Game five of the Liga Mexicana del Pacífico finals, top of the eighth inning, Naranjeros de Hermosillo and Tomateros de Culiacán knotted at three runs a piece, runners on first and third, one out, Hermosillo is leading the series three games to one, and perennial all-star Victor Mendoza is up to bat. It is in this exact moment when the runner on first, Yadiel Hernández, decided to try and steal second base. He was caught dead to rights and was called out. Sure, a replay showed that the play was close and he was actually likely safe, but the call was upheld, and just like that the entire momentum of the game and the series changed.
This isn’t about momentum, I don’t have time for that argument. The Tomateros did go on to win the series despite their three games to one deficit. There were plenty of reasons for Hermosillo’s collapse beyond Hernández’s seemingly awful base running decision. What we’re going to focus on in these scant few paragraphs is how despite the dubious nature of Hernández’s decision I absolutely love that he made the decision he did. How can I love a play that ended up in an out and contributed in a big way to his team losing the game and the series? Because it was fun, the sort of thing that Major League Baseball is missing in a big way.
As the above paragraph gets out of the way, Hernández’s decision wasn’t a strategically smart decision. From a strategic mindset, there’s no way to defend Hernández trying to swipe second in that situation. I’m not defending that, but I am telling you that as a fan it was fun to watch Hernández break for second base. When the crowd noticed he was taking off there was an audible pause, a sort of “oh my gosh, is he really trying for second reaction?” The pitcher, Sasagi Sanchez, was alerted to Hernández’s breaking into a sprint. He turned to try and cut him off at second and the entire time I was on the edge of my seat because of the action taking place. The tag was close, but Hernández was out and a very fun ten-second moment was over just like that.
The result could have gone either way, the decision still would have been questionable and super exciting at the same time. The moment was exactly what baseball fans love, an action moment. MLB doesn’t have many action moments these days. The reason that players like Javier Báez and Fernando Tatís Jr. stand out so easily is that they are willing to commit to creating action at all times. It’s good that they are committed to making the game fun because the point of baseball is to be an entertaining jaunt. I don’t know about you, but I want to have fun when watching baseball and the current MLB aesthetic is fairly far removed from what I would consider fun.
We need more players taking chances in situations where the smart thinking says they shouldn’t take such a chance. Baseball needs to be exciting and fun. Players need to take risks, take a base when every supposedly smart person says they shouldn’t. Their decision to stretch a single may not work out and it may be viewed as dumb. But, if it makes the game more exciting and keeps the fans more engaged then tell me what exactly is dumb about the decision being made?
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Unknown