Pictured above is Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Will Craig. Today, Thursday, May 27, 2021, Craig made what I believe to be the absolute worst play I’ve ever seen in a baseball game. Please enjoy:
I have watched the above clip 14 times and am freshly amazed each and every time by what happened. Craig is pulled off the bag by the shortstop’s throw, and when the Cubs’ Javy Báez retreats back toward home, Craig follows him, slowly, just sort of sauntering the wrong way down the first baseline, until a baserunner comes all the way around from second and scores just ahead of Craig’s belated flip to the catcher.
Each time I watch the clip, I want to shout, at my laptop, “JUST STEP ON THE BASE!” (This play has turned me into a 68-year-old cranky baseball traditionalist.) There were two outs in the inning, and so all that Craig had to do was step on first base. If he steps on first base, Báez is out instantly, the inning is over, and nothing the baserunner does matters in the slightest. Inexplicably, Craig never stepped on the base. Instead, for some reason, he followed Javy Báez down the line, as if Javy Báez was a will-o’-the-wisp.
(Another bad play: Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier, when he sees his teammate lured toward home like a sailor lured toward the rocks by the siren’s call, does not cover first. Even after the runner touched home, if Frazier had been on first, the run would have been negated by a force for the third out. I can’t really blame Frazier, though. He was merely doing what I have done all 14—15, now—times I have seen the clip: watching, slack-jawed, unable to believe what is happening.)
Anyway, this play is comically terrible. I feel just awful for Will Craig, who presumably has made a bunch of other, good baseball plays in his life. But not this one. This one’s the worst one ever. It replaces the previous worst play I’ve ever seen in a baseball game, performed by me in March of 1986, when I fell over after throwing a pitch, tearing a hole in my pants.