One of Baseball’s Wacky Rules

I saw the Mets play the Padres on Friday, and something strange happened. I’d always thought a run that scored on an inning-ending play only counted if the third out had been made on a tag. A force out means no run, right? Wrong.

Get this: in the first inning, Dillon Gee walked the first batter, Will Venable, and got the next one out on a pop-up before giving up a single to Yonder Alonso that moved Venable to third. Then, with runners on the corners and one out, Jesus Guzman hit a shot that looked to be an easy double off the wall, that is, assuming it didn’t clear the fence. Mike Baxter put an end to all that by making the incredible catch you see above before doubling Alonso up at first. Here’s the video.

Venable had crossed the plate before they made the third out, but so what? It was on a force, the run didn’t count, or so I, along with most everyone in the stadium, thought. That “everyone” includes the Mets’ first baseman, Ike Davis, who told the AP, “I gave a first pump because I thought the run wouldn’t count.”

But alas, Ike and I have something in common: we were wrong. Well, that and the fact that we’re both hitting under .200 this year. Then again, I haven’t had 156 at bats (hint: I haven’t had any). Anyway, we both thought the run would be nullified by the double play. It was not, because as is the case with so many of baseball’s finer points, the devil is in the details.

Remember when I told you it was wrong to think a force out means no run? Well, I was lying. See, it’s not that this play was an exception to the rule, that the run counted despite being a force out. Rather, it’s that the second out on a tag up double play like this one isn’t actually a force out. Why, you ask? Well, that requires some definitions. To the rule book, let’s go!

Alright Robin, now that we’ve got our atomic batteries to power and our turbines to speed, I’ll tell you. Rule 2.00 of the Official Baseball Rules states that a force play is one in which “a runner legally loses his right to occupy a base by reason of the batter becoming a runner.” Likewise, Rule 7.08 tell us that “if a following runner is put out on a force play, the force is removed and the runner must be tagged to be put out,” and Rule 7.10(a) states “Any runner shall be called out, on appeal, when after a fly ball is caught, he fails to retouch his original base before he or his original base is tagged.”

So what happened on Friday is this: the force on Alonso was removed when Baxter made that catch, and the third out, which came from the ball getting to first before he could tag up, was technically a tag out. That’s despite it looking so much like a force play.

Funny, isn’t it? Because the definition of a force out is so specific, that of a tag out is the opposite. A tag out doesn’t actually require a runner being tagged with the ball, a base can be “tagged” as well. So basically, a tag out is anything that isn’t a force out. But hey, it’s these little complexities that make baseball so great. It’s one thing for me or Ike Davis to be surprised, we’ve only got 40 years of baseball-watching between us, max. But it’s entirely another that my grandfather, who was there as well, can learn something new about the game he loves after seeing it played for over 75 years. In baseball, there actually is something new under the sun, and that’s what makes it such a beautiful game.

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Deal in place to send Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox

Aug. 03, 2010 - Los Angeles, California, United States of America - 3 August 2010: San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Red Sox and Padres have a greed to a deal that will send first baseman Adrian Goznalez to Boston in exchange for several top prospects.

The team flew in Gonzalez, who had surgery Oct. 20 on his right, non-throwing shoulder to clean up the labrum, for a physical examination Saturday. While there was no official word on the physical, a team source told’s Joe McDonald that Gonzalez “looked good.”

The Red Sox continued Saturday night to work on a long-term contract with him, a source, who indicated that the negotiation window will close at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, told’s Gordon Edes.

In exchange, the Padres would receive three prospects in pitcher Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and outfielder Reymond Fuentes, according to a baseball source. The Padres also would receive a player to be named later, a source told Edes.

This deal works for all parties involved. The Padres couldn’t/wouldn’t pony up to pay Gonzalez, so they needed to get something for him before he hit the open market in 2012. The Red Sox desperately needed to add another middle-of-the-order bat and Gonzo fits the bill. He should love that short porch in right field at Fenway, although this guy can hit it out to all sides of the field. (He should love hitting in that wind tunnel that the Yankees call a ballpark, too.)

The only thing that’s unfortunate is that the Padres’ offense was about as explosive as wet tuna last year and now they just traded away their best hitter. This is a club that relied heavily on pitching last year and they’ll have to do it again this season because their lineup is the definition of weak.

Of course, maybe management knew that their success last year was more fluke than anything and decided that it was now or never when it came to trading Gonzalez. They didn’t want to hang onto him just to finish fifth next year (I’m not saying they would have – I’m just delving into the thought process of San Diego’s brass) and lose out on the chance to acquire Rizzo, Kelly and Fuentes. So they made the trade and will now deal with the fan outcry.

Jonathan Sanchez saves Giants, who reach postseason for first time since ‘04

San Francisco Giants Freddy Sanchez reacts after scoring a run against the San Diego Padres during the third inning of their MLB National League baseball game in San Francisco, California October 3, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

In the end, the Giants’ most inconsistent starter over the past couple of years was the one who saved their season.

Jonathan Sanchez lasted only five innings on Sunday, but he held the Padres to no runs on three hits as the Giants shutout San Diego 3-0 to win the NL West. Sanchez also sparked what had been a lifeless offense the past two days by roping a triple in the third inning off Mat Latos and scoring on a Freddy Sanchez (photo) single two batters later. Aubrey Huff doubled home Sanchez to give the Giants a 2-0 lead, while rookie Buster Posey homered in the 8th to cap the scoring.

The Giants have been waiting a long time for the talented Sanchez to put it all together and they were rewarded for their patience. He was nearly traded several times over the past two years, but credit GM Brian Sabean for knowing what he had and not selling low. He finished the year 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA and obviously saved his best performance for last.

It’s kind of amazing that the hero wound up being Sanchez and not Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain. That’s not a knock on Sanchez, but I’m sure many Giant fans thought it would have been Cain that won the deciding game on Friday night and not Sanchez on the final day of the season. And heading into today, I’m sure there were plenty of fans that thought Lincecum would have to save the season in a one-game playoff with San Diego on Monday. But Sanchez truly bailed the Giants out after Cain and Barry Zito were hit hard in their respective starts the past two days.

The Giants will now face the Braves next Thursday in San Francisco, while the Phillies host the Reds starting on Wednesday. General baseball fans may not be thrilled with the match ups, but it’s great to have new teams like the Reds and Giants completing in the postseason. Three of these four teams have great fan bases (sorry Atlanta fans, but on a whole you’ve proven that you don’t give a crap) and the energy in Cincinnati and San Francisco right now is fantastic.

This is, without a doubt, the best time of year in sports. Football and playoff baseball? Outstanding.

Good to see Barry Zito is still earning his paycheck

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Barry Zito reacts after walking home a run against the San Diego Padres during the first inning of their MLB baseball game in San Francisco, California October 2, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Barry Zito’s contract continues to be the biggest rip-off in sports history.

Since arriving from Oakland and taking $126 million of the Giants’ money, the only thing Zito has done is strum a few notes on his guitar and lose ballgames.

After Matt Cain got his teeth kicked in by the Padres last night, it would have been nice if Zito stepped up for a change and won a huge game for his club. Instead, he allowed four runs (three earned) over three measly innings of work as the Giants once again fell to the Padres in San Fran. It wasn’t entirely his fault of course, as the Giants’ offense has reverted back to the Jose Castillo days, but he put his team down 2-0 in the first and sucked the life out of them.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, that means San Diego is now just one game behind the Giants in the NL West. These were the same Padres that couldn’t score a run against the Cubs two days ago and looked completely hopeless. But square them off against the Giants and all of a sudden they’re the 2009 New York Yankees.

If I sound like a bitter Giants fan, it’s because I am. Did I expect Zito to win today? No. But again, considering he’s done nothing for that team on the field, I was holding out hope that maybe he’d surprise me. I was holding out hope that he could put it all together, overcome all the struggles he’s had in San Francisco and just rise to the top one time. Just one time.

But no. In the end, he was Barry Zito.

If the Giants somehow overcome the greatest team in baseball history and magically make the playoffs, here’s hoping Madison Bumgarner makes the starting rotation and not this John Mayer wanna be.

Giants Baseball: Torture.

It’s now or never for Padres

San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley holds his head as he hands at the dugout fence as he stands with teammates in the ninth inning during a loss to the Chicago Cubs in their MLB National League baseball game in San Diego, California September 30, 2010.  REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

August 19th seems like a decade ago.

That’s when the San Diego Padres, who had just won five straight, had a commanding six-game lead over NL West rivals the San Francisco Giants. The Friars were 26 games above .500 at that point and given the strength of their pitching, they seemed destined for a playoff spot.

It’s October 1st and now the Padres are clinging to desperation after losing three of four to the second-to-last-place Cubs. With just three games to play in the regular season, they’re three games back of the Giants in the West and two games back of the Braves in the Wildcard (who will take on the Phillies’ scrubs over the next three days). They’re just 5-5 in their last 10 games, while San Fran is 8-2.

Six days ago they were just a half game back of the Giants and with the lowly Cubs coming to down, they had an opportunity to potentially take the division lead back. But with their season on the line, the Padres only mustered five runs over a four-game stretch and the Cubs took three of four at Petco Park.

The Padres now have to sweep the Giants and hope to win a one-game playoff in San Diego on Monday. It’s hard enough to beat a team three times in a row and four times seems nearly impossible. The good news is that the Padres have swept the Giants twice this year, but those were different teams back then. All you need to know about that San Francisco team was that Bengie Molina was still the cleanup hitter.

There’s still hope for the Padres, but the time is now. Two of their top guns, Clayton Richard and Mat Latos, will take the hill in two of the three games, but the key is the offense. The Giants had the best team ERA in the major leagues last month and if the Cubs’ pitching could shut San Diego’s offense down, what do you think San Fran’s will do to them?

If the Padres are going to make the playoffs, they’ll have to erase a month and a half of poor play in four days. But for them, the only way to approach this situation is one game at a time, starting tonight in the “City by the Bay.”

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