It was only Game 2 of the 2012 World Series, but the Detroit Tigers had yet to hold a lead, and they had an opportunity to go up 1-0 in the second inning with a previously shaky starter in Madison Bumgarner on the hill for the San Francisco Giants. Prince Fielder, listed at 275 pounds but probably closer to 300, was on first base with no one out, and ALCS MVP Delmon Young was at the plate. Young laces a grounder up the third base line and Fielder starts his engines on his way past second base, as the ground ball made its way over the bullpen mound in foul territory, bounced off a wall and rolled toward the charging left fielder, Gregor Blanco. At that point Tigers 3rd base coach Gene Lamont, a former manager himself, had a split-second decision to make. As Blanco overran the ball coming toward him in the outfield, Lamont acted, giving Fielder the green light to head home. After the game, Lamont’s move was described as “aggressive” by Tigers manager Jim Leyland, and most of popular media, citing runners on second and third with nobody out had Fielder been held. It’s a very valid point. Gene Lamont said after the game, “If I had to do it over, I would have held him.” I disagree completely… and let’s discuss why.
Prince Fielder had a decent lead from first base, not being held on by Brandon Belt as Fielder is highly unlikely to steal second base. The grounder by Young gets by third baseman Pablo Sandoval and skids up the line into foul territory, where it rolls up and over the bullpen mound and hits an angular wall which send the baseball scooting past a charging Gregor Blanco. I really think the kick off the wall, and the ball getting by Blanco initially, is what Lamont uses as his key to send Fielder home. Once Blanco reverses field and retrieves the ball, he fires a laser in the direction of his cut-off man, shortstop Brandon Crawford. If that ball gets by Blanco another foot as he backtracks to get it, Fielder is safe at home. If Blanco mishandles that ball on the transfer from the glove to his throwing hand before sailing it to the cut-off man, Fielder is safe at home. Blanco picks the ball up cleanly, makes the transfer and fires it in. At the same time, Fielder has rounded third and is chugging toward the plate.
The throw by Blanco sails past his intended target, cut-off man Brandon Crawford, and is snagged near third base by second baseman Marco Scutaro. I believe if Blanco hits Crawford, his intended target, Fielder is safe at home. Why was Scutaro even there, so close to third base? After the game, Scutaro answers that question. “Cutoffs and relays, that’s what you’re supposed to do; when the ball is hit on the line, you’re supposed to go between the shortstop and the plate.” That’s exactly what Scutaro did, catching the ball on the fly, turning and firing a seed to National League batting champ, and all-world catcher Buster Posey as Fielder gets into his slide for the plate. Posey snags the ball from midair and slaps the tag on Fielder’s large rump as he attempts to score. If that ball was thrown a hair more toward the first base side of the plate by Scutaro, Fielder is safe at home. If Posey doesn’t catch the ball and slap that tag on Fielder almost simultaneously, Fielder is safe at home. After the slide, Fielder pops up and reacts, almost making you believe he WAS safe at home. Replays show he was out, and home plate umpire Dan Iassogna (Eye-ah-sonya) made a great call right there in real-time. Great call and wonderful play by the home team during this incredible playoff run for the San Francisco Giants.
The 2012 Major League Postseason has been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs if you’ve been following the San Francisco Giants. Elimination game after elimination game, they just kept winning, and had fans on the edge of their seats while doing so. After losing both games at home against the Cincinnati Reds to open the NLDS, the Giants went on the road and swept the last three to move on to the Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Giants go down 3-1 in the series against the defending World Champs, but storm back to win three-straight and charge into the World Series against Triple-Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and the Detroit Tigers. It seems every break has gone the Giants way this postseason, and the amazing throw by Scutaro and tag by Posey exemplify that. The Giants lead the series 2-0, and take their magic act on the road to Detroit for three. I can only imagine how this magical roller coaster ride will end, but man has it been fun to watch. Major League Baseball added two Wild Card teams to their postseason this year, and thus added an element of excitement to the end of the regular season (encouraging teams to win their division, or play a one-and-done for their postseason lives). My only concern is how far into November MLB’s postseason lingers into, just not enough warm days left in the season for weather not to be a factor in these critical postseason games. Detroit in November, not exactly “take me out to the ballgame” weather.
In closing, I had one more thought about Gene Lamont sending Prince Fielder around third and into home, a decision I completely agree with, even after knowing the outcome. I do wonder if at any point, or if in any meeting, or just each player on their own thought to themselves that if they had the opportunity to go into home plate hard, they would take it… just to see how Buster Posey would play it. Not trying to be malicious, just a good, clean baseball-play coming home. We are all aware of the home plate collision Buster Posey suffered in 2011 that sidelined him for the remainder of that season. He sustained a broken fibula and severely strained left ankle ligaments. The organization has instructed Posey NOT to take on runners by blocking the plate. I couldn’t help but wonder how the entire scenario might have played out differently if... oh well, just a thought.
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***Original publish date 10.27.2012; The San Francisco Giants went on to win the World Series!***