If you've played competitive baseball at any point in your life, then I'm sure you've had a coach or two that relentlessly stressed the importance of breaking up double plays by any means necessary.
Well, any means that fall within the rules at least. OK, and maybe a few that didn't. But their bottom line is your main goal as that runner heading into second base should be to disrupt the middle infielder's rhythm and affect his throw somehow, someway, hopefully leading to a result like Alex Rios and the White Sox received on Monday afternoon.
That's clearly the mindset Colorado Rockies outfielder Dexter Fowler had as he glided towards second base in his team's 6-3 loss to the Giants on Tuesday night. The hitter behind him, Charlie Blackmon, had just hit a tailor made 4-6-3 double play ball, but Fowler went out of his way to make sure that didn't happen. And to his credit, Fowler achieved that with his late takeout slide, but the price he paid for it was a Brandon Crawford fastball right square off the logo on his helmet that ricocheted all the way to home plate:
Fowler got a few high-fives from his teammates afterwards, and I'm sure Blackmon appreciated that effort quite a bit, but I wonder if it was worth the splitting headache he must have been feeling after the game. Then again, it could have been much worse had Crawford dropped his arm angle another inch and caught him under the helmet.
We're thankful that didn't happen, and I think we'd encourage all young ballplayers to follow Fowler's lead in terms of effort, but always remember to get down, and also get their arms up and protect their faces in those instances. Because just as there's a coach always emphasizing the importance breaking up double plays, there's another coach instructing infielders to protect themselves by lowering their arm angle and throwing low.
Thankfully, we can laugh this time about a baseball bouncing 90 feet off Fowler's head and even applaud the effort by all of the players involved. But it just shows how easily it can go from a clean, hard-nosed, entertaining play, to something with more serious consequences.