Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles

Joe Maddon shows us why limited instant replay and manager challenges are bad ideas


In yesterday’s Rays-Orioles game, Matt Joyce hit a ball that maybe was a homer or maybe a double or maybe a foul ball. Hard to say on live viewing! It was initially ruled in play and Joyce made it to second for a double.

Buck Showalter came out of the dugout and argued that the ball was foul. So the umps went to replay. Except Joe Maddon wanted to be sure — indeed, he said that the rules demanded — that, no matter what the replay showed, the ball could only be ruled a home run or a double, not a foul ball.

Why? Because, Maddon claims, the replay rules only allow for replay to be used to decide if a ball was a home run or not. Not if it was a double or a foul ball. Here’s what umpire Gerry Davis said:

“Joe wanted to review to see if it was a home run, but only if the consequences were not the possibility of it being a foul ball,” Davis said. “He thought the only thing possible was it being a fair ball play, which would have been a double, or a home run. That’s not true. If we go to replay, whatever we ascertain from the replay is the call we make. So a foul ball is a possibility in that situation.”

The ball was called a home run — correctly — and that was that. But Maddon is still hanging on to this today. Just this afternoon he said that Davis “made stuff up on the field” and that using replay to see exactly what happened — as opposed to what, in Maddon’s view is a rule which does not allow for foul balls to be reviewed — is “baseball anarchy.”

Thing is: Maddon is technically correct that baseball’s replay rule is for boundary home run calls. Was it in or out, fair or foul. Not for balls in play that were called doubles to be switched to foul balls. So, technically speaking, it was improper for the umps to look to see if the play was a double or foul. They could only, technically speaking, see if it was a double or a home run.

But he is insane if he thinks it any way justifiable for the umps to look at a replay to see what happened, note that a ball was clearly foul yet be constrained from ruling it a foul ball because of some technical application of the replay rule. Which, thankfully, didn’t happen here, but easily could have. And which would have led to a protested game and no small amount of sturm und drang.

Which is why limited replay, like we currently have, is silly. Gerry Davis is correct to note how the right call should be made if replay clearly shows what should have happened. And that, but for all of Maddon’s arguing which delayed the process yesterday, it’s pretty easy to see what actually happened on the field via replay in any number of scenarios and to make the right call in relatively short order. It also shows why managerial challenges would be a bad idea under any expanded replay too, because it would lead to arguments about whether it was a “proper challenge” or not. Umpires managing this and simply using technology to get the call right under their own authority is far, far preferable.

To pretend that we can’t see these plays via replay is madness. To allow the replay system to become part of a manager’s strategy is also madness.  Whether it was technically proper or not, what Gerry Davis did here makes perfect sense. He looked at the play and got the call right.

Why does this have to be so difficult?

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.