No, Melky Cabrera’s batting title will not be the result of a “loophole”

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There are a lot of people who (a) don’t want to see Melky Cabrera win the batting title; but (b) find it unseemly for baseball to change its rules on the fly in order to thwart Cabrera.  That’s totally understandable.

The problem comes when those folks try to get around all of that like Gwen Knapp of Sports on Earth does today, arguing that Major League Baseball should close what she calls a “loophole” that allows Cabrera to win the title despite not having 502 plate appearances:

However, an MLB loophole known as Rule 10.22(a) adjusts the stats of any player who falls short, adding the missing plate appearances but no hits to his final totals. If the player’s batting average still leads a league, then he gets the crown.

Cabrera’s single missing plate appearance invites Selig to close the loophole. In fact, it begs him to make the change.

The thing about this, however, is that Rule 10.22(a) is not a “loophole.”  It’s a RULE. It does not give discretion. It says that a player who falls short of the batting title “SHALL” be given additional hitless plate appearances to his stats in order to qualify him for the batting title. It could not be more clear in this regard.

Knapp argues that the rule is newer, and that for this reason ignoring it is somehow OK.  But we don’t treat rules that way. Once they are part of baseball’s rule book they are rules until they are repealed.  Ignoring this one — calling it a “loophole” — would be effectively no different than ignoring the rule which defines a base hit and saying that 25 of Cabrera’s didn’t count because they went to right field or something.

I have no doubt that baseball will change the rules this offseason to disqualify suspended players from batting titles in some way.  But make no mistake: doing it now, on the fly, would not be “closing a loophole.” It would be tossing aside one of the established rules of baseball because we don’t like how it works in a specific case.  Baseball should simply not be in that business. If it were, it would render the record book even more meaningless and subjective than those who decry the scourge of steroids claim it is quickly becoming.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).