Rock in his shoe
Clint Hurdle has a message for his players: stop with the fly-by slide into home, already. The fly-by slide is when a player slides with his leg and body outside of the plate and then reaches over with his hand to swipe the plate. Gregory Polanco was called out using the technique on Saturday night.
In a animated and at times humorous soliloquy, Hurdle said that the fly-by slide has "been one of the rocks in the my shoe this year."
"It drives me crazy, because you'll see a guy tag the plate and his feet are four feet in front of him," Hurdle said. "Where his feet could have been to the plate. I'm an old fashioned guy, but the math just doesn't work for me. And the catcher can't take away the plate anymore, and we're still doing it. Our guys here know that is a little point of contention for me, with the old man."
Players have spent years perfecting this technique, so Hurdle understands that it will be hard for them to unlearn it.
"Now they've got it down, to ask them to change it is [difficult]," Hurdle said. "'But it looks really cool' [they tell me]. I've told them that they can take that cool and put in their back pocket because I want safe. Do the math, I've shown them pictures, ‘Here you are, look where your hand is, get your feet to the plate and your hand will be four feet in front of the plate!'"
Adjust the rules
In the sixth inning of Saturday's game, Starling Marte stole second base and was initially called safe. He clearly beat the ball and the initial tag, but upon video review he was called out because he hopped the off the bag for a split-second following his pop-up slide. By the letter of the law, the call was properly reversed.
Hurdle was asked whether the league should consider adjusting video review of tag plays to address situations like Marte's, where a player is clearly safe and has completed his slide. One could argue that the enforcement of the letter of the law is in conflict with the spirit of the law. Moreover, the current rules encourage fielders to keep tags on runners through the whole play, which we've noted leads to an intrinsically more physical and dangerous game around the bases.
Hurdle understands why the play was reversed.
"Isn't it amazing what we want after we get what we want?" Hurdle said. "And you know what, there is no arguable defense for it because he did complete his slide [and then] gets that much air [fingers inches apart], the glove's put on him, he's out, then the push came."
But he hinted that he would like to see some changes in the rule, or how the rule is interpreted.
"I have a bunch of comments I'm just jotting down, and just thoughts and observations from things that happen that in the proper forum I do believe I'll get the opportunity to get to Joe, whether it be at the All-Star Break or whether he asks for them then or later," Hurdle said. "It sure has cleaned things up and they are what they are, but that is one area that has really become tricky -- finishing the slide, glove on the guy, keep the glove on the guy and go from there."
Neal Huntington said that reconsidering how tag plays are reviewed is "interesting" idea, but he isn't sure how it could be changed without introducing a tremendous amount of subjectivity.
"Then you're going to have a judgement of when is the slide is completed," Huntington said. "Was Marte's slide completed? You could poll 50 people and 50 unbiased people would probably have a very mixed opinions about whether is was a slide. And my biased mind, it would have absolutely been complete, but wouldn't be in the group that's being polled."
Marte changing his slide
Marte has noticeably changed his sliding technique from head-first to feet-first pop-up. Hurdle said that is an adjustment the organization has encouraged.
"You don't want to take away a player's natural feel for the game, but he spent time on the disabled list two years ago with a fracture of his thumb, he's been hit in the hand," Hurdle said. "Let's try to find away to take a little bit of the opportunity to expose that area away, so that more than anything."