Clean slide by Manny? Players, coaches: Yes

May 17th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- Here's a core baserunning tenet that Padres players are regularly taught: If you're on first base and a ground ball is hit to the second baseman, the best way to disrupt a potential double play is to slide under him, while doing your best to avoid his tag.

In real time, executed those teachings to perfection in the fourth inning of the Padres' 5-3 victory over St. Louis on Sunday night. He was on first base when Jake Cronenworth hit a chopper to Cardinals second baseman Tommy Edman. Edman and Machado converged, and Machado slid into Edman, who went tumbling over him.

Machado was ruled out, but Cronenworth reached first base safely, with Edman sent sprawling. Machado hopped up and checked on Edman, who was OK. And -- on the field, at least -- nothing further came of it.

Off the field -- well, that's another story. Debate raged on social media about whether the slide was dirty. Manager Jayce Tingler was baffled by that talk.

“The first thing I did was, I gave him a high five,” Tingler said. “I thought it was a play, honestly, that won the game. … Quite frankly, it’s a clean play. Coming up with the Blue Jays, it was a play [that was] drilled into [our heads] as young Minor League players. It’s just a weird narrative, honestly.”

The Padres routinely teach that exact play during Spring Training every year. Not every team uses that precise method to avoid double plays. (Some ask their baserunners to freeze.) But it's the Padres’ preferred method of avoiding double plays, and Skip Schumaker, who helms the team’s baserunning, has taught it for years. Bobby Dickerson, the Padres' current third-base coach, who worked with Machado in Baltimore, taught it there, too.

Several former other big leaguers chimed in on social media to note that the play was clean.

The anti-Machado sentiment came largely from corners of social media, with no players or former players vocally taking such a position. The Cardinals didn't take issue. Edman tapped Machado on the leg after the play. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said that Machado had a right to the basepath.

Perhaps the real issue here is whether Machado should've been charged with interference and the Cardinals awarded a double play -- which St. Louis left-hander Kwang Hyun Kim suggested might be possible. Those suggestions cite rule 6.01(j) which notes that "a runner who engages in a bona fide slide shall not be called for interference," and lists the stipulations for a bona fide slide, where 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.

Machado, very clearly, is in violation of several of those rules.

But -- and this is the important part -- rule 6.01(j) only applies for "sliding into bases on double play attempts." This was not that. Machado was not sliding into a second baseman who had already recorded an out by stepping on the base. He was sliding into a second baseman who had yet to record an out and was attempting to make a tag. (Nowhere near second base, mind you.)

As such, the Padres waved off any suggestions that Machado should've been called for interference. Greg Gibson's umpiring crew agreed. So did Shildt. The game went on without further delay.

The Padres would score four runs in the frame and took a two-run lead -- aided in large part by what they vehemently contend was the correct baseball play.

“I thought it was a play that won the game yesterday, honestly,” Tingler said. “My guess is if you give [yourself] up, and Jake’s not busting his butt, and Manny’s not doing his job, then it’s probably a 1-2-3 inning, and we probably lose that game. That, to me, is the story.”

Alas, it wasn’t. Machado, of course, has a knack for finding himself embroiled in controversy -- another narrative that Tingler said he didn’t quite understand.

“Honestly, it’s a tired narrative,” Tingler said. “It’s so tired to be labeled. Look at what this guy’s done. … You look at the way Manny has hustled, ran, played the game right, competed, played through injury, showing leadership by the way he plays and not with his mouth.

“It just shocks me. It may not fit people’s narrative, but this guy is all about winning, and he’s playing the game the way it’s supposed to be taught. I’ve got two boys, and that’s a great example of how to play the game.”