It was a baseball play.
While that offers little consolation for a torn MCL and broken tibia, it’s really the only thing you can say about the Chris Coghlan slide that ended Jung Ho Kang’s rookie season. The Cubs and Pirates are currently engaged in a battle for playoff position, and a win Thursday moved the Cubs to within 2 games of that top Wild Card spot. What’s more, the Cubs’ 10-6 record against the Bucs this season would ensure them the upper hand should the teams finish tied.
You can understand, then, why Coghlan was going hard into 2nd base, taking full advantage of the rules by sliding with his legs to the side while his hand was still able to reach the bag. Kang, however, wasn’t positioned to absorb the blow. The stand-out rookie infielder was attempting to turn a double play on an Anthony Rizzo grounder and had his left foot planted when Cogs came in and made contact with his knee.
It was immediately evident that this was not good; knees aren’t supposed to bend that way. But, amazingly enough, Kang was still able to complete the play and get the throw to first to beat Rizzo. And then he actually tried to walk off! Even with help, I can’t believe he was putting any weight on that leg at all.
Stuff like this sucks. I remember being in high school and playing basketball at an open gym when something similar happened to me. I was driving to my left and had made my first step when the defender hip-checked me, spinning my body to the right. Thing is, my left foot stayed planted. Lots of fun. But the only thing at stake in that case was my high school athletic career. The Pirates are in the thick of a playoff race.
Though clearly disappointed, Kang understood the situation, saying in a statement: “It is unfortunate that what would be considered heads-up baseball would cause such a serious injury. That said, Coghlan was playing the game the way it should be played. I am confident he meant me no harm.”
Rivals or no, you never want to see anyone suffer a serious injury. I sincerely hope Kang is able to come back strong next season and reclaim his place as part of the next vanguard of young talent.