PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates and Cubs were informed on Tuesday that Anthony Rizzo's controversial slide into Pirates catcher Elias Diaz on Monday should have been ruled interference on Rizzo, reigniting debate in both clubhouses.
Umpires ruled that Rizzo's eighth-inning slide home was legal, and a replay review upheld the call in the Cubs' 7-0 win over the Pirates at PNC Park. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle was ejected for arguing the call.
Major League Baseball reviewed the play, and indicated that its determination was that there was a violation of the rule regarding slides. The Pirates were pleased to gain some clarity on the call, while Cubs manager Joe Maddon defended Rizzo and disagreed with MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre.
"The call is made," Hurdle said. "Life isn't fair. Sport isn't fair sometimes. You play on. What's most important, from my perspective, is that we let the industry know this particular slide was illegal, for the sake of the catchers. That was my argument yesterday, and I'm glad we came to some conclusion and some closure."
It didn't seem to bring much closure for Maddon, however. He argued that MLB should not penalize "good, hard baseball" and expressed some interest in revisiting the rule at the end of the season.
"I talked to Mr. Torre and he explained to me his interpretation, and I told him with all due respect I absolutely disagree," Maddon said. "There's nothing wrong with that play. Again, the umpires got it right both in New York and on the field last night. Almost like a doctor reading an MRI, you might get two different opinions on the same set of information."
According to MLB Rule 6.01(j), a bona fide slide "occurs when the runner (1) begins his slide (i.e., makes contact with the ground) before reaching the base; (2) is able and attempts to reach the base with his hand or foot; (3) is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide; and (4) slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder."
After stepping on home plate to record the forceout on a ground ball by Cubs catcher Chris Gimenez, Diaz stepped forward and threw the ball to first base. Rizzo slid into Diaz's right ankle as he went home, seemingly deviating his path to break up the double play, and tripped up Diaz as he released the ball.
Rizzo said he was told by Maddon and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein that it wasn't a "dirty play," even if it was illegal, and said that he doesn't intend to change the way he slides to break up double plays. Rizzo said he did not think "anyone has clarity on the rule," while Maddon described it as "nebulous with regards to interpretation."
"We play baseball. Everyone I talk to in baseball knows it's a hard slide to break up a double play," Rizzo said. "You can go in and not try to break up a double play, but we're taught as baseball players to break up a double play. It is what it is and we have to move on."
Rizzo slid into Diaz's right ankle as he went home, seemingly violating the fourth part of Rule 6.01(j) by changing his route to break up the double play, and he tripped up Diaz as he released the ball.
"You kind of have a white line that separates it. For 80 feet, he's on one side of the line, and for 10 feet, he's on the other side of the line -- and where's the catcher?" Hurdle said. "To me, that's what it looked like, and then the call wasn't made. So the only thing I'm going to do then is voice my disapproval."
Diaz's throw sailed into right field, and Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber scored on the error.
"For that group out there that believes Anthony is dirty in any way, shape or form, that's my biggest concern about this rule," Maddon said. "Because all of a sudden, either it's an announcer or a fan base or somebody that believes Anthony did something dirty. It's only because the catcher fell down. I mean, seriously, that's all that was about. And that's such a bad interpretation of all of that."
Hurdle asked for a replay review, which upset Maddon, but the call was upheld as a replay official could not definitively determine that Rizzo did not take a "bona fide slide" into home plate.
Diaz rolled around in front of the plate in pain after Rizzo's slide caught him unaware and unprotected. Diaz said his ankle still felt sore on Tuesday, but it did not prevent him from being listed in the starting lineup for Tuesday night's game at PNC Park, and he homered in his first at-bat. Diaz insisted that he did everything on the play the way he was taught, despite Maddon's assertion that Diaz did not properly clear a path for Rizzo, whose solo homer sparked a rally in the Cubs' 8-6 win on Tuesday.
"After what happened yesterday and seeing the back and forth from the decision-making, I've come to the conclusion that, no matter what, I'm just going to start protecting myself," Diaz said. "This game has been good to me. It matters to me. It matters to my family, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to just continue protecting myself."