Joe West’s maverick replay review: a wrong that was ultimately right

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By now you’ve probably heard about the big Joe West/replay/fan interference call that took place in the sixth inning of the Phillies-Marlins game yesterday. This was a wonderful set of occurrences because it marries at least three of my personal hobby horses: Joe West bashing, instant replay and Phillies fans. If steroids were involved somehow I probably would have had to have been hospitalized yesterday.

So here’s the video of the play. Probably worth watching it first so we can all agree — and I think we can all agree — that yes, that was a case of fan interference.* But the fan interference itself was not really the critical thing here. Joe West’s use of instant replay to overturn the original call of a double is what really turned this into an argle bargle/foofaraw.

The replay rules say that home runs or potential home runs are reviewable. As the play went down, no one — and here I mean the announcers and the people watching the game live and tweeting about it — thought this was a potential home run call being reviewed. Nor did Charlie Manuel. They all thought this was a defensive play (i.e. a double or a fan interference call) being reviewed, which would seem not to be a reviewable call. So, Joe West reviews it, calls Hunter Pence out and everyone freaks about Joe West cowboying his way into a call that should not have been.

Except after the game West told reporters that this was, in fact, a potential home run call being reviewed. He said that home plate umpire Chad Fairchild thought that the fan interference could have prevented the ball from being a home run, thus rendering the review appropriate. Manuel contends that no one was talking about it being a potential home run when everyone was arguing about it on the field, suggesting that the potential home run contention was a post-facto thing by the umps in order to validate their call. The Phillies have protested, of course. But given that an umpire will be on the record in his report saying that the review was of a potential home run, I’m pretty sure that the protest will fail.

But the protest is not terribly interesting to me. It’s not going to change the fact that the Phillies will win the division. And even if it succeeded, it may be a bad thing for Philly given that they’re already playing 26 games in the next 24 days. Sure, everyone would love to get Roy Halladay another win if possible, but when are they supposed to replay this one if the protest is upheld?

No, what really jazzes me about this is how clearly it illustrates the lame artificiality of the current instant replay rule.  About how the umpires are technically allowed to look at a play if X, but are not allowed to look at and review the very same damn play if Y.

From what I can determine, the validity of this call is based on whether Joe West thought he was reviewing a defensive play or a potential home run. But on what planet is a sane replay system governed by what happens to be in Joe West’s head the moment before he looks at the video monitor?  Why should a call that was ultimately correct even be considered improper based on the premise of the review? Right is right, right?  This rule is akin to one that says a police officer assigned to traffic duty can’t do anything about it if he sees a robbery happen on the corner 20 feet away.

Baseball can’t continue on with this kind of silliness. The calls should be correct, and if a video review can help the umpiring crew make the correct call — even if it’s not a home run call — that’s all that should matter.  And if it takes Cowboy Joe West being Cowboy Joe West for someone in a position of authority to finally own up to this and expand replay, I’m just fine with that, thank you very much.  Only Nixon could go to China, and only an umpire of Joe West’s particular charms can show the ridiculous inherent in the system.

 

*Interference by a Phillies fan, it’s probably worth noting. And I note it because some folks who were sending me tweets about this yesterday were saying stuff like “fan interference on the road screws the Phillies!”  No, my friends, if the Phillies were screwed here it was not by some Marlins fan. It was because of an event that was kicked off by a Phillies fan who couldn’t resist messing with a ball in play.

Court hears arguments for releasing 38 Studios records

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) The fight over whether to release secret grand jury records in the criminal investigation into Rhode Island’s $75 million deal with a video game company started by former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling landed in a courtroom Wednesday before a judge who will decide whether to release them.

Gov. Gina Raimondo is pushing for the records in the 38 Studios investigation to be released, over the opposition of Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. The records include transcripts of witness grand jury testimony, which is given behind closed doors and is typically kept secret.

Schilling moved 38 Studios to Providence from Massachusetts in 2010 in exchange for a $75 million loan guarantee. It ran out of money and went bankrupt less than two years later. The legal wrangling since then has included a lawsuit against a number of parties that ultimately settled for a total of about $61 million, and a grand jury that concluded its work in 2015.

Kilmartin’s office did not ask it to return any criminal charges and has said prosecutors determined there was not enough evidence for any charges.

Assistant Attorney General Susan Urso argued to Superior Court Judge Alice Gibney on Wednesday that the public interest lies in maintaining grand jury secrecy.

“To grant the governor’s request would eviscerate the grand jury as we know it,” she said.

Future grand jury witnesses may see the release in this case and consider that their own testimony might eventually become public, she said. She argued that the request did not meet one of the narrow exceptions carved out in the law that allows disclosure of some grand jury material.

Raimondo’s lawyer, Jeremy Licht, argued that it was not a case where the records are being sought simply to satisfy curiosity about what happened.

“The 38 Studios saga really shook the public’s faith in their government,” he said. “This is a case where disclosure can restore public confidence.”

Jared Goldstein, a law professor at Roger Williams University, who was representing the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU, argued in favor of disclosure. He called it a rare case, and noted that it involves public policy and the highest levels of state government, all the way up to the governor’s office.

Then-Gov. Donald Cariceri, a Republican, shepherded the deal with Schilling through. The Democratic-controlled General Assembly approved the legislation that paved the way for it. Kilmartin was a Democratic member of the House at the time. The company ran out of money under the watch of then-independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who opposed the deal when it was struck.

“Sunshine, as the old saying goes, is the best disinfectant,” Goldstein said.

He also cast doubt on the risk of public embarrassment, saying the players in the matter are already well known.

The judge didn’t immediately rule or say when a ruling would come.

Blue Jays-Cardinals game postponed due to our minds being blown over Chris Coghlan

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The St. Louis Cardinals’ game against the Toronto Blue Jays for has been postponed because everyone is still trying to recover from Chris Coghlan jumping over Yadier Molina.

Wait, no, that’s not right. It’s been postponed due to rain.

The game has been rescheduled as part of a day-night doubleheader on Thursday.

Now, let’s go back and watch that again: