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Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo shares thoughts on slide rule at second, argument with ump

In an interview on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Sports Junkies on Wednesday, Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo revisited the discussion he had with umpire Jim Joyce during the series in New York when Jayson Werth "illegally" slid into second base.

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Dusty Baker went out for a chat with umpire Jim Joyce after a slide at second by Jayson Werth late in the Washington Nationals' lone loss to the Mets last week in New York was ruled "slide interference".

Werth slid past the bag trying to disrupt an attempted double play, held on to the base and made contact with Mets' second baseman Neil Walker as the infielder was throwing to first.

Werth noted in a post game interview that there were other slides at second during the game on which players went past the bag, and he said he thought his own was within the guidelines as they had been laid out for players since the start of Spring Training.

"To me, that’s a clean slide," Werth said, as quoted by MASN's Mark Zuckerman:

"It’s been a clean slide for over 100 years. There were no spikes involved. I was down early. The only difference between the three slides tonight that went past the bag was that there was contact on (the last one)."

Baker wasn't satisfied with the explanation he received.

"The discussion was, 'Hey man, we were told... ' -- I know I've been told four or five different things from different crews about the rules," Baker said. "I know last time I was told that it was going to be a common sense type thing if there's no play at first base."

Baker didn't think there was a chance of the throw getting Daniel Murphy at first after grounded into the force at second.

"My contention was there was no -- I mean, he would have beat the throw [to first] no matter what, but Jim said, 'Hey, the rules are the rules,' and I said, 'Well, I'm going to appeal it,' and then we're in New York and he made the call and they said that the call was going to stand.

"I don't know how you teach young players now to break up a double play because there is no such thing as breaking up a double play."

That wasn't the end of the discussion.

Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo decided after the game that he wanted to discuss the call with Joyce as well.

"You blew it," Rizzo told the umpire, as quoted by Christian Red of the New York Daily News, when he confronted the umpire:

"Rizzo’s 'blew it' remark touched off a wild scene in the bowels of Citi Field, with both Rizzo and Joyce having to be restrained from going at each other by security and the rest of the umpiring crew, which included Chad Fairchild at home, Toby Basner at first and Marvin Hudson at third. At one point, Joyce even shouted at Rizzo to identify himself before the Nats executive loudly announced his position.

"I don’t need it out there either. You want to yell? Yell," said Rizzo. "I’m right here."

"'You’re the one that came up and talked to me,' said Joyce."

When he discussed the interaction with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Sports Junkies yesterday, Rizzo insisted that nothing physical took place.

"We did have some words unfortunately, and made my opinion known and he made his opinion known about my opinion."

Rizzo was asked why he thought the confrontation was unfortunate?

"It's never a good thing when you're yelling back and forth with umpires in the hallway of [Citi] Field and the press sees it and that type of thing, so."

"It was two competitive guys expressing their opinions. Like I said, it was unfortunate. I'm not proud of it. I was more upset about the interpretation of the rules and what [are] the rules.

"Our players are confused by it. I think some of the umpires are confused by it..."

As for who was right in the end?

"I think according to the letter of the law, possibly that the call was correct," Rizzo explained, "but if that's true there were two other slides at second base in that same game and also there was a call, if you remember, on May 10th against the Tigers that we felt was clearly against the four points of the rule -- all four points -- and it wasn't called.

"So it's just the inconsistency of it.

"Jayson Werth did the exact same slide earlier in the game and there was no call whatsoever.

"He even spoke to the umpires about it and said, 'Hey was that good,' because he slid past the base a little bit and the ump assured him that was good and then the exact same slide happens in a very important part of the game in the ninth inning and they call it."

"The consistency of the rule is the thing that frustrated me the most," Rizzo continued.

"I do believe the major league umpires are the best officials in all of sports in my opinion, they get 95% of the calls right and unfortunately we put these rules in and as the rules are being discussed and debated in real time in the games, they oftentimes have to be tweaked -- such as, you remember the fly ball rule where you had to have complete control of the ball before throwing it in and a few guys dropped a few balls and so they tweaked that and changed that rule because they didn't see it working and so I'm sure this rule will be tweaked and be more consistent in the future because that's what we're aiming for."

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was asked about the slide rule at second base when he spoke to fans at a Town Hall meeting at the All-Star Game in San Diego.

He compared the changes when it comes to slides at second to the changes made to the rules on slides into home plate when asked about rule changes that have been made that massively affected the way the game is played.

"It really has changed the play around the plate, I think in a positive way," Manfred said.

"You know, player safety is a crucial issue for our sport and for all sports. The best thing I can say about the collision rule and I can't say that it can't be difficult in its application, but we haven't had a major injury of anybody at home plate since it went in and that's a positive for our game.

"How about the slide rule at second base?" host Dick Enberg asked Manfred.

"I see the slide rule as a derivative," he said. "It's the next step on top of the catcher rule. Player safety is a big deal for us.

"You know, players have the opportunity to earn, you know, huge sums of money over the course of careers and you hate to see somebody's career cut short over a play that in a lot of ways is extraneous to the game."

Baker, based on what he said, probably doesn't agree that attempting to break up doubles plays is "extraneous" in any way. Will the changes that Rizzo is hoping for happen?

"I wish we'd get one answer on what we're going to do with this double play thing because it's going to rear it's ugly head in the playoffs or the World Series or something," Baker said last week, "and you'd hate to have a call like that decide whether you go to the World Series or whether you win the World Series."