When Nelson Cruz missed the first-base bag, he started a chain reaction of fun
Given how often I trip and fall while just moving around my apartment, my foot missing its intended target, it's absolutely shocking that Major League players aren't routinely missing the first base bag. After all, they're focused on things like running fast and seeing where the ball is and thinking of things like "Ooh, I hope that looked cool."
That happened to Nelson Cruz on Friday. In the seventh inning of the Mariners' 8-4 win against the Red Sox, Cruz avoided Hanley Ramirez's tag and, in the process, missed first base.
Fortunately for Boston, Hanley was, like a 1970s detective, on the case. Not only did he track Cruz down, but he made sure to explain to the umpire just exactly what happened.
For a play that is seemingly so small, a great number of wonderful moments happened. Let's break them down.
1. The Tattle
Cruz has just missed the bag and so Hanley does the responsible thing and lets the umpire know immediately what's transpired. It's the equivalent of the "Aren't you going to assign us homework?" question near the end of a school day.
It's also the start of one of the most amusing trots you'll see. Hanley knows he doesn't have to rush and gambols down the line to catch up with Cruz.
2. The Bluff
Here is where the genius is: Cruz knows his foot missed the bag and he has no way of racing back to touch it -- especially with Hanley hot on his heels. No, his only option is nonchalance. Cruz's face gives nothing away: there is no fear, no apprehension. This is what he's done countless times in the past when his foot has touched first base, why would this time be any different?
3. The Standoff
But now, the tag has been made. The slow walk back toward first base is on and all the characters are introduced. And like the standoff at the end of "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly," we're in the midst of a tense showdown. Who will flinch first? How will first base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt rule?
A lone ocarina sounds out a shrill "ooh eeh ooh eeh ooh."
4. The Consultation
Now it's time for Hanley to plead his case. Will he be convincing enough to sway the ump? Will his earlier tattle work? Or will Cruz's bluff pay off?
That space between Hanley and the ump? Yeah, that's all suspense.
5. The Decision (with bonus hand flip!)
Sorry, Cruz, your gambit won't work out today. Even better, Wendelstedt's out call included a macarena-like (timely, I know) hand gesture, which just makes the whole thing all the more enjoyable.