Jon Lester and the Cubs are angry about MLB's 'damn slide rule'

Chicago Cubs starter Jon Lester was very angry following Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, and it had nothing to do with his pitching performance.

Lester, like many of his teammates, and even manager Joe Maddon, was upset his team lost a key run when the umpiring crew enforced the “damn slide rule,” as Lester put it, which was born from Chase Utley’s controversial slide during the 2015 postseason.

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The play in question happened during the fifth inning. Kyle Schwarber was the runner at third and Ian Happ, who was making his MLB debut, was at first with one out when Anthony Rizzo bounced one to Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez. Martinez would threw to second for the force out, but Happ’s aggressive slide prevented a throw to first base to complete the double play.

Second base umpire Mike Everitt immediately determined Happ committed an illegal takeout slide by going all the way through the base, for the purpose of “initiating contact with a fielder.” That ruling resulted in Rizzo also being called out.

The Cubs lost a crucial run when rookie Ian Happ was ruled to have violated baseball’s sliding rule during this play on Saturday. (AP)
The Cubs lost a crucial run when rookie Ian Happ was ruled to have violated baseball’s sliding rule during this play on Saturday. (AP)

The call was also reviewed and upheld, leaving the Cubs scoreless in that inning and extremely irritated.

The latter was clearly evidenced when Lester spoke to the media following the game. Though a couple hours had passed, he was still heated enough to provide these strong takes on the rule and how the game has been softened over the years.

There’s a lot to digest there beyond the play in question, but we’ll keep the focus there for now.

It was a judgment call in many respects, but even Cubs manager Joe Maddon agreed afterward that the umpires correctly enforced the rule.

That doesn’t mean he liked it.

The added frustration for the Cubs was that there wasn’t going to be a play at first base regardless, but their disdain for the rule most certainly predated Saturday based on Maddon’s comments after the game:

“I’ve talked about this before. I have no idea why these rules are a part of our game. That had a tremendous impact on today’s game where outs are rewarded based on a fabricated rule. It is created under the umbrella of safety, which I totally disagree that was a non-safe play.”

“When you slide directly over the bag, and you’re called out when there’s no chance for a runner to be thrown out at first base. There was nothing egregiously dangerous on the part of our runner. Don’t give me hyperbole or office created rules, because I’m not into those things, as you guys all know.”

Maddon also dropped in this line.

And then Maddon closed by declaring he’d like to see the sliding and home-plate collision rules ejected from baseball.

Maddon’s not going to get his way on that. At least not anytime soon. For better or worse, the game has evolved to the point where player safety is among the highest priorities. But it’s definitely fair to question whether these rules effectively achieve that goal, and if they’re impacting the game too much.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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