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Erik Gonzalez and the search for second base

It’s tricky, you know? Bases are always darting around.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Cleveland Indians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

For a brief moment in the 8th inning of last night’s game, it appeared that Andrew Miller surrendering a home run would be the most harrowing moment.


With the bases loaded and one out, Miller threw a slider that Yasmani Grandal hit directly to Francisco Lindor. In living rooms across Los Angeles and Cleveland (maybe Brooklyn too), fans turned away from the television screen to grab another beer and/or stop the dog from eating the couch. A ground ball to Platinum Glove Winner Lindor is baseball’s equivalent of Michael Phelps in the butterfly; it’s over the moment it begins.

The problem with baseball is that other parties are involved, and sometimes they are minor leaguers on borrowed time. In today’s edition of a close examination, we’re going to take a look at how Erik Gonzalez managed to completely ruin a fine baseball game.

The gif, presented without express written consent

I also recommend that you view the full video.

I’d like to take consider this play in three parts.

Act One: The Terrible Mistake

If you’re one of four or five people on the planet who didn’t turn away when the ball was grounded toward short, and you don’t believe the gif, here is a picture of Gonzalez receiving the lob from Lindor.

Someone somewhere is invoking the neighborhood play in defense of Gonzalez. There are a few problems with that:

  1. The runner isn’t remotely close to second base. His shadow is still more than fifteen feet away.
  2. Gonzalez isn’t in the neighborhood; somehow he hopped the fence and got stuck in the trailer park next door.
  3. The rule has been outlawed since 2015.

Someone somewhere is invoking youth as a defense in his favor. After all, this is his first trip to the majors. Can’t we forgive a young player for a small mishap like this? I think there is some merit to that. We are allowed to forgive young players for silly mistakes, and they’re known as seven-year-olds. If I did something this stupid after the first year of kid-pitch growing up, coach would have made me sprint ten poles before the next practice.

Keep in mind: my own father was the coach.

I won’t even begin to wonder how a kid who has probably taken infield practice an average of 250 times per year for 21 years manages to miss stepping on the bag. The only way this would possibly be forgivable is if someone flipped on a weird Mario Party version of baseball, where the bases have googly eyes and run around and in order to stop them you have to hit them with a mallet, and of course the baseballs are flaming Koopa shells.

Even then, Yoshi would have made the goddam play.

Act Two: The Appeal

As noted on the broadcast, pretty much every single Dodger barked at the umpire crew right away. If you watch the replay carefully, you can see a fading shot of someone on the Dodgers’ bench pointing out on the field. Also, their first base coach didn’t even wait for the ball to reach first before he started complaining.

It doesn’t take long at all for the Dodgers to formally request a replay. There’s a sequence during the appeal when it’s clear that absolutely everyone knows what is about to happen.

If you recall at the end of the gif, Miller even knew what the call would be before it got challenged. As he walks off the mound he looks around as if he’s thinking to himself, “Jesus, are we really going to get away with this? Everybody, just put your head down and go.” If only it were like football, where if you run the next play fast enough, it’s like the rulebook doesn’t exist.

Act Three: The Aftermath

Everything fell apart.

Terry Francona called on Zach McAllister, who promptly gave up a double to Chris Taylor, scoring two more. This is the truly infuriating thing about all of this to me. Twice in the game last night, the Indians should have escaped an inning without scoring any runs. Then, in both instances, bad defensive baseball — both instances featuring our friend Erik Gonzalez — allowed the Dodgers to score two runs. It is difficult to win Major League Baseball games when you spot the other team four runs. Even the Phillies would go .500 with that kind of help.

Two straight games now, the Indians looked like a solid baseball team, battling against a difficult National League opponent. The Dodgers are a likely candidate to reach the World Series. The problem is that the game is nine innings long, and suddenly collapsing after the starting pitcher leaves the game isn’t going to work.

I’m not blaming the bullpen at all. Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and friends are allowed to be mortal every once in awhile. They can’t be expected to carry this team to the postseason. Position players need to — as Tito would say — rise to their level. The non-Klubasco starters need to figure out their lives and fix what has been one of the worst rotations in baseball. Did anyone think we’d be saying that in June at the start of the season?

It would also be advantageous if Jason Kipnis never got scratched from the lineup at the last second ever again. Knowing Kipnis, his reaction to tonight’s game will be to play even if one of his legs was just amputated.

There are 100 games left in the regular season, and there’s no coasting in baseball. I have yet to see the Indians play baseball worthy of another trip to the World Series. These kinds of mistakes are unacceptable, and the players who make them need to be held accountable and own their errors. If not, we’re all going to watch Max Kepler and Byron Buxton run away with the division by the end of August.