’t tackle the catcher. Two different things. I am against one, not the other.

        I can accept if you don’t agree with me at this point. I’m not here to argue. I have my opinion on this and it isn’t going to change no matter how many times you repeat the same points to me. I don’t agree with them.

      • phillyphreak - Oct 13, 2011 at 12:11 PM

        1) A human missile implies that he launched himself into the air. Considering his 40 speed I’m not sure he got very high off the ground.

        2) Yes that was his intention. And also to step on home plate if he knocked the ball loose. But remember that it was Napoli’s intention to stand directly in the base path. So why is it all the runner’s fault?

        3) I think you’re missing the point on the other bases but whatever.

        4) Could it be that Victorino slid hard because he had a lane to slide in? He does run catchers over too. It didn’t appear to me that Cabrera had much of a sliding lane at all. And my guess is that if he would have given up and let Napoli tag him out then there would be a whole different debate today

        5) Lost in all this was Napoli’s excellent non-Buster Posey impersonation.

        But your response was fair enough. We disagree and that’s cool.

    • lukeslice - Oct 13, 2011 at 12:18 PM

      Ugh…there is contact in baseball, always has been, always will be. Miggy gets sent by the 3B coach (incorrectly, but that’s not his fault)…what is he supposed to do just stop in his tracks cuz he’s going to be out by 10 feet, or do everything in his power to try to score the run that might make the difference to his team’s entire season???

      If anything, Miggy should’ve dropped his shoulder lower to dislodge that ball instead of hitting him high which is an ineffective way of bowling a catcher over anyway. Napoli did a good job absorbing the hit by correctly staying low and blocking the plate…and he did so because he’s a catcher and he knows that occasionally is part of his job.

      In conclusion, a) go watch tennis and cry about Buster Posey to those folks who might sympathize or b) wash the sand out.

  7. 18thstreet - Oct 13, 2011 at 9:02 AM

    Fire Tim Bogar! He’s the only third base coach who ever gets runners thrown out!

    • aceshigh11 - Oct 13, 2011 at 9:44 AM

      LOL.

      Funny, but no, seriously…FIRE TIM BOGAR.

  8. djwhite2710 - Oct 13, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    Safe to assume this is the first Gordon Lightfoot reference on Hardball Talk…

    • Craig Calcaterra - Oct 13, 2011 at 9:52 AM

      Actually, that would not be safe at all.

      http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2010/06/17/so-what-happens-if-a-whole-team-dies-at-once/

  9. leylandhater - Oct 13, 2011 at 11:18 AM

    As a Tigers fan I’m waiting for Cabrera to be dominant in a playoff game. I wouldn’t be that upset if the Tigers would explore a trade for him to fill the holes at 2nd, 3rd and corner outfield. The Tigers Big 3 failed just like the auto makers in this city. Replacing Leyland should be paramount for any success in 2012. Terry Francona would be choice.

  10. Kyle - Oct 13, 2011 at 1:52 PM

    Of all the opportunities to send runners home in this ALCS, the third base coach chose that one.

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