The St. Louis Cardinals bested the Chicago Cubs 5-3 Saturday, but the Cubs say it didn’t have to be that way.
The game’s momentum tilted away from a Cubs rally in the fifth inning when a slide into second base by rookie right fielder Ian Happ was judged illegal interference by umpires. Happ was judged out at second and batter Anthony Rizzo was automatically out too. The double play ended the inning.
The controversial double play judgment was consistent with a new MLB rule governing slides.
Under the league’s former rules, runners sliding into second base were given wide latitude. The slides were legal as long as they were close enough to touch the bag. This freedom led to occasional abuses, however, when runners sought to disrupt throws to first base and prevent double plays.
The new rule, 6.01(j), was instituted before the 2016 season. It requires that the runner must make a “bona fide slide,” which basically means the runner’s target must be the base, not a fielder. Under the rule, both the violator and the batter are automatically out.
Happ bounced back with a two-run homer later in the game, but it wasn’t enough to win.
"I'd like to see that rule ejected," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon after Happ was charged with interference. Maddon said he didn’t blame umpires for the call, since they are required to enforce the rules.
"We're out there playing with a bunch of pansies right now," said pitcher Jon Lester. "These guys have turned double plays their entire lives. They know how to get the heck out of the way. There's nothing malicious about it, and we got two outs for some reason."
Happ, 22, said he was surprised by the call. "I was just trying to get down early and make sure I was doing it the proper way and went a little far past the bag," he said.