Monday, May 17, 2021

Manny Machado Slides Into Edman - Legal Baseball Play?

When Padres baserunner Manny Machado slid into Cardinals second baseman Tommy Edman in San Diego Sunday night, fans debated whether the slide was dirty...but was it legal? We visit the relevant rules to officiate this play.

Play: With none out and one on (R1) in the bottom of the 4th inning, Padres batter Jake Cronenworth hit a first-pitch slider from Cardinals pitcher Kwang-Hyun Kim on the ground to second baseman Tommy Edman, who attempted to tag Padres baserunner R1 Manny Machado, who slid into Edman, after which both players stood up with Machado returning to the Padres' dugout.

Call: 2B Umpire Dan Merzel ruled Machado out and Cronenworth remained at first base.

Rules: The first rule governing this play is Official Baseball Rule 5.09(b)(1), "any runner is out when they run more than three feet away from their base path to avoid being tagged unless their action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball." As Machado appeared to continue along his path to second base without horizontal deviation, we can eliminate OBR 5.09(b)(1).

Next up is OBR 6.01(j), sliding to bases on double play attempts or the bona fide slide rule. For the most part, 6.01(j) is encountered at or near a base, but not always, and in general as the rule states, the runner must de deemed to initiate contact with the fielder "for the purpose of breaking up a double play."

For the purposes of this play, and the aforementioned notwithstanding, one key phrase within this rule clarifies that Machado's slide was legal: "Interference shall not be called where a runner’s contact with the fielder was caused by the fielder being positioned in (or moving into) the runner’s legal pathway to the base." Because Edman clearly is moving into Machado's legal pathway to second base, this exception to interference is applicable.

Willful and deliberate interference rule 6.01(a)(6) also has potential, but, ultimately, if the slide is already deemed legal as a result of the bona fide slide rule, the runner who effects such a legal slide should not be deemed to have willfully and deliberately interfered with a batted ball or fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play.

No Tag, But Out? Replays clearly indicate Edman never tagged Machado, so why was Machado declared out? The answer is OBR 5.09(b)(2) and abandonment ("leaves the base path, obviously abandoning their effort to touch the next base"). When Machado returned to the Padres dugout, he abandoned and was declared out by 2B Umpire Dan Merzel in accordance with 5.09(b)(2). Had Machado continued to advance to second base without being tagged, the proper call would be to rule him safe at second.

Conclusion: Clean, dirty or anything in between is not within the rulebook's purview (until it turns into intentionally pitching at the batter or something of the sort). Instead, we consider only whether the slide is rules-legal or rules-illegal, and pursuant to the professional ruleset, Machado's slide was not only legal, it was successful in avoiding the middle infielder's tag attempt and would have worked, if not for Machado's abandonment.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Analyzing Machado's middle infield slide at Petco Park - Was it legal? (CCS)


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