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Indians Indians Archive Santana's Injury a Result of a Broken Code?
Written by Nino Colla

Nino Colla

santana001The fact that I’ve reached a chapter about running into the catcher in “The Baseball Codes” is filled with irony considering what just happened to Carlos Santana.

There is mild controversy over the play, both with how young Ryan Kalish arrived at home plate and even with how Santana blocked the dish.

Since this convenient coincidence of my reading habits has crossed with current baseball news, it seems like a good opportunity to consult the book to figure this entire situation out.

The book The Baseball Codes - Beanballs, Sign Stealing, & Bench-Clearing Brawls: The unwritten rules of America’s pastime is an A-to-Z guide on everything having to do with the unspoken, but commonly practiced ways of major league players. Baseball more than any sport is filled with superstition and respect and it requires the players themselves to police each other and make sure that everyone adheres to “The Code,” as the author Jason Turbow calls it.

Did Kalish break any of these codes? It wouldn’t be uncommon for a young player to do such a thing, not in the least bit. Despite his advanced maturity and almost scary veteran-like way of playing the game, we must not forget that Santana himself is a rookie as well.

Should the Tribe retaliate on behalf of Santana and his mangled leg? Or was the olive branch that Red Sox manager Terry Francona and Kalish extended enough to avoid someone getting pegged between the shoulder blades?

All of these valid questions, but before we answer them we have to ask ourselves one more.

How lucky are we that this kid’s career didn’t take a serious blow with this play?

Immediate reaction to the gruesome footage would suggest that his knee is blown out or that he’s torn something in that leg to shreds. Lucky for Santana and the Indians, the early word is that he only suffered a sprained knee.

Surgery could still be an option and it is unclear how long Santana will be out, but with the words “torn” or “broke” absent from the description of his injury, we can breathe a sigh of relief and now attempt to piece together what happened.

What happened before Santana was lying motionless on the infield dirt was a single to right field by Daniel Nava. The situation is perfect for one of the American League’s leaders in outfield assists, Shin-Soo Choo to deliver the ball to home plate to peg Ryan Kalish, attempting to score from second.

Some would argue that Carlos Santana blocked the plate well, but that he was in direct path of the baseline before he even had the ball. I would ask: When is the last time an umpire has ever called interference on a catcher blocking the plate because he was in the base path prior to catching the ball?

The chapter on running into the catcher of The Code is rather short, but Turbow sums up the ethics clearly and concisely.

“If a catcher is prepared for an impact, virtually anything goes. If the runner catches him before he can set up, however, the catcher is exceptionally vulnerable, which is why the Code offers protection in that situation, approving collisions only when necessary. (Of course, just as runners are discouraged from hitting a catcher who doesn’t yet possess the baseball, so too is it known that a catcher has no business standing in the baseline before the ball arrives. This gray area must often be navigated in an eyeblink as a situation unfolds.)”

There is plenty of gray area here, because while Santana was partially in the baseline before he had the ball, he did have the ball, he did tag out Kalish, and he pretty much blocked the plate to perfection.

Unfortunately for Santana, part of the fact that he blocked it to perfection was that his leg was at a vulnerable position, spread out wide while a majority of his body was still turning after he received the ball.

Now, that is all on Santana, in a way he was taking a chance and sacrificing himself for the out.

It boils down to the fact that he’s risking that the player charging down the line isn’t going to do what Kalish did, and that is execute a poor slide. Santana lost that risk because Kalish’s slide was poorly executed.

The way this situation unfolded was simple. Coming down the line, Kalish had two options. He could attempt to barrel over Santana and hope that he would lose hold of the ball, which wouldn’t be a bad idea considering Santana had just received the ball.

Or he could slide, ideally around Santana’s stretched out leg and touch home plate, which may have been a better idea, considering Santana had to reach over and apply the tag. If Kalish got his hand in around the foot, he probably would have been safe.

Kalish did neither; well at least that was the result. What he did do was slide directly into Santana’s leg and not only that, he didn’t do it very well. Kalish was barely into his slide by the time he hit Santana, in fact he had started his slide entirely too late.

Was there a code broken by either player? No, Santana didn’t do anything wrong. He put himself in a vulnerable position, but as Turbow put it, getting run into is part of the job description. The only thing Kalish did was fail to execute a proper slide.

With the measures that Terry Francona took after the ball game to make sure both manager Manny Acta and Santana knew Kalish was truly sorry for the incident, I would hope that the Indians take the high road for the rest of the series.

Whether the young rookie is in the lineup or not at any other point against Cleveland, I think he will avoid any sort of beaning and so should all his high-profiled teammates. Kalish made good about what happened, even though he didn’t really break one of the coveted “codes” of baseball.

As the book mentions, the enforcement of these codes is really up to the players. They are the interpreters of the rules, as well as the violators, and the jury. If the Indians did feel Kalish needs to learn a lesson and they want to send a message, they’ll do it.

Revenge or not, Santana is out for a period of time. A fastball to the elbow isn’t going to bring him back quicker and for now, the Indians will have to make due without him.


You can follow Nino on Twitter @TheTribeDaily where he often tweets about his parties with Andy Marte and sometimes about the Indians.

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