Marisnick Didn’t Deserve to be Suspended but it’s Good That He Was
As I’m sure everyone knows by now, Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick has been suspended 2 games for the brutal hit he put on Jonathan Lucroy in the game against the Angels on July 7th. It came as he was trying to score on a sacrifice fly late in a tie game, when a split second decision led to this:
Jake Marisnick gets a two game suspension for running over Jonathon Lucroy— Sportacus (@IamSportacus33) July 11, 2019
Now I can sit here and cover all the opinions and back and forth for probably like 1,000 more words, but I’m pretty sure most of the people here have seen all that. I’m also sure most have watched the video numerous times to see his little stutter step and last second juke. There was a lot happening here, but unless you want to believe otherwise, you have to see that...
This was not intentional
I’m sure anyone who is not an Astros fan will consider this a biased opinion and guess what? It is. It’s biased because I actually watch the Astros play games on a regular basis. I’ve seen Marisnick run home probably hundreds of times. A good number of those have been slides into home. That’s what makes me more qualified to say that this was not intentional.
Think about it. A player doesn’t just spontaneously become dirty on a slide into home five years into his MLB career. Jake has never been a player to bowl over catchers and try to take some sort of unfair advantage. Anyone calling him a dirty player online or wherever is simply full of hot air.
What I see is a player doing an awkward dance trying to figure out where the catcher is going to go. When everything is slowed down by ten times you can almost see the terrible decisions crossing his mind on which way to go to try and grab the lead in the game. Jake knows he’s not supposed to hit Lucroy and he’s desperately trying to avoid it, but in the end he just made the wrong decision. Literally zigged when he should have zagged, but going at full tilt and almost parallel to the ground.
And I believe that because of that, Jake doesn’t deserve punishment. He wasn’t trying to hurt Lucroy. Jake’s pretty much operated his entire career under “the Posey rule.” He’s not some nefarious cad who was waiting for the right time to strike, which was apparently this inconsequential game in the middle of the season.
However, here’s where I’m sure I’m going to lose most of you. Because the fact of the matter is...
Jake should be punished
Look, I don’t like it. I know that Jake is a good guy who doesn’t deserve to have time and money taken away from his career. He didn’t intend to hurt Lucroy or break the rule. But he did both. He didn’t just do both but in his quest to not break the rule he made the exact types of movements described in the rulebook to show what an illegal hit looks like.
That flagrant breaking of the rules was not intentional, but it happened. And not only did it happen but it seriously hurt another player. Even if the injuries are not life threatening, which they could have been, they are life altering. Lucroy will be feeling the consequences of that hit for years to come.
And it’s for reasons like this that the rule was put into place. You have to protect these players because the nature of the game puts them in peril on a regular basis. It’s why players have been trained to start sliding to the outside of the plate to try and avoid the block.
But Jake’s training failed him on this play as he made the wrong call, and now he must be punished for it. Because the fact of the matter is that if you let this go you open the door for more hits like this one to take place. People can point to that example and say that Marisnick got away with it because he said he didn’t mean to.
However, ultimately, it doesn’t matter what he meant to do. If you want to protect catchers, you can’t try to parse intent in every play. Either the rule was broken or it wasn’t, full stop. So because it was broken, and because someone got hurt, MLB pretty much had to step in and punish Marisnick. This punishment is a message to players and fans that it is not ok in this sport to do what Jake did, even if it was an accident.
As for the punishment itself, two games seems fair because one game for a bench player would have looked like a nominal slap on the wrist, but three would have been too much because it was unintentional. Jake has announced that he is appealing, which is his right and I will not fault him for arguing his innocence.
But if players don’t like that this type of move gets punished then they should work harder to try to avoid collisions and needlessly endangering someone else’s career and life. Because, quite frankly, that’s the point.
No Justice for Jake Marisnick
I’ll get straight to the point. Today’s two-game suspension of Jake Marisnick for the collision at home plate last Sunday has nothing to do with justice, and everything to do with baseball politics.
Here at TCB we’ve all seen the collision video 50 times, we’ve talked and argued the incident to death. We’ve even proposed rule changes to help reduce the chances of similar occurrences in the future. Many among us believed that Jake should not have even been called out on the play, nor his run erased from the books. Upon reflection it is clear he violated the rules in his collision, and that his lack of intent was not a mitigating factor according to those rules.
However. to further punish Marisnick requires a finding that he acted with intent to collide with the catcher, putting his health and safety at risk. Unintentional collisions occur almost routinely in baseball and do not result in suspensions.
Especially at first base.
We’ve been over this over and over again about how when Marisnick turned inside the baseline on his way home, he was trying to avoid a collision, but that simultaneously, the catcher decided to occupy the same space, causing the dreadful but unavoidable collision. Jake did not intend to hurt Jonathan Lucroy, as regrettable as the collision was.
But we do not need to argue whether Jake intended to make the collision, as quick as many people were to pass judgement on Marisnick. In his statement today handing down the suspension verdict, MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre admitted there was no intent, saying: “While I do not believe that Jake intended to injure Jonathon, the contact he initiated in his attempt to score violated Official Baseball Rule 6.01(i), which is designed to protect catchers from precisely this type of collsion.”
When the umpires ruled Marisnick out, they fulfilled the requirements of the rule. To increase the punishment to the level of suspension requires a finding that the collision was intentional, that there was some kind of malice involved. And yet baseball has admitted that this was not the case.
So why the suspension? Simple, The criticism baseball would receive for not suspending Marisnick would be much louder and vociferous than the criticism they will receive for not suspending him. Pure politics, or perhaps a public relations calculation if you prefer. After all, it was a terrible collision, someone has to go down, right? But such a decision is a failure of courage, an inability to withstand criticism for doing the right thing.
It is tempting to call this mob justice. But I want to maintain proper perspective. Many are the victims of politically motivated injustice who have spent years, or even their entire lives, incarcerated for crimes they did not commit, in many cases because prosecutors, judges and juries did not want to face the political consequences of doing the right thing.
Jake missing two baseball games and maybe some money cannot be compared to those kinds of miscarriages of justice. Not in degree anyway, but in kind, in principle, it is not much different. Jake is being punished, not because he deserves to be, but because loud people hypocritically posing as moral guardians want everyone to see how righteous they are, and baseball, like many other institutions in our society, is afraid of them.
Punishing Jake will not prevent unintentional collisions. But it makes some people feel good.