MLB Betting Etiquette: What is a Dirty Slide?
It is one of the busiest, noisiest, most dangerous places on a baseball field and for MLB betting fans. On the double play, second base becomes an intersection where big, strong, fast men slide as hard, high and late as they can, with arms, legs and cleats flying. Middle infielders, some of them blind to their pursuer, must make a skillful ball transfer from glove to hand to first base while trying to avoid, yet bracing for, contact. It is “commotion (that isn’t as violent) but must be similar to what goes on at the line of scrimmage at an NFL game,” says Oakland A’s outfielder Sam Fuld. And when the play is over, we are, at times, left to ask: Was the slide clean or dirty?
Nothing starts a baseball fight faster than what is perceived to be a dirty slide. And that’s what happened April 17-19 in Kansas City Royals when the A’s Brett Lawrie – a bulldozer, a linebacker who plays third base — took out Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar with a hard slide that, naturally, the A’s thought was clean and the Royals thought was dirty. There is a lot of gray area on this subject, and specifically on that slide, but what happened next was clear: The Royals retaliated; they hit Lawrie with a pitch, and then they threw behind him.
MLB Betting Etiquette: What is a Dirty Slide?
This weekend in Oakland, the teams will meet for the first time since that contentious series. We hope the fighting is over, but often in baseball, with the vengeful nature and long memories of the players, certain transgressions aren’t easily forgotten, and anger tends to linger.
“For me, it’s over,” said Alcides Escobar. “Let’s play baseball. Let’s play it hard. Let’s play it smart.”
And yet in today’s game, hard and smart aren’t always connected. Today’s players are bigger, faster and stronger than ever, yet most everyone in the game would agree that they don’t understand how to play the game as well as they did, say, 30 years ago. And even though the area around second base was the site of significantly more hard and malicious slides 30 years ago, at least the infielders knew that contact was coming and were prepared to get the hell out of the way. And those doing the sliding knew how to slide.
That is not the case today. That, as well as recent rule changes, instant replay and the headfirst slide, have changed the way double plays are broken up and led to confusion among the runners, the infielders and even the umpires. Ask two dozen players, managers and coaches, as we did, to describe a dirty slide, and many answers were as different as the next.
“A dirty slide is when you are trying to injure a middle infielder,” said Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy. “It’s an important part of the game. I believe you have to break up a double play, but the breaking up of a double play shouldn’t end a middle infielder’s season or career.”
“It’s a dirty play when you try to hurt someone,” said Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, who teammates and opponents say always slides hard and clean. “There’s a fine line when you’re trying to extend an inning. You have to go in there and try to disrupt a play, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. We’re all competitors here. Some guys play with a different passion than others. Some won’t take you out, others will. It’s an aggressive play, but the idea is to do it aggressively, not maliciously. You want to disrupt the play; you don’t want to disrupt a career. We are humans first, players second. We have families. But it’s like telling a tiger, ‘Here’s the blood, but don’t eat it.’ You can’t do that.”
The shifting in baseball hasn’t helped infielders around second base on the double play. On the Lawrie-Escobar play, Escobar was stationed behind second, not his regular positioning at shortstop. So when he was responsible for covering the bag on a ground ball to the third baseman, he was coming at the bag from a different angle than he would have been from shortstop.
“It’s extremely difficult to get to the bag from that angle,” Escobar said.
“But that’s why you have to practice that over and over again,” said Bowa. “You will never be able to turn the double play from that angle. You leave yourself wide open, and that’s how you get hurt.”
Ultimately, the Lawrie-Escobar play was the perfect storm of an overzealous baserunner who didn’t have a complete understanding of the situation, or the art of sliding, combined with a shift that left the shortstop covering the bag at a difficult angle. The result was controversy, ejections, a fight and a whole lot of anger. Let’s hope it’s over. Let’s hope there is no retaliation this weekend in Oakland. And let’s hope that something was learned from it.