Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Distracting the Defense

On the latest episode of "ESPN Makes An Issue Out Of Nothing," Alex Rodriguez appeared to yell something to distract the Blue Jays shortstop and third baseman, allowing a pop fly to drop between them and keep an inning alive for the Yankees, who scored three more runs in the frame.

So...where's the controversy here? Let's run down the ESPN checklist:

Superstar involved? Check.

Popular big-market team? Check.

Argument with the umps? Check.

Making a big deal about it when they don't know what actually happened? Checkmate.

A-Rod claims he just said "Hah!" I haven't heard from the Jays on what they believe he said, but the video made it clear it was just one word. Not enough time to insult the fielders' mothers, to say "I got it!" or anything like that. Clearly, if a fielder is fooled by this, he isn't paying much attention, and the fault lies entirely with him. And anyway, when did it become illegal to deke the opponents? What did the Blue Jays think they could possibly accomplish by arguing with the umps?

Personally, I like the mental aspect to the game. The hidden-ball trick is one of my favorite plays. I get a kick out of it when a player fakes like a throw went over his head, then tags out the unwitting runner. It's very rare to fool a player with a deke, but it is very satisfying to watch when it is successful, unless your team is victimized. Should these plays be made illegal?

What about picking a batter off? That's all about misdirection. Should we outlaw catching a runner leaning the wrong way or taking an early jump? In fact, why not return to the days where the batter can request a certain pitch and location? That would make things much easier on everyone.

I've watched SportsCenter almost every day this year and have seen zero coverage of Chase Utley faking getting hit by pitches, which is a clear case of cheating. Utley is a legitimate superstar who had a better year than A-Rod in 2006. He has blatantly violated the rules, but it's no big deal to the media. Meanwhile, A-Rod may or may not have done something that isn't illegal in the first place, and it's front-page news.

Apparently if someone wants Utley to be brought to national attention, he needs to go and have a loud argument with the umps, or Utley needs to be traded to New York. Until then, the airwaves will be full of coverage of who Derek Jeter is currently dating and how that affects his intangibles.

1 comment:

Eugene said...

I think the difference is that the official rules actually legislate against this :

Rule 2.00 Offensive interference is an act by the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play.

A-Rod clearly confused the fielder through his actions, therefore he should have been called out for interference.

The corresponding section for defense is far more liberal :

Obstruction is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.

I believe this definitely allows pickoffs, hidden-ball plays, and even dekes, as long as they don't physically impede the runner.