Something interesting happened in the Rays vs. Blue Jays game yesterday, but it wasn't that interesting. We don't have to lose our heads about it. And yet, John Gibbons did. Let's talk about the play itself first, because details matter.
With the Rays leading by one run in the top of the ninth inning, the Blue Jays loaded the bases. Edwin Encarnacion hit a chopper to third. It wasn't hit very hard, making this a difficult play. Evan Longoria fielded and threw to Logan Forsythe, just ahead of Jose Bautista's breakup slide. Forsythe tried to complete the turn, but his throw was wide. That allowed two runs to score and gave Toronto back the lead.
But Rays manager Kevin Cash challenged the play, claiming that Bautista interfered with Forsythe's throw. Under the new slide rules, the play was overturned, ending the game. Here is the rule:
Under the new Rule 6.01(j), a runner will have to make a "bona fide slide," which is defined as making contact with the ground before reaching the base, being able to and attempting to reach the base with a hand or foot, being able to and attempting to remain on the base at the completion of the slide (except at home plate) and not changing his path for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.
A runner who engages in a "bona fide slide" shall not be called for interference under this Rule 6.01, even in cases where the runner makes contact with the fielder as a consequence of a permissible slide. In addition, 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.
Notwithstanding the above, a slide shall not be a "bona fide slide" if a runner engages in a "roll block," or intentionally initiates (or attempts to initiate) contact with the fielder by elevating and kicking his leg above the fielder's knee or throwing his arm or his upper body.
Let's watch the video together and note a few things:
- Jose Bautista makes a good hard slide, perfectly in line with the bag. This forces Forsythe to move his feet, and makes the play very difficult. It may even have been enough to break up the play on its own.
- Forsythe does in fact move his feet well to get out of the way of Bautista's slide.
- Rather than attempt to stay on the bag, Bautista slides over the bag to make contact with his left knee, and then reaches out with his arm and swipes at Forsythe's leg.
- Bautista ends up sliding over and off the bag as he attempts to disrupt the throw.
- This is not a "dirty" play. Bautista did not do anything morally reprehensible. He had no intention, and made no attempt, to hurt Forsythe. He just wanted to win a baseball game.
- Bautista definitely reaches out with his arm in an attempt to disrupt Forsythe's throw, because, as stated above, he wants to win a baseball game and that means breaking up a double play. It doesn't make Bautista a bad guy, but it does make both him and Encarancion out.
- The possibility of injury isn't the only reason for things to be illegal. Runners interfering with fielders, and fielders interfering with runners are both illegal, because sports are defined by sets of rules, and baseball decided that those aren't part of the game.
- Wanting to win isn't enough. One has to act within the rules. If Jose Bautista wanted to hit a home run really badly, so after swinging and missing he turned around and politely asked for the ball from the catcher, and then trotted from the plate to the right-field wall and threw the ball over, no one would call that a home run and say it was unfair that on replay the umpires stole the game from him. This is the same thing, just slightly less obviously so.
There, I thought this was an unusual end to a game, but not a complex one. Then Blue Jays manger John Gibbons had something to say.
Dress for Success
Gibbons was upset that his team lost. I have no idea whether or not he generally says sexist things, or only when he's upset. Doesn't especially matter to me. It's not surprising that a man who's spent most of his life in an all-male profession finds it easy to insult women.
No, the really odd thing is that the call had nothing to do with "tough, hard-nosed play." It was just about an action that was illegal.
The rule doesn't say "If you break someone's leg, the runner at first is out." It gives a description of what is and what isn't a legal slide.
And that is what's most revealing about John Gibbons's comments. We live in a world where sexism is still very much alive. Not only is "womanly" still used as an easy stand in for "weak," but the terrifying spectre of men wearing dresses is invoked as the inevitable outcome of anything that could possibly make the world a little less risky.
Words matter, and symbols matter. For instance, the Navy just changed its dress policy (h/t John Ford) so that men and women, who are doing the same job, wear uniforms that look more alike.
If women are going to play basketball at a high level (yes, the UCONN women were busy dominating last night), coach on our NFL teams, and fight in the Navy while wearing less-silly hats, can we maybe quit using "playing like girl" as an insult? And then, while we're at it, let's also drop the macho attitude as a default reaction to adversity.