Failing to understand — then understanding the failure — of the 8-5 triple play in 6 frames

It’s about 16 hours after the White Sox ran into the first-ever 8-5 triple play that doomed them to a 6-3 loss in 10 innings to the Minnesota Twins on Monday night, and I’ve watched the play at least 16 times on both broadcast feeds.

It’s not because I’m a glutton for punishment. I just want to understand it.

Sometimes when I’m at a modern art exhibit and an installation or entire wing fails to grab me, I’ll shift my attention to the people who appear to be appreciating a work, and then I’ll try to see what they see. I don’t want to be the philistine who looks at a plain blue canvas worth millions and only thinks that a kid could do that, but I also don’t want to pretend to understand something I don’t. Besides, isn’t my reaction, as unsophisticated as it may be, part of what that piece of art intends to inspire?

Anyway, a couple of children definitely could’ve done what Adam Engel and Yoán Moncada did in the seventh inning on Monday night, except it would’ve been 1) slower and 2) adorable. But here’s a case where sitting down and devoting the time to letting the visuals wash over me reveals hidden depths. There’s a reward to discovering new emotions, even if most of them are all in the “disgust” family.

This is the last I saw of Adam Engel before Byron Buxton hauled in AJ Pollock’s drive to deep right center, and when Buxton caught it, my emotions were still net positive. I’ve calibrated my expectations for Buxton to track down any fly with that kind of hang time, but because Engel appeared to be tagging, it still appeared to be a productive out that amplified the pressure on Griffin Jax, whom the White Sox had on the ropes.

Instead, Engel is frozen a couple, three feet from second base. To the extent that I can empathize, it’s because I spend some White Sox games playing Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball on SNES emulators, and I sometimes forget what key is what button.

But Engel had the luxury of managing his own functions through his native controller, so that’s no excuse. The explanation he gave isn’t much of one either.

At the moment Engel broke for third, the ball is still about four stories high in the air. Engel read one cue and ignored all the others — the fans anticipating a potential interaction with the baseball, Buxton still looking up, the crowd withholding its roar. He just knew what he wanted to happen. He wanted to live that moment.

Here is said attempt at actualization, and this is the last time where Engel and Moncada both thought things were going great. Everybody else in the park, including all the fans behind them in sections 104, 105 and the Miller Lite Landing, knows something they don’t.

At this moment, I wonder how far Moncada thinks he has to run in order to be safe. If he thinks he only needs to outrun Gio Urshela to second base, then his impulse to salvage the play is understandable. He can’t count on Urshela fielding it cleanly, having his feet about him, or making a calm flip to second base.

If he knows that he actually has to run to first because the ball is caught, that he has to run about 150 feet including a re-touch of second base while hoping he eludes and evades four to five Minnesota Twins, I imagine this is what drowning feels like. Even Steve Stone, who filters out just about all his visceral reactions before he forms thoughts into sentences and paragraphs, can’t help but let out a pained “no” underneath Jason Benetti’s play-by-play.

Neither Joe McEwing nor Leury García know exactly what to do with their hands. Their vocabulary limits them to saying things like “hold up,” or “keep going,” or “slide, and to this side.” They don’t know a combination of gestures that will CTRL-ALT-Z the inning. If I’m lip-reading García’s arms correctly, I think I can make out “imbeciles.”

About 10 seconds after Buxton makes the catch, Engel finally realizes what happens. We can assume that he didn’t know the facts beforehand because he’s dancing off third while Moncada attempts his retreat, which is the move of a guy who thinks he’s allowed to keep running forward. A guy who knows that Buxton caught the ball probably tries to go hide in the tarp at that point.

I’d be curious what would happen if the Twins tagged out Moncada without the immediate knowledge that Engel never tagged. Does he just stand on third and hope nobody notice, or does he try to pull a Germany Schaefer and steal the base behind him?

Over the previous three games, Seby Zavala has been caught rounding second base too far. He’s also fallen while rounding second base and barely making it it back, and he’s stopped at second base when Buxton was giving him third. He’s overly familiar with his GPS losing signal in that part of the park. He’s the last one who should be able to judge what he just saw. He is free to judge and judge harshly

Zavala’s blank stare takes a back seat to La Russa’s literal slack jaw. Why was Engel not tagging? Why did Moncada keep running when the play was in front of him? Why did he not just remain content with his Hall of Fame ring, three World Series titles and cushy front office advisory roles? There are only bad answers.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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As Cirensica

Even the lady to the right of TLR is about to eat her whole hand in disbelief

Last edited 5 months ago by As Cirensica
asinwreck

An excellent post that I wish was written in 2018 and not during the supposed window of contention.

I imagine this is what drowning feels like.

This also applies to the feeling of rooting for a team led by Jerry Reinsdorf, Rick Hahn, and Tony La Russa.

chipporter

My original impression was that Engel had caught sight of Moncada flying at him and that instant visual is what spurred him to take off before tagging up, perhaps a fear of being overtaken by Moncada. In re viewing, it appears Engel never actually sees Moncada, so that TOOTBLAN, he owns.

DrCrawdad

That was just so painful. It might be the death rattle of the 2022 Sox.

calcetinesblancos

If that play didn’t make mgmt think they need to shake things up to get the attention of the team and make them focus, nothing will. Especially after that walk & homer bullshit.

As Cirensica

Engel and Moncada running in one of those pictures reminded me Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s final scene.

palkadance

Jim, I routinely chuckle at the things you write. But this was hilariously brilliant from start to finish. The LaRussa shot was the absolute icing. SO funny.

As this stupid team continues to strive for new levels of bad – and routinely achieves those goals – at least we have this place to come to for therapy.

Torpedo Jones

In one day, this site has offered references to the Donner Party and classic SNES baseball games. Sox Machine is far and away the best part of being a Sox fan.

calcetinesblancos

True; I felt attacked but at the same time appreciated the “even the most unpleasantly sarcastic Sox fan couldn’t have envisioned the scenario that unfolded” line in the other post.

calcetinesblancos

I’m really glad the Sox hired Tony The Russa to manage the team. He has a lot of experience, and he knows how to lead a winning team and get them ready to play every day. He could have managed any team, yet he chose the Sox. A great job all around.

upnorthsox

If Engel actually knew he was wrong he could have broken for home and hoped to get Urshela to instead throw home but of course he didn’t and I suspect still didn’t until the ump told him “sorry son you have to go to the dugout”.

Shingos Cheeseburgers

I’m curious where this will land in the modern pantheon of awful Sox plays. There are lots to choose from: The Beckham fall down pop up. The Youkilis sac bunt. The 2-1 IBB. Eloy in the net. Yoan Moncada effectively ending Willy Garcia’s career.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Two days ago I saw a guy wearing a Youkilis White Sox jersey. There’s gotta be a story behind that purchase.

Joliet Orange Sox

Here’s a take that I am sure no one else agrees with:

Engel and Moncada both thought the ball wasn’t caught which was a huge mistake on each of their parts but it was just a fiasco that happened and I don’t think the triple play is indicative of an overall lack of focus or fundamentals

It was obvious to me watching tv that the ball was caught but I expect it was much harder for them to tell. I think a big part of the issue was that Buxton is a bit superhuman. I watched the replay slowed down to glacial speed (Thanks Youtube TV!) and he looks like a player who expects the ball to go over his head because he is running full out with his back to the infield and looking for the wall and not the ball. This is because he’s Byron Buxton and a quick glance just as the ball was hit was enough for him to pick a great route. I think the real mistake that Engel and Moncada made was not allowing for how good a defensive outfielder Buxton is in assessing what was going on.

As Cirensica

How can two player make the same misjudgment? I don’t buy it.

metasox

I think that is the point. If two players make the same mistake, it suggests something fairly remarkable happened. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t poor judgement but it doesn’t mean Sox players have all forgotten how to run the bases either.

Last edited 5 months ago by metasox
Right Size Wrong Shape

You think it’s more likely that neither one understands the rules of baseball?

As Cirensica

No…I think it is related to lack of concentration to some degree from both. Or maybe one had a misjudgment, and the other one wasn’t paying attention, and “went with the flow”. Who knows? It was a very bizarre play.

Law&Law_Attorneys@Law

To me your point has some merit, but when I saw this happening my thought was “do the Sox not have scouting reports telling them Buxton will likely catch any fly ball, so be sure it drops first”. Or simply “Best defensive CF”

vanillablue

I was following along on GameDay and saw “AJ Pollock flies into triple play, center fielder Byron Buxton to third baseman Gio Urshela.”
The “for sale, baby shoes, never worn” of GameDay descriptions.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

Analyzing anything related to this team or season is like studying the formation of a turd. Reinsdorf, La Russa, and Hahn are the primary components. Next season will be a slightly different size and shape than this one.

dongutteridge

I’m just curious. Does the White Sox organization have any baseball coaches?

Someone should tell Reinsdorf to look into getting those. It could lead to the Sox being able to develop big league ball players through the minor league system.

This way they wouldn’t need a $350 mil. Payroll in order to acquire enough talent to win a playoff series.

Papa Giorgio

Fantastic writing Jim. Like so many others, your skills are wasted on this organization.