As St. Louis Cardinals fans saw this weekend, Chicago Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd is wearing a specially-designed batting helmet with wraparound protection for his face. He is back after suffering multiple facial fractures when hit by a pitch on May 21.
Following his Sunday comments supporting an opposing player and in the process, disagreeing with a teammate and his manager, Byrd may need more than a fortified helmet when he returns to Chicago.
From his centerfield perch on defense, Byrd had a good view of Matt Holliday’s hard slide which took out Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro during Saturday’s game. It was a crucial play that helped St. Louis extend an inning in which they erased a Chicago lead and went on to a 13-5 win.
“I was hurt on the ground and didn’t think too much about the runs,” Castro told ESPN after the game. “He was really out of the base [path]. He didn’t have a chance to touch the base. He slid hard, real hard. It wasn’t clean.”
Cubs manager Mike Quade was tossed from the game by umpire Derryl Cousins after an automatic double play was not called. A heated debate ensued.
“I applaud somebody who will go in hard to try and break up a double play,” Quade told ESPN. “But my thing is, it’s not a legal slide to me. The way Starlin was clipped, in retrospect, the bag was the last thing on his mind. They don’t [call an out] unless it’s blatant. The rules are there for a reason.”
On his blog, Byrd defended Holliday. While what he said was hardly controversial in a general sense, it is bound to cause him problems since it can be perceived he is not backing his teammate.
Wrote Byrd, “The dude was trying to break up a double play. Holliday plays hard. You have to appreciate the way he plays. He’s not labeled as a dirty player. He didn’t go spikes up. The only thing that made it look bad was that he slid late. That’s it. Whether he could reach the bag or not, I don’t know. If I’m in that situation, and I’m playing to win, trying to get to a pennant race, I’d do the same exact thing. Even though we’re second to last and in fifth place in this division, I still try to flip infielders. It’s as simple as that. I try to play winning baseball, and that’s all that is.
“You call a play dirty when a guy is going out there trying to hurt somebody and that’s not what he did. If Holliday wants to go in and hurt somebody he will. He’s 6-4, 235, 240 pounds. That’s him playing hard. The way we take it when we see it is we want to defend our players at the time. When you go back and really look at it and how the game is played and how it should be played, there’s nothing wrong with that. If the umpires want to make their call and say he was too far off, so be it. Being dirty or being malicious, it’s not even close.”