Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz probably figured he would catch the Toronto Blue Jays napping, trying to steal a base like that with his team down a run in the seventh inning Monday night. But Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia was ready — so ready that Arencibia didn't even need to stand up to make a strong and accurate throw to second base. Watch as Arencibia finds his inner Benito Santiago and makes the play of the day:
And Ortiz was finito at second base, as shortstop Yunel Escobar appeared to put the tag on his sensitive place just before he reached the bag. The Red Sox would come back to win the game, but Ortiz was still steamed about being thrown out by the time reporters got to him.
Ortiz stands by his decision to go, putting the blame on Arencibia for gunning him down from his knees.
"That's not fair," he said. "He should make that throw when guys are fast."
"I feel a little faster this year," Ortiz added with a smile. "I was safe, by the way."
As Toronto's broadcasters mentioned, it's not the first time this season Arencibia has made a throw like that.
During Toronto's 16-inning season opener at Cleveland, Arencibia of course hit the game-winning homer after his bunting misadventure. But he also shined behind the plate, cutting down Shin-Soo Choo at second by making another throw from his knees. It turns out that Arencibia's got more than just a prayer after hitting his knees, eh?
Manager John Farrell says:
"He's made such strides from a year ago," Farrell said. "It's remarkable how far he's come. He throws out Choo from his knees, he blocked numerous two-strike pitches in the dirt.["]
His throwing method of course is reminiscent of Santiago, who frequently (always?) tried gunning down baserunners with his knee pads in the dirt. I remember when he was a rookie in 1987 and Santiago established a record with a 34-game hitting streak. That was nice, but Santiago was cool because he threw guys out — at second and third, or at first on pickoffs — from his knees.
Getting back to something Ortiz said, there's a perception (even a joking one) that what Arencibia did, and Santiago made a living doing, was somehow lazy because they didn't stand up. Here's what Sports Illustrated wrote in 1991 about Santiago:
Of the 28 pickoffs recorded by National League catchers in 1989, Santiago had 14. He was such an intimidating factor that while the rest of the league averaged 194 attempted steals per team, the Padres' opponents ran only 112 times. "If the pitcher gives me a chance," Santiago says, "I don't think there's anybody in the major leagues who can steal a base on me."
What makes Santiago particularly imposing is his ability to gun down runners from his knees, without rising out of his catcher's crouch, a move he taught himself in the minors. The throw requires astonishing arm strength, but it looks so simple that some have described the style as lazy.
"He's anything but lazy," says Dodger catcher Mike Scioscia. "What he does requires less mechanics because he's only using half his body, but it's very efficient. He does a great job of getting his hips turned even though he's throwing from his knees. He's able to get away with no footwork and just arm strength. And of course he does things with his arm a lot of us only dream about."
It's a freakish thing to play defense like that. Hardly anyone has done it. We'll see if Arencibia continues to try it, as Ortiz said semi-ominously, "when guys are fast."