When does a decoy become dirty?
Last week the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Washington Nationals had a blench-clearing skirmish after the Pirates third baseman (Jung-ho Kang) decoyed Bryce Harper on a play at third base.
Here is the video. The decoy or “deke” occurs at the 21 second mark.
UPDATE: The video below is apparently not working for most people. I will search for an alternative.
Decoys happen fairly often in baseball. I have written about them before. HERE is a video I did on one version. HERE is another. It was one of my favorite things to do on defense when I played and nobody got angry when I did it. So … why did this one turn into a fight? Like most other actions in life, the phrase “time, place, and manner” applies.
Let’s first look at the “TIME” and “PLACE.” In the video above, Kang clearly is trying to make sure Harper does not score on the bad throw to third base. He smartly does not go for the ball which would have notified Harper of the poor throw. He stays at the base and gets him to slide. No problem there. I would have done the same thing. The problem is that Kang quickly acts as if he now has the ball and will tag Harper. Harper panics and attempts to slide at the last minute. Bad idea. Many sliding injuries occur because the runner waited too long to slide or was hesitant to slide and did it awkwardly. Both were the case with Harper. And he got hurt.
Waiting until the last minute and doing so right in front of the bag were mistakes by Kang. And they threw at him because of it.
Now let’s address the “MANNER.” As shown in the video, Kang quickly moves his glove up (as if to catch the ball) and down (as if to apply a tag) in front of Harper. That is a no-no. It would have been better for Kang to give the body language that the ball is being thrown to third base and extending the glove outward as soon as the poor throw was made. This would have accomplished the same thing – getting Harper to slide – but without the startle-induced last-minute slide that often leads to injury. He would have given Harper plenty of time to slide. The second video I linked above explains this way to do it.
Decoying runners is a very heads-up play on an infielders part. If you do it wrong, however, you might just get a pitch thrown in your direction.