CAN A SHORTSTOP TAKE ONE OR TWO STEPS THE WRONG WAY AND LOSE A BASEBALL GAME? QUITE POSSIBLY!

                                Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

         

It’s one of the reasons that baseball is the most fascinating game.  You can watch ten thousand of them and, one day, some small thing happens that you rarely, if ever, see.  It costs one team a potential win – and often times it goes unnoticed.

         

So it was on Tuesday night, July 21st, Orioles-Yankees.  Bottom of the third, Baltimore winning 2-1 and, with one out, Cody Ransom walks.  Derek Jeter steps to the plate and, with the count 2-1, Ransom breaks for second.  Oriole second basemen Brian Roberts breaks to cover second and, inexplicably, shortstop Cesar Izturis also takes at least one step (maybe two) towards second.  Jeter hits a ground ball to short right to the spot just vacated by Izturis who can’t recover to make the play.  Thus, Jeter singles to left and Ransom moves to third.

         

WHAT HAPPENED?

         

Excellent question.  At first, one of the TV announcers said that Izturis was breaking to cover second.  But upon further review, The Yes Network’s Ken Singleton stated, “Not only was the second baseman covering but the shortstop has to come over and try to back it up in case there’s a throw.”

           

What???

           

Clearly, on replay, Brian Roberts was covering second with the right-handed Jeter batting against lefty Rich Hill.  Clearly, Cesar Izturis made a huge mistake by taking one or two steps towards second base.  Under no set of circumstances can a middle infielder break before a ball is hit to BACK UP a base.  If they all did that, you’d have two middle infielders near second base and about 75 feet of open ground between the middle infielders and the corner infielders.  Clearly, Derek Jeter hit a ground ball to short that became a single.

           

Had Izturis not mistakenly moved towards second, the only question would then be could the Orioles turn two (tough but possible) or just get one (definitely).

               

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

                     

Well, you had the feeling after watching the replay that something good would happen to the Yankees and something bad would happen to the Orioles.  The next batter, Johnny Damon, flies out to short center for the second out.  But then Mark Teixeira walks and A-Rod hits a two-run single to left (giving the Yankees the lead) before Jorge Posada strikes out to end the inning.

               

If you’re an Orioles fan, you count four or five outs that inning.  And that’s a recipe for disaster.

                            

WHAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED IF IZTURIS DOESN’T MOVE AT SHORT?

                 

Another great question the answer to which (of course) we’ll never know.  But what you do know is that there would have been a great chance for the Yankees to be held without a run in the third inning.  With the Orioles maintaining the lead (2-1) rather than giving it up to the Yankees (3-2), the game easily could have changed.

              

This play would be especially important if it remained a close game.

                    

                    Final score:  Yankees 6, Baltimore 4.

               

DID ANYONE NOTICE?

                    

Well, yes and no.  After thinking that Izturis was covering and then explaining that the shortstop was going to back up second, The Yes Network’s Michael Kay did say later that Izturis should have stayed “anchored” at short.  Absolutely correct.  But no newspaper article or news report discussed the play, arguably the “Turning Point of the Game.”

            

It’s not that a play like this should be the lead story of the game.  But that it was virtually ignored by almost everyone is proof positive that often, in modern-day baseball, people miss the nuances, miss the so-called “little things,” the things that are often the difference between winning and losing a baseball game.

                

A shortstop mistakenly takes a step towards second and completely changes the complexion of the game.  Is it too strong to say that he lost the game?  Maybe.  But it’s just another reason to watch baseball at the second level to understand what’s really going on.    

                                    

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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