Boston's beef with Austin's slide goes deeper than the Yankees
Yankees-Red Sox is one of the greatest rivalries in sports, and Wednesday night was one to remember. Yankees first baseman Tyler Austin took a hard slide into second base in the top of the third inning, catching Red Sox shortstop Brock Holt back leg with his cleat. Holt obviously upset with Austin, exchanged a few pleasantries with the young Yankee, causing the benches and bullpens to clear. The scene looked primed to blow up in a classic brawl, but the teams returned to their dugouts after a few minutes of collaring by the umpires.
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This meeting wouldn’t be the last time tempered flared, however, in the seventh inning, Boston reliever Joe Kelly whipped a 98-mph fastball into the ribs of Austin, an obvious retaliation for the first baseman's actions. Austin then slammed his bat, and the fight was on, four ejections and plenty of swings later, the game continued. This fight turned into an instant classic, but who’s at fault? If you detest the Yankees, Austin is the new Chase Utley and deserved to be plunked, if you hate the Red Sox, Austin was playing good hard baseball and Kelly should be benched for a few weeks.
There will be a few suspensions given in the upcoming days, but there are a few questions the remain, should beanball stay in today's modern game, was Austin's slide even dirty? To figure this out let’s get one thing straight, beanball may not be the safest way to retaliate, but it’s not ending anytime soon as its really the only way for players to police themselves. As long as it doesn’t get out of hand, it should be allowed to continue under the current suspensions and ejections rules.
As for Austin’s slide, it was legal; he stayed in the basepath, his slide was early enough and had a clear intent of sliding into the bag to be considered a “bona fide slide” as the rules call it. However, it wasn’t exactly clean, Austin’s leg angles at Holt’s leg and his spikes were high enough for Boston to have a beef with it. You can tell Austin knew what he did with the way he reacts to Holt’s jawing after the play, but isn’t that just baseball? Austin was playing hard and trying to break up a throw to second, even though he couldn’t see that there was no play to first, and it wasn’t egregious or had the intent to cause serious harm.
If this was between two low-profile, the slide probably doesn’t produce anything, but after the Manny Machado-Dustin Pedroia debacle last year, Boston was going to make a big deal over any slide that wasn’t textbook. Last year, longtime Red Sox Pedroia took a high and late slide from Orioles slugger Machado, injuring the second baseman. The retaliation from the Red Sox created plenty of bad blood between the two teams and a half dozen F-bombs from Machado. This instance likely caused the low tolerance Boston has for hard slides, which lead to Wednesday’s fight. This thinking is understandable from their standpoint, but Austin’s slide wasn’t nearly as malicious or dirty as Machado’s.
Austin slide was a hard-nosed play, something you see in every week of the MLB season, and it’s not like Holt and Austin have a history. Holt is like Austin in this way, both are backup players filling in for an injured starter for their respective teams, and are trying to make a statement. You’re going to try to take advantage of one of the few chances you get in the Show, and that counts any time you think someone else is out to get in the way of that. Holt believed that Austin could’ve hurt him on the slide, and Austin knew getting pegged by Kelly was a shot on how the first baseman plays the game, and both Holt and Austin couldn’t let that go without a response.
Who was at fault? Boston probably shouldn’t have made such a big deal of what was just a chippy play at the worst, but with the history of these two teams, Austin has to know that anything in that grey area between clean and dirty is going to warrant retaliation. It seemed to me like Austin was going to have his moment of frustration before going to first base before Kelly shouted over at Austin, pushing him over the edge. Who knows if Austin would’ve charged the mound if Kelly didn’t say anything, but it was clear that both parties were ready to drop the gloves at a moments notice.
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Another part of this that I don’t think is being talked about as much as the slide rule itself. Two years ago the MLB instituted a new slide rule that was aimed at protecting fielders from injury on slides into second base, similar to the stipulations about collisions at the plate. This revision has not been well received in its tenure, as many players and coaches think that the rule takes out a lot of what the game is about, including Willie Randolph who was practically launched into the outfield on a slide from Hal McCrae.
I completely agree with this, its one thing to outlaw slides that are obviously meant to take out and injure the player, but making a slide to get in the way of a fielder trying to make a double play is part of the game. This play can be done without injuring the player like Austin did in Wednesday’s game. Austin didn’t hit Holt above or at the knee, nor did he slide late, he just tried to catch his heel to break up the double play. With the old rule, infielders would be wary about a sliding runner and get out of the way to make the throw. Under the new law, Holt believed he had all the time in the world to stay around the bag, which even under today’s interpretation, he should know a cleat may be coming his way. Holt took offense because he thought the rules protected him any contact from the runner, which isn’t the case.
Luckily no one got hurt in this, and you can probably thank Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton for that. Judge was the first one out of the dugout and put Kelly in a headlock and corralled seemingly the whole Boston roster and staff back to the dugout with Stanton. CC Sabathia may receive a suspension with Kelly and Austin as he was involved in the brawl, barreling over a few Boston players in the beginning. New York third base coach Phil Nevins was also ejected after some heated back and forth with the Red Sox dugout, and may also face a suspension. Yankees Pitcher Tommy Khanle also was thrown out of the game after having an issue with the way an umpire grabbed him, but his retaliation is not apparent, so it is unknown what discipline he will face.
As for Brock Holt? He backed out of the brawl after running into Judge and Stanton as the fight started, so it’s unlikely he receives a suspension. Judge and Stanton seemed to play peacemaker, in spite of the vice Judge put Kelly’s neck in, and that will likely absolve them from any suspensions as well.
Both teams are going to support their side, and both players are going to deny any misdoings, but we all know it’s a bit of both. Kelly claims the ball got away from him, and Austin says he didn’t think his slide deserved any reaction, so there isn’t going to be any significant quotes from the players. One thing you can expect going forward, with 17 more meetings this year and the possibility of a postseason series as well, Yankees-Red Sox games are must-watch TV again, and not just for the play on the field.
Article by: Maxx HottonFollow @getinhottonhere