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

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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?

Must-Click Link: “Skunk in the Outfield”

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Sam Miller of ESPN has an amazingly fantastic story today. It’s about a high school tournament baseball game in Rhode Island in 2006. It’s not your typical game story or oral history or look-to-the-past-to-see-the-future kind of thing. The only nod to such conventionality is mention of the fact that former Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland played in the game. That’s mostly a footnote.

No, the article is about a trick play — “skunk in the outfield” — concocted by one of the coaches. About how it played out and what went into it before, during and after it happened. Along the way Miller talks about the nature of trick plays and offers a good three dozen amazing insights into the psychology of young baseball players and the strategy of baseball as it unfolds in real time.

Each of these observations could anchor its own story but here they form a grand mosaic. And that’s only mild hyperbole, if in fact it’s hyperbole at all. Indeed, most treatments of such a play would be some video clip with a “wow, look what happened here!” sort of couching. Miller gives a more than ten-year-old trick play an epic treatment that is every bit as enlightening as it is entertaining.

Set some time aside to read this today.

Rubby De La Rosa to undergo a second Tommy John Surgery

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This is unfortunate: Diamondbacks reliever Rubby De La Rosa will undergo Tommy John surgery. This will be the second Tommy John procedure of his career, the first coming back in 2011.

De La Rosa has had elbow  issues for his entire career. Last year his UCL was barking again and he underwent stem cell therapy to try to avoid a second surgery, but it obviously hasn’t worked out. He’s pitched in only nine games this year, allowing four earned runs in seven and two-thirds innings, striking out 12.

I first saw De La Rosa in spring training in 2011. I thought his stuff was pretty phenomenal and figured he’d be a good one. Great stuff is often a function of heavy strain on an elbow, however, and pitchers breaking is, unfortunately, the rule in baseball far more than the exception.

He’ll miss a year at least. We likely won’t see him until spring of 2019, most likely on a minor league deal.