First Pitch: Where Was the Outrage Over Kang?

A little less than a month ago, I wrote about how MLB needed to add a “Kang Rule”, similar to The Posey Rule”, after Chris Coghlan broke Jung-ho Kang’s leg with a takeout slide.

After this weekend, it looks like we’re going to get that rule. Only, instead of “The Kang Rule”, it’s probably going to be called “The Utley Rule” or maybe even “The Tejada Rule”.

There was a little bit of discussion after Kang went down with a broken leg, but outside of Pittsburgh, the discussion was thin. It was exploratory, looking at whether a change needed to be made. There was no immediate action from Major League Baseball saying they’d look into rule changes following the injury. Chris Coghlan didn’t get suspended. And yet all of these things happened after Chase Utley broke Ruben Tejada’s leg over the weekend.

So where was the outrage over Kang?

It’s expected that this situation would get more attention than Kang’s situation. It’s the playoffs. There are fewer games, and this game was the biggest story of the day. And of course you’ve got a New York team playing a team from Los Angeles, which definitely magnifies all of this.

Granted, the injury to Kang might have led to a build up that eventually spilled over to this outrage. Maybe this situation gets treated like Kang’s situation if we didn’t already go through this a few weeks ago. But that would ignore that the Pirates went through it earlier in the season with another player, Jordy Mercer, and then didn’t see this type of reaction for Kang.

It’s not like a two game suspension would have really helped Kang. And a rule change would go into effect next year, which also wouldn’t help the situation. But it would have been nice to see the same type of reaction when a similar situation took out one of the best players on the Pirates when they needed him the most.

The good news about all of this is that it looks like the rule will be changing. Joe Torre said that MLB would be testing some changes in the Arizona Fall League, and I can’t see the 2016 season starting without a change that will protect middle infielders from this situation. My thoughts on this were made clear when the situation with Kang happened, and they don’t change after the Utley/Tejada situation. So it’s great that MLB could finally be solving this problem.

**Pirates Off-Season Preview: The Difficulty of Finding Upgrades For 2016. From yesterday, a look at the tough decisions the Pirates will have to make this off-season, along with some of the struggles they will find when trying to make upgrades in 2016.

**AFL Preview: Pirates Sending Some Top Talent to the Fall League This Season. The AFL starts tomorrow, and John Dreker previews the class that the Pirates are sending, which is a very talented group this year.

**Padres to Interview Rick Sofield For Managerial Position. This sparked a lot of negative reactions towards Sofield’s work at third base. If he happens to get the Padres’ job, then the Pirates will replace him with another third base coach who fans will hate as well, because no fan base has ever liked a third base coach.

**Josh Bell Among Top Prospects in the International League. It looks like Tyler Glasnow didn’t qualify for the list, due to a lack of innings.

**Winter Leagues: Jose Osuna Surpasses Last Year’s Hit Total. Osuna is an interesting case going forward. He’s Rule 5 eligible, but won’t be a risk of being drafted, since first basemen rarely get protected. He’s behind Bell at first base, and is only a bench option in the outfield. He looks like a trade chip for the Pirates, or a guy that could be depth out of Triple-A after Bell eventually moves on to the majors.

  • I have been complaining about this for years. Good to see the rule changing. I always have felt that a player should have to slide head on and not be allowed to go wildly out of line with the base. How they protected the catcher for what 3 years while letting the 2B get destroyed is beyond me. Mercer and Kang both injured, Tejada, and that is only 2 teams…there were probably 15-20 injuries at 2B if you look closely enough.

  • Baseball needs to evolve on this pure and simple. Clueless lines like “good, hard baseball play” and “that’s the way baseball has always been played” need to be challenged for the ridiculous lack of logic they contain. The rule IS there… umpires just need to enforce it. Players need to slide TO the base, not around it or ‘in the neighborhood’ or ‘directly into the player but it’s ok if his hand can reach the base’…. and players can be called out if they intentionally interfere with the defense making a play. So umps should simply call those players out and then this will stop. The other point needs to be made also… this outrage comes only when an injury happens. No doubt that people would nary notice or say a word if Tejada jumps up and is ok…. sad that it takes an injury for baseball to apply its own rules, but get on with it.

    • Glad you pulled the trigger!

    • Maybe people in general wouldn’t have said anything if Tejada didn’t get hurt, but I’ve been calling for Matt Holiday to be suspended for some time now for his dangerous slides, and I also found Roughned Odor’s slide in these playoffs quite punishable.

      I don’t care if someone gets hurt or not, like everything else in baseball, this is about process. Is the process too aggressive or dangerous? Yes. Then it should be outlawed.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    October 13, 2015 9:22 pm

    I asked this same question right after the Kang injury occurred – the Pirates did nothing on the field, the league did nothing involving disciplinary measures, and there was very little discussion in the media.
    Do the Pirates beat Arrieta with Kang healthy? No, not very likely. But, it may have cost the team a game or two down the stretch…who knows.
    Although I was mostly upset with the team’s non-existent response, I am equally appalled by the lack of equal treatment given Coughlin’s reckless slide while criticizing Utley’s.

    • I think you’re right on the last line.

      Right or wrong, the “fault” here lies with the Pirates organization. Did anyone really expect Major League Baseball and surrounding media to actually condemn an act that the Pirates themselves absolved? Pipe dream.

      The Pirates failed organizational leadership left them in a position of expecting some other entity to pick up the charge, and that simply never stood a chance of happening.

      • It’s a fair criticism of the Pirates, but I don’t deem that doesn’t excuse MLB for not doing something. And that doesn’t start with the slide on Mercer, it starts way before the slide on Mercer. MLB has no excuse for not having already acted on this issue years ago. The the Pirates contented themselves to sit in this stupid paradigm should not have removed MLB’s motivation to change that paradigm.

        I see literally no motivation from any angle for the play to remain. From the baseball angle, it has no significant impact on the play of the game (see KBO and college baseball for examples). From the owners’ perspective, changing the rule protects some of their valuable assets. From the MLBPA perspective, it protects their members from plays which risk their seasons and upwards of their careers. This should have been done a long time ago.

        • Not at all, but I do believe my comment reflects the reality of the situation.

          We can sit here and have academic arguments about fault, but in the end nobody should be surprised by Major League Baseball’s futility in actually leading change. At some point it becomes the team’s responsibility to understand what and who they’re dealing with.

          • That’s true, though the Pirates’ response is pretty heavily dictated itself by the attitude of the environment. It starts with the players, who mostly don’t want to rock the “right way” boat. The only one who did speak out about it did so under promise of anonymity, after all. It’s tough after the players speak for management to say, publicly at least, that they’re wrong about this and things need to change.

            Behind the scenes, who knows what lobbying is going on, though.

  • Torre said his problem with the slide was that contact with Tejada was made before Utley touched the ground, but that was also the case in Coghlan on Tejada. He also cited not making an effort for the bag, which was clearly the case with Gomez on Mercer a solid 20 feet away from it.

    I’m glad Torre’s doing something, but Coghlan’s and Tejada’s slides had the same elements he’s chastising here without reaction, and Roughned Odor earlier in these playoffs made an extremely late and dangerous slide as well without repercussion. Matt Holiday has made several brutal past-the-bag leg tackles over recent years also without consequence.

    On another but related note, American players like to talk about playing the game “the right way,” chastising bat flips and other forms of celebration and expression while simultaneously embracing violent, dangerous behaviors like takeout slides and intentional beanballs. As far as I can tell, America’s “right way” is wrong.

  • Where is the outrage over Mercer’s knee? That was the worst one of all.

    • For real. At least worse than kangs, the tejada incident was almost to the point of being disturbingly funny given how ridiculous Utleys tackle was..Coghlans slide was and dirty but nothing like gomez and his Tae Kwon do approach to sliding into second…

  • Nobody should be surprised this is being addressed now and not earlier when it happened to Kang. What’s interesting to me is if MLB has learned anything from the Posey ruled and will be able to not let the pendulum swing too far the other direction.

    I’m expecting MLB to direct Umpires to start making runners interference calls anytime a runner touches an IF trying to turn a DP after the runner has been forced out.

    It promises to be borderline ridiculous!

  • What I found interesting were many of the sports media types defending the letter of the rule on slides after the Kang incident – exception being Keith Law. And now when pretty much the same_exact thing happens to Tejada they find they don’t much like the “letter of the rule” any longer. The media outrage has been in high gear over this incident and if it does some good I’m all for it. The bubble these NY/LA/CHI/BOS media types live in is indeed thick. Also, makes the comments by (hipster jackass) Maddon about plantar fasciitis seem even more ridiculous if that’s possible.

    • Didn’t you know that Joe Maddon has almost single handedly re-invented 21st century MLB ?

  • Finally!!!!!! Someone had to say it, too bad it had to be Tim. My wife and I were just talking about this last night. What a shame.

  • This type of slide should have garnered more outrage when it happened to Kang but small markets tend to get over looked. Now that it happened in the big market towns more people become aware of it. The rule must change to protect the players. I love listening to the ex-players saying there is no need to change the rule it was a baseball play, clean by any standard of review. Look when you go outside the base path by 6 or more feet to evade a tag the umps call the player out for going outside the baseline If you listen to Cal Ripken he would allow a 12 foot or more radius around the bag for the sliding player to be in to break up the double play, this is based on the player being 6′ in length going to either the right or left side of the bag. Now that is a joke. They players can break up a double play attempt only if they slide to the bag and not 6′ on either side of it. Cal ask your brother about this and see what he thinks of your opinion, since he played second and was subjected to this type of mayhem.

    • Could you imagine if someone had done that to Cal during “The Streak”? There would have been a rule in place over 20 years ago.

      • If someone broke Cals leg during the streak, he would’ve kept playing with a broken leg.

    • Cal’s problem is, if you ever have listened to him much, is that he somehow thinks he has all the answers related to baseball

  • I still think the gomez slide was exponentially worse than Coghlans. Coghlans was unnecessary, and a bit over the top, but I don’t think there was any intent to injure…gomez went all ty cobb dropkick on mercers knee with absolutely no regard for his safety…I’m not saying he was trying to hurt him, but there was reckless abandon in the play, for sure.

  • Here, Here. The typical NY bias. Cant imagine if that had been Jeter. The rule change probably would have be to eliminate sliding altogether.

  • This would be less of a problem if we took replay out of all force outs at second base. Middle infielders are having to hold the base longer for fear of not getting an out. The umpires must as so in force the rule already in place. Also I like what Bill Ripken said on the MLBN about making them slide and hit the ground in front of the bag and not at or behind the bag.

  • Through all of these incidents the person who should come out looking the worst is Joe Maddon. He had 7 innings to mull over what he’d say after the game and all that allowed him to do was come up with his “plant-hard fasciitis” joke.

    To make light of a career-threatening injury in this way may be the very worst in sportsmanship that I’ve seen over decades of being a sports fan. I can forgive Coghlan for being reckless in the heat of the moment (and Schwarber tried the same thing on the play before), but I can’t imagine ever respecting Maddon again.

    • That’s because Maddon is a dick. He coaches it and his sheep follow, regardless of the outcome. Cole should have put a fastball in Arietta’s earhole during the wild card game.

    • Well said, I’m right there with you!

    • it is somewhat shocking Maddon wasn’t held more accountable for that insensitive comment, nor his stupid comments days later about the Cardinals.

  • I don’t know if a rule change is actually necessary, you just have to severely punished dirty players/slides like those committed by Gomez, Utley, and (to a lesser degree, but still dirty) Cohglan…so I guess it would be adding a stipulation to any current rule than actually changing it altogether

    • Right, no rule change necessary. We just need umps to carry out the rules as stated.

    • Coghlan’s slide was actually much worse. Watch the slide itself. A hard, late slide by Utley is definitely trying to break up the play, but you didn’t see him literally dive into the knee of the fielder like Coghlan did with his feet up in the air.

      • I saw him literally never slide though. He basically falls waaay late and his entire chest run into the defender. Utley never was seriously trying to slide, and if he was he forgot where the base was while running toward that base he forgot about.

        Both are just ugly plays.

  • Napoli had a similar slide the other day, but because it didn’t hurt anyone, it wasn’t egregious?

  • The problem I have with this is the suspension of Utley. MLB has looked the other way all year on this. Dirty play of not it was accepted all year then they penalize in the playoffs. It wasn’t called on the field and it completely changed the outcome of the game. I am completely against the takeout slide as they are all dirty in my eyes. But ignoring an issue all year then deciding to act upon it in the playoffs is BS. This isn’t a new problem. MLB has had plenty of time to do something about it and didn’t. But when it was exposed on national TV they try to make themselves look good by acting on it. This is something I’d expect from the NFL not MLB.zz

    • I think they didn’t want Utley on the field in NY because of how the Mets and their fans might react. They were more concerned about protecting the image of the sport than the players who make the sport. Put him on the bench and they don’t have to worry about head hunting, fans holding up threatening signs, etc.

  • Little outrage locally either — among casual fans or media. Michael Wilbon of PTI — a lifelong Cubs fan — was the only national media figure I heard call Coghlan out for the clear intent to injure.

    • Todd, in an interview Coghlan said that he is getting death threats from Koreans. He seemed nervous. He’s trying to lay low

  • Could be that an Asian bias still exist. It is deep seated.

  • I have never been a big fan of going after the infielder – and since throwing at the runners head to get him down seems to be a lost art, something has to be done to protect the infielders since they are unable or unwilling to protect themselves. Max and Groat knew how to make sure they did not end up with broken legs or damaged knees.

  • It is great the game is open to change. I’m usually pro old school rules and an older mentality but things have gotten out of hand. It is one thing to be tough. It is another to be dirty. I’m glad baseball is thinking of changing. Maybe we can all get lucky and somehow the wildcard seeding is mentioned as well.

  • All of the outrage has pretty much outraged me all day, too. Both slides (for different reasons) seem equally reckless to me.

  • Are you suggesting that since it happened to an Asian player it didn’t have the same gravitas as it did with Tejada? I hadn’t considered that angle.

    However it happens the rule must be changed. Compared to this the Posey rule is insignificant. Catchers have body armour but infielders are a million times more vulnerable.

    At least all of this gave me a team to root for now that the Bucs are out. Never thought I’d be saying this, but #LetsGoMets!

  • I hate to defend Torre, but he did state that he had already started talks with the Players Association regarding a rule change prior to the latest incident. Perhaps this merely hastened and enhanced the effort. Then again, the argument could be made that the rule was always there, it just wasn’t enforced.

    • You are right, a Prime Time National TV audience is worth months of talks with the PA. The Commissioner’s Office took the initiative and application of the specific rule will now be changed regardless of what the PA thinks. It was always a stupid and short-sighted interpretation of the rule, especially when you also have another rule against interference with a defensive player trying to make a play on a ball.

      And, the culprit was an all-star middle infielder? Can it get any better?

    • Torre saying that is like the home repairman who ignores you for a month and then you call and leave a message and he calls you back 30 mins later saying he was just working on getting your issue fixed today. Just get it done. Don’t tell me about how you are working on getting to the point where you are going to get it done. Wow, I think I have some issues with my repair guy. They need some younger, proactive guys making decisions rather than these old guys that move at a snail’s pace. Granted the player’s union tends to bottleneck some of these changes I think.