Was the Josh Hamilton Steal Attempt “Stupid?”

Apr 13, 2011


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By Brandon Berg, EE Sports World
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Josh Hamilton just recently suffered a fracture in his upper right arm, an injury that will sideline him for 6-8 weeks. Afterwards, there has been a little controversy as to whether the play was a stupid play or not. Hamilton:
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“I listened to my third-base coach,” Hamilton said. “That’s a little too aggressive. The whole time I was watching the play I was listening. [He said] ‘Nobody’s at home, nobody’s at home.’ I was like, ‘Dude, I don’t want to do this. Something’s going to happen.’ But I listened to my coach. And how do you avoid a tag the best? By going in headfirst and get out of the way and get in there. That’s what I did.”

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So basically, it would appear that Hamilton is blaming his third base coach for his fractured arm. Third base coach Dave Anderson had this to say:
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“There was nobody covering home plate, so we tried to steal a run there,” Anderson said. “He made a pretty good play. That’s a tough play for a catcher, running away and shovel pass and try to tag a guy. There was an opportunity with two outs and we tried to take advantage of it.”

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Later, General Manager Jon Daniels responded as well:
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“I have absolutely no issue with Dave sending him,” Daniels said. “We play an aggressive style of baseball. We run. We take the extra base. The chances of getting hurt on that play are minimal. I’ve encouraged Dave to keep being aggressive.”

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Well, well. I’m sure we have all seen the play by now, so the question remains. Was this a “stupid” play? I say we break down the play.
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Adrian Beltre was up to the plate and fouled off a pitch into foul territory. Catcher Victor Martinez and third baseman Brandon Inge took off after the ball in an attempt to catch it and claim the out. Anderson told Hamilton to tag up and go, as Martinez and Inge were both fairly far away from the plate and Tigers pitcher Brad Penny failed to cover home, instead hanging around at the mound as a spectator.
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It appeared to me that Martinez and Inge were far enough from the plate in order to make a reasonable attempt to steal home. It might not have been a high percentage play, but going back to Daniels’ comment, they like to be aggressive and aggressive fits the bill in this situation.
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Once Inge caught the pop up, Hamilton tagged and headed straight for home at the same time that Martinez ran back to the plate and caught the throw from Inge and tagged Hamilton out just before he got to the plate as Hamilton slid head first into home.
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There are a couple issues with this. First off, there can be an argument made that Hamilton shouldn’t have gone because the play was too close to the plate. Again, I go back to Daniels’ comment and rest my case.
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The second issue is that Hamilton slid head first, which many people seem to be having a problem with. Let’s get this straight.
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Hamilton sliding head first into the bag was not a particularly poor decision. It is not like he was sliding into the feet of a catcher. Martinez tagged him from the side. Going head first allowed Hamilton to go slightly to the side without going off the base path and gave himself an opportunity to have a clear visual of home plate and where he had to touch.
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Unfortunately for Hamilton, he had an awkward slide and messed up his arm. Like I said, he was not sliding into the shin pads of Martinez, but off to the side, making it a smart slide. One thing he could have done, though, is the hook slide, but that would’ve taken more time and he likely would have been out by much more.
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The main factor in this play is Martinez’s awareness to get back to home. Make it a half second later and Martinez might not have tagged out Hamilton, making the play successful.
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If Hamilton was safe, would you still be complaining that it was a poor decision, providing he still fractured his right arm?
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Looking at it all, Anderson took a chance by sending Hamilton home, where Martinez tagged him off to the side, which is typically a low risk for injury type play, but it just so happens that Hamilton managed an awkward slide and hurt himself.
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That brings up another variable to the equation, Hamilton’s injury history. Hamilton has missed games due to seven different injuries in the last three years. He played 89 games in 2009 and 133 in 2010. I don’t think Hamilton should be considered fragile, but definitely more susceptible to injury than the average player.
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Put yourself in Dave Anderson’s shoes for a second. You want to make this play by getting Hamilton home, but is the fact that Hamilton has had a few injury concerns hold you back in the heat of the moment, especially when Hamilton does not exactly have the injury prone tag placed on him quite yet? He has only had one season with the Rangers so far where he has missed a considerable amount of games, the other two he has remained pretty healthy for the most part.
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In my estimation, neither Hamilton or Anderson made a bad decision, rather it was an unfortunate way to shut Hamilton down for 6-8 weeks.

Posted by | Categories: MLB | Tagged: Josh Hamilton, MLB, Texas Rangers |
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