The Blame Game

The Texas Rangers play a very aggressive style of baseball. High risk high reward. The question being asked about yesterday's aggressiveness is, was there really that much reward for the risk that was involved? The play that I'm talking about, of course, is the now infamous attempt of Texas Rangers Outfielder Josh Hamilton trying to score from third base by tagging up on a pop fly in foul territory about 60% of the way down third base. The end result of the play being that third base coach David Anderson decided to send Hamilton in an attempt to steal a run with now two outs in the inning. The opportunity presented itself when the Detroit Tigers' third baseman went over to catch the ball near the stands, and the catcher also followed to try and get the batter out. Watching without a clue would be the Tigers' pitcher who, in this situation, is supposed to be covering home plate. He was not, and with a superior athlete like Hamilton, Anderson decided to tell him to tag up and try to steal a run. Hamilton was close and went all out with a head first slide into home plate, but was tagged out last second by a diving Victor Martinez. Hamilton got up awkwardly with what appeared to be a strained back. After trying to take a few practice swings in the dugout, Hamilton informed Rangers manager Ron Washington that he would be unable to go the rest of the game. Further examinations went on to show that Hamilton had fractured a bone in his shoulder and will now be out 6-8 weeks. With the reigning American League MVP out for about two months of the season who is to blame for the injury? Or, is there really anyone to blame at all?
Why Third Base Coach Dave Anderson is to blame:
For those who didn't see it, the pop fly was the distance equivalent to maybe 10 feet beyond the pitcher’s mound. Last time I checked, most sacrifice fly balls are put into the outfield so that the runner has time to tag up and make it to home. Even though, there are plays at the plate. Still, Anderson decided to send one Texas' most valuable players to home in what the Rangers’ slugger called a "stupid" play. Quite honestly, that is the first thing I thought of the play. A tag up, on a foul ball that was at infield depth? It just doesn't sound like a play that would work to me. Especially when the player you are sending has an aggressive style that matches that of the Rangers, so you know he is going to sell out to get the run. Anderson backed up his decision by saying that he would have sent any of the players on the team with speed to attempt to make the play. All in all though, there has to be a line as to how aggressive is too aggressive. I'm all for aggressive baseball, it is part of what makes the Rangers a fun baseball team to watch. Partly because you never know what they are going to try and do next. Double steal, hit and run, sacrifice bunt from a power hitter, it keeps the defense on their toes. A tag up with a foul ball at infield depth is surprising, even for Texas. Ultimately though, Anderson should not have sent Hamilton, because the chances of him getting there in time were quite small. Granted he almost got there, he still didn't. Not only did he not get there in time, but he won't be anywhere in the field for the next 6-8 weeks for the Rangers. The play shouldn't have been made. No worries for Anderson though, GM Jon Daniels, who was out watching the Rangers' 1A affiliate, said that he hadn't seen the play as of yet, but is sure Anderson made the right call and stands by him to keep playing the aggressive style that the Rangers are known for, manager Ron Washington had similar comments backing his third base coach. Finally though, the call that Anderson made is similar to when you say something before you really think about, and you think that it is a great idea, but after you say it and think about it a little more, you almost realize you hadn't said at all, because it wasn't as good at what you had thought at first.
Why Josh Hamilton is to blame:
It is widely known that Hamilton is not too fond of the play. He called the play stupid, and seemed very aggravated toward reporters in his post-game interview in discussing the topic. Quite frankly, it was a stupid play, but Hamilton was just listening to his coach so he can't be the one to blame, because of that...right? Well, not entirely. In basketball, say a coach yells for you to pass it to someone who appears open. By the time you hear what coach says and get the ball into the right angle to pass it to your teammate he is covered and the other team is stealing the ball away from you, because you just had to listen to your coach. What's funny here is that the coach will still blame the player for this turnover... The next analogy I have for it is this. Does Peyton Manning ever listen to his play call? Just because a play is called in football doesn't mean a quarterback can't audible out of it. (Meaning change the play on the field) A quarterback can audible based on what he is able to see and sort through on his own. While sitting on third base listening to his third base coach for the GO call, Hamilton could have assessed the situation better and realize that this was not a very good idea. In fact, Hamilton was even thinking to himself, man, this is a dumb idea, but it didn't stop him from going to home and sliding head first to try and avoid the tag. He listened to his coach, who when he said go, home plate was open, but by the time Hamilton got there it was covered and things didn't turn out well for Hamilton. He failed to recognize the play for himself and call a last second audible to his coach about the situation that he saw.
Why Nobody is to blame:
My personal opinion, no one is to blame. Sure, it is a little bit Dave Anderson's fault, and it is a little bit Josh Hamilton's fault. You can't go into the play assuming that if, more likely when, Hamilton slides into home that he is going to fracture a bone in his shoulder and be out 6-8 weeks. Hamilton is injury prone and been on the Disabled List multiple times since his return to Major League Baseball in 2007. The ironic part about the whole situation is that Hamilton was actually the Designated Hitter for the Rangers against the Tigers, so the Rangers didn't have to worry about him diving around in the outfield or running into walls. Even in giving Hamilton half the day off, he still got injured. What are the odds of that? The rangers are aggressive. They will try and steal a run any way they can. If this were a play in the 9th inning in a tie game, and it worked, it would be debated about how intelligent and crafty of a play it was. But, since it happened in the first inning of the game, and it didn't work, and Josh Hamilton injured himself, the idea of the play is summed up as stupid. What goes unnoticed though is the quick reaction by the Tigers' catcher that ultimately saved Hamilton from scoring. Martinez took off for home as soon as Hamilton did, and Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge was barely able to flip it to Martinez in time. If the instincts of Victor Martinez were switched with the instincts of pitcher Brad Penny, Hamilton would have scored.
So, really, you can't blame either Hamilton or Anderson. It was a freak play. Hopefully Hamilton can fully recover and return to the team in June at full strength with added intensity to get the team through a long stretch of summer in the heat of Texas through the middle of the season.

-Colby

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