Anthony Rizzo under fire for controversial slide

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Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo has been taking some heat for a hard slide into home plate in the eighth inning of Monday afternoon’s game against the Pirates. With the bases loaded and the Cubs up 3-0, Chris Gimenez hit a grounder to shortstop Sean Rodriguez. Rodriguez threw home for the force out. Catcher Elias Diaz was in the process of throwing to first base to complete the double play, but Rizzo slid feet-first into Diaz’s legs, so the throw sailed into right field, allowing the Cubs to score two runs.

The Pirates argued that Rizzo’s slide was illegal, but the umpires conferred and upheld the ruling on the field that Rizzo’s slide was fine. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was ejected.

The best analysis I’ve seen on the slide came from baseball writer Jon Bernhardt on Twitter, who pointed out that the slide violated Rule 6.01(i), which reads:

The accompanying freeze frame from the play shows Rizzo clearly deviating from his direct pathway.

Diaz felt Rizzo’s slide was not legal. Via MLB.com’s Adam Berry, Diaz said, “I understand that there’s old school baseball, but we’re not in old school baseball anymore.” He added, “I understand they called it a legal slide, but out of what I’ve been trained and what I’ve been told, that was not a legal slide. And I’m thinking of all the horrible things that could have happened in my career after that.”

Unsurprisingly, Cubs manager Joe Maddon thought Rizzo’s slide was legal and even said that it’s the type of play that kids should be taught. Via ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, he said:

…the player has not done anything wrong, but because of new rules, it makes him wear the black hat for the moment. That’s how you should teach your kids to slide and break up a double play at home. The catcher’s gotta clear the path. You have to teach proper technique. He’s gotta get out farther, he’s gotta keep his foot on the plate clear, because that’s absolutely what can happen. And I know because it happened to me. Same thing happened — the ball went down the right field corner. So my concern there was that they were going to attempt to review it in the same way you would review it at second base whereas there’s no base sticking up that you can hold on to. But once I settled down Bill [home plate umpire Welke] — Bill did a great job. Listen, this is tough on umpires, don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming umpires at all. Umpires are awesome. They handled it perfectly. I’m the one that was being a jerk. When that happens, when that play gets turned over, there’s no base sticking up. They’re saying something about diverting to hit the catcher purposely or cleats in the air. All kinds of inane stuff. You’re teaching the fans the wrong thing. You’re worried about not getting people hurt, but then Rizzo in the eyes of the Pittsburgh fans did something wrong or dirty. And that is absolutely incorrect.

This isn’t the first time Rizzo has been on the hot seat for a slide into home plate, and it’s not the first time Maddon has jumped out to defend him. Rizzo slid into Padres catcher Austin Hedger in June last year. Maddon blamed Giants catcher Buster Posey — who suffered a season-ending injury when Scott Cousins slid into him in 2011 — for being the catalyst for Major League Baseball to implement a rule protecting catchers.

Maddon was wrong last year and he’s wrong now. And Major League Baseball needs to do a much better job of enforcing this rule in order to protect catchers.

Brian Cashman signs 4-year contract to remain Yankees GM

Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO — Brian Cashman has signed a four-year contract to remain the New York Yankees Senior Vice President and General Manager. The announcement was made during the first day of baseball’s Winter Meetings.

Cashman, New York’s GM since 1998, had been working on a handshake agreement since early November, when his five-year contract expired.

The Yankees were swept by four games in the AL Championship Series and haven’t reached the World Series since winning in 2009. It is the franchise’s longest title drought since an 18-year gap between 1978-96.

Cashman’s main goal during the offseason is trying to re-sign AL MVP Aaron Judge.

Judge hit an American League-record 62 homers this season with a .311 batting average and 131 RBIs. He turned down the Yankees’ offer on the eve of opening day of a seven-year contract that would have paid $213.5 million from 2023-29.

While Judge remains on the market, Cashman was able to re-sign Anthony Rizzo on Nov. 15 to a two-year contract worth $40 million after turning down a $16 million player option.

Cashman has been the Yankees general manager since 1998. He has been with the organization since 1986, when he was a 19-year old intern in the scouting department. In his 25 seasons as GM, the Yankees have reached the postseason 21 times, including four World Series championships and six American League titles.