We all have bad days at the office. For Will Craig of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Thursday afternoon’s day was one of the worst you will ever see.
Have you ever made what felt like the most colossal, seemingly irreversible mistake of all-time at work? We all have been there at one time or another. Thursday afternoon it was Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Will Craig’s turn to make this mistake.
The now viral play of Craig failing to step on first base or tag Cubs hitter Javy Baez has made the rounds and has been called one of the worst defensive mishaps ever. At first look I was also in shock and confusion as to how this play could have unfolded. But after watching it again and again my thoughts turned from anger and confusion to more along the lines of “how did this happen” as this will surely be on of the more watched plays of the season to this point, and that’s not a good thing for Craig and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The play itself is a breakdown on several levels. Yes, Craig should have stepped on the bag initially – I will not be rehashing the basic principles of what needed to happen here, but I find it hard to believe that he wouldn’t of gotten assistance from his teammates or coaches in the form of verbal cues. I wasn’t on the field so I cannot comment on what was certainly a heightened level of commotion but there was a breakdown of coaching here maybe all the way throughout the Pirate minor league level.
MLB rules state that if a run scores before a force out is made and if that is the third out of the inning, the run does not count. I have never actually seen a batter run BACKWARDS to home plate and I am sure Craig never has either. In that moment, the thought of a runner racing from third to home, in a tight ballgame would take over the thoughts of many fielders. When you are in a game situation like that instincts take over – like a runner breaking for home when you are 10 feet away and have what looks like a shoe-in of an out at home plate. I think in this situation Craig’s instincts took over where coaching from the Pittsburgh Pirates dugout should have or the rest of his fielders pleading with him verbally to tag Baez or step on the bag .
I really question if this rule was ever formally taught or mentioned at any level of play Craig had. It is one that never is really brought into the equation – but it just makes me wonder about the level of coaching that is happening. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Craig subsequently got a rough ground ball a few batters later that he couldn’t handle and went 0-4 at the plate with a strikeout. The rough day at the plate brought his season line .233/.298/.326 with a pair of extra base hits and 17 strikeouts. Not the best of lines but Craig had 5 extra base hits over his first 7 games at Triple-A this season. With injuries to Colin Moran and Phillip Evans a shot was extended to him. Craig did slug 43 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2018 and 2019 so the power is definitely there so I appreciate the fact that the Pittsburgh Pirates are letting a true first baseman and not a player converted from another position hold down the fort.
I will leave you all with this. Was it one of the toughest plays to watch and digest as a Pirate and a baseball fan? Yes. I know every Pirate fan is calling for his immediate demotion but the truth is (I think) I seriously doubt it he will ever make a play like this again.
So what should a cellar dwelling 18-31 team like the Pittsburgh Pirates do next? Bat Craig cleanup tomorrow and give him a shot at redemption.