By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The phone conversation between Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre on Tuesday wasn’t a casual instance of talking ball. It was Torre explaining to Rizzo the rule of not colliding with a catcher — and its ramifications.
Torre talked to Rizzo about his head-on slam into Padres catcher Austin Hedges in Chicago’s 3-2 win on Monday night, a scene that left San Diego upset. No fine or discipline was administered to Rizzo, but Torre got his point across.
“I had a good talk with Mr. Torre,” Rizzo said. “He explained the rule a little more in-depth. He said according to the rules it was a violation. He said there would not be any discipline. I explained that there was zero intent to be malicious toward Austin Hedges. It was a good conversation, and I am happy we had closure on it so soon.”
Rule 7.13 states a runner must take a direct line to the plate and not toward the catcher on this type of play. It doesn’t tell you what lane is open for you standing up or trying to veer around the catcher, and thus there’s the gray area of “don’t do the wrong thing” as the players work for positioning.
“I believe you have to play this game on instinct,” Rizzo said. “I play this game on instinct all of the time. The instincts take over on a play like that, and most of the time you have to live and die with that. You have about .01 seconds to make that decision.”
The tough part of this subjective ruling by MLB is understanding the thought behind the slide and tag.
“They just wanted to know the intent of the slide,” Rizzo said about the questions Torre asked him. “It was not like I was going in with a cheap shot. I did not go in with my shoulder lowered like a linebacker and really took a shot. I went in like a last-second slide. I was not really sure what to do or where to go. That was (Torre’s) understanding of it as well. I was not going in trying to end Austin Hedges’ career. We were both trying to make a play to win ballgames for our team. It was not like I was going in trying to hurt him.”
The Padres’ reaction to the play — manager Andy Green initially called it a “cheap shot” and “egregious” violation — will be watched over the next two days. Will the San Diego players try to repay Rizzo for the hard slide?
“I can’t control what they do,” Rizzo said. “I will just be ready to hit. If I get hit, it certainly won’t be the last time. It won’t be the first time.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.