Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles

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?

Evan Gattis undergoes surgery for hernia; recovery is 4-6 weeks

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Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle shares the bad news

One of the Astros’ big bats won’t be taking hacks when the Astros hold their first full workout on Feb. 23.

Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis recently underwent surgery to repair a hernia, the Chronicle has learned, taking away most of his spring training at a minimum. The recovery is four to six weeks but fortunately for Gattis and the Astros, the injury is not considered severe.

Gattis was working hard on his overall conditioning this winter, even telling MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart in late January that he had already dropped 18 pounds. It sounds like the big slugger might have gone a bit overboard with those workouts, and now he is in real danger of missing the first couple weeks of the 2016 regular season.

Gattis batted .246/.285/.463 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 153 games last season for the Astros. The 29-year-old is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and has a hearing with the Astros scheduled for February 16 to determine his salary for 2016. He requested $3.8 million and was offered $3 million when figures were exchanged a little over three weeks ago.

Suddenly the Astros’ front office might have a new talking point for those arbitrators.

Seung-Hwan Oh finally receives his work visa, will be on time for Cardinals camp

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At last check, new Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh was still awaiting a work visa from the United States Embassy in South Korea and there was some worry that he might not be able to arrive on time to spring training in Jupiter, Florida.

But that is now officially a non-story.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Oh has recieved his work visa and is expected to report to Cardinals camp next week along with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers. Oh might even show up a bit earlier than the Cardinals originally asked him to, per Goold.

Oh saved 357 games in 11 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization before inking a one-year contract with St. Louis this winter. He also registered a stellar 1.81 ERA and 772 strikeouts across 646 total innings in Asia, earning the nickname “The Final Boss.”

Oh is expected to work in a setup role this year for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

John Lamb had back surgery in December, will likely get off to late start in 2016

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John Lamb was part of the Reds’ return package in last July’s Johnny Cueto trade and he had a strong showing at the Triple-A level in 2015. But the young left-hander posted a 5.80 ERA in a 10-start cup of coffee with Cincinnati late last season — his first 10 appearances as a major leaguer — and now comes word from MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Lamb will probably have to get off to a late start in 2016.

Lamb underwent surgery in December to repair a herniated disc in his back — a surgery that went unreported by the Reds until Tuesday afternoon. Reds manager Bryan Price acknowledged on MLB Network that Lamb is behind the team’s other starting pitchers and will likely open the coming season on the disabled list. The hope is that he might be ready by mid-April.

It’s a small but frustrating blow for a rebuilding Reds team that will be looking to establish some foundational pieces in 2016. Once he is recovered, Lamb will be expected to fill the Reds’ fifth rotation spot behind Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen.

This is going to be an ugly year for Cincinnati baseball fans.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.