Was Matt Holliday's slide into Marco Scutaro in the first inning of Game 2 of the NLCS a dirty play?
While Holliday's intent was almost assuredly not to injure Scutaro, the fact is that Scutaro did have to eventually leave the game because of the collision. Scutaro's status is in question for Game 3 as he deals with a hip strain and sore knee suffered from the collision.
Still, even though Holliday slid late and hurt Scutaro, he doesn't come across as a dirty player, and the Giants players and coaches didn't think it was a dirty play.
So, the question of whether it was a dirty play really comes down to your judgment on Holliday's intent. Based on everything I've read, it seems that Holliday accidentally slid late; therefore, it wasn't a dirty play. If he had sharpened his spikes before the game a la Ty Cobb and spiked Scutaro, that would be dirty, but that's not what happened.
However, the better question might be if that was a legal play. Giants manager Bruce Bochy was adamant that the slide was illegal.
There's reason to think Bochy's assessment is correct. The rulebook states, "In sliding to a base, the runner should be able to reach the base with his hand or foot."
By the time Holliday finished his slide, his arms were taking out Scutaro's legs, and thus he was not in a position to touch the base with his hand or foot, in my judgment.
The rulebook goes on, "A runner who, in the judgment of the umpire, contacts or attempts to make contact with a fielder with a slide or roll block that is not a bona fide effort to reach and stay on the base may be called out for interference and, when appropriate, a double play may be called."
Holliday's slide may have been an attempt to hit the base and stay on it, but it failed miserably, as he started the slide at the base and by the time he was finished he was not in position to be able to stay on the base.
Thus, had the umpire judged the play as I did, calling an automatic double play for an illegal slide would have been quite reasonable. Alas, the umpire did not make that judgment, and his judgment ultimately was the final verdict on the legality of the play.
In my mind, it was an illegal slide, but the umpire judged that Holliday could have still contacted the base with his hand or foot even while his body was annihilating Scutaro and appeared to be nowhere near the base.
So, the play was ultimately legal because the umpire deemed it so. It was also a clean play in that Holliday doesn't seem like a malicious player and no one on the Giants has called it a dirty play (to my knowledge). He should have slid sooner, and he admitted as much.
It's a shame that Scutaro was injured on the play, and it will be a bigger shame if he misses any more time or can't play as effectively going forward.
Personally, I do think the play should have been ruled illegal, and I also think Major League Baseball needs to do more to protect players from these types of collisions around second base and home plate.
Dave Cameron of FanGraphs suggested today that MLB should institute a rule in which base runners are ejected for making contact with fielders the way that Holliday did in Game 2. This type of rule would go a long way to preventing the type of collisions that injured Scutaro last night and catchers like Buster Posey and Carlos Santana in brutal home plate collisions in recent seasons.
The players are the commodity. They are the reason fans go to games, and doing everything to keep them healthy should be of vital importance.
If Posey's career had ended in that brutal home plate collision last year with Scott Cousins, we all would have been deprived of watching one of the greatest offensive catchers to ever come along. Is losing someone so valuable worth it because home plate collisions have always been a part of the game?
In my mind, that makes about as much sense as preventing minorities from playing because that's the way it used to be.