By Steve Kallas
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By now you've seen the play.
It was Game 2 of the World Series, in the top of the 2nd inning with nobody out and no score. Prince Fielder was on first.
Delmon Young doubled down the left-field line. Fielder, chugging around the bases, was waived home by third-base coach Gene Lamont. But Fielder ran home inside the third-base line as the throw from Gregor Blanco went over the first cut-off man's head and into the hands of the second cut-off man, second baseman Marco Scutaro.
Scutaro threw home, Buster Posey caught the ball inside the baseline in fair territory and sweep tagged Fielder. He was out (a correct call), but this play should have been a run for Detroit or, at least, second and third with nobody out.
San Francisco eventually won the game, 2-0, and leads the Series, 2-0, with their two top pitchers starting Games 3 and 4, respectively.
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, JHONNY PERALTA?
Who? Jhonny Peralta, one of the keys to the play, was really nowhere to be found. He was the on-deck hitter,
The on-deck hitter's job, since time immemorial, is to gauge the play and give the baserunner some direction: slide, don't slide, slide to the inside of home, slide to the outside of home.
Almost a lost art, the on-deck hitter directing a baserunner (or not directing a baserunner) was the key to this play. If Fielder hook slid away from the infield to the outside of home plate, Posey would have tagged the air.
On the Fox telecast, nobody in the booth recognized Peralta's error until A.J. Pierzynski, the guest commentator, pointed out that it was up to the on-deck batter to help Fielder. On the replay, Joe Buck said that Peralta "got there late."
An absurd comment.
In fact, in terms of helping Fielder out, Peralta never got there at all. On one shot, he can be seen, at most, acting as a cheerleader, raising his hands to complain about the out call. He did nothing and didn't seem to know that he had to do anything. On SportsCenter on ESPN, neither John Kruk, Curt Schilling nor Terry Francona (all former players and Francona, of course, a former manager) even mentioned the poorness of the slide. It was probably just a case of protecting a player (Fielder, Peralta?) or a coach (Lamont). Or maybe just a lack of knowledge?
It's kind of hard to believe, but that's baseball in the 21st Century. Even the players often don't know what they are supposed to do.
TWO OTHER MISTAKES ON THIS PLAY
It's stunning how many things went wrong on this play for the Tigers. Next time you see the replay, watch Fielder running between second and third. Rather than picking up his coach, about halfway to third, Fielder inexplicably looked out towards left field, presumably (and stupidly) to pick up the ball.
But that's not his job (that's the third-base coach's job), and that brief look out to the outfield costed Fielder a split second. It was the difference, even with a poor slide, between being out and safe.
Third base coach Lamont made the other mistake. Nobody called it a mistake. Jim Leyland, covering for his coach after the game, said Lamont might have been "overaggressive."
Fielder can't run and didn't have a feel (with no help from Peralta) where to slide. He should have intuitively slid to the outside since Posey was in fair territory. Plus, Posey probably wanted no part of a collision at home, given his season-ending injury in a collision at home plate last year.
Lamont should have known who was running and should have known that there was nobody out. With two outs, you can make a case that it was worth the gamble. With one out, you probably shouldn't send him because there are plenty of ways to score Fielder from third (with less than two outs).
With nobody out, it's a no-brainer. Unless the runner can score easily standing up, there is just no reason to send Fielder.
SO, DID A BAD SLIDE BY PRINCE FIELDER COST THE TIGERS THE WORLD SERIES?
The answer to this question is no. Having said that, the poor play by Fielder, Lamont and Peralta cost the Tigers something very important: THE LEAD.
And that is something that the Detroit Tigers, at that point down 1-0 and soon to be down 2-0 after that play, desperately needed.
Can the Tigers get back in this thing, or has their fate been sealed? Sound off with your thoughts and comments in the section below...
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