Roel Santos nearly colliding with Ramón Esteban Rodríguez
Three Batter Minimum

Three Batter Minimum: A Cuban Collision

Top of the 7th, game five of the Serie Nacional de Béisbol finals. Alazanes de Granma is up to bat, they are down 3-2 in the game, but lead the series against Cocodrilos de Matanzas 3-1. They have the bases loaded and Carlos Benítez has just singled to right field. Darién Palma scores, the game is tied. The camera pulls back to show Roel Santos rounding third and being held up by Granma’s third base coach, Ramón Esteban Rodríguez. There’s a chance the throw won’t get there in time and Granma is about to take the lead, try to add on, close out the series, and win their third title in five years.

Granma did end up winning their third title in five years, but it wasn’t from that play or even that game. They lost that game, and a big reason they lost it was because Santos never scored on that play. Rather, as he rounded third Rodríguez had moved into the baseline and Santos ended up stopping in his tracks to avoid a collision with Rodríguez as Rodríguez fell to the ground in the affair. This allowed Matanzas to get out of the inning with the game tied and win on a walk-off wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth.

This, naturally, got me thinking of the possible repercussions of a play such as this. I can’t recall a similar one happening in baseball though I’m sure it has. More specifically, I can’t recall a similar play happening under this set of circumstances when the run that never scored represented a go-ahead run in what could have been a deciding championship game. Along with those repercussions, where do we assign fault and how do we assign said fault?

The last part is somewhat easy, all the blame rests on the shoulders of Rodríguez. He was out of position, clear as day. In the excitement of a big play, he allowed himself to drift too far and was clearly standing right in Santos’ running lane. That doesn’t mean that it is all on Rodríguez’s head that Granma did not win that game, or that it would be entirely his fault if Granma had not ended up winning the title. Yet, he does have to bear responsibility for royally messing up on the play in question and the fact that his actions greatly helped to contribute to all the worst possible outcomes.

The funniest thing about the play was that the announcers and players didn’t seem to react at all. There was no outrage or incredulity. Instead, there was the sense of, “oh well, what happened happened, nothing can be done, let’s move on.” Such a staid response surprises me from a league where every game is treated, by players and fans alike, as if it is the most important game in the history of the sport of baseball. Perhaps then, the lack of a response is owed to the fact that no one wanted to single Rodríguez out due to him being a well-liked individual who has a lifetime of accomplishments and should not be defined by one very bad mistake. Or, perhaps people were thinking Santos should not have run through a stop sign.

Who knows why the reaction was so muted, there could be any number of reasons. What I do know is that the reaction would be much more severe in America. I’d wager a play like this taking place in the World Series would result in years of discussion and conjecture, especially if Granma had lost the series. Baseball loves its mythology, and last week in Cuba it came very close to having a brand new mythological event to add to its book.

Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – GameTime Sport

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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