Bochy replay

And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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Diamondbacks 5, Giants 4: Welp, Day 2 of instant replay and everything that many of us said could go wrong with a challenge-based system went wrong:

(a) A critical call was blown;
(b) the call could not be reviewed because the manager was out of challenges;
(c) the wholly arbitrary rule that umpires can’t initiate reviews before the seventh inning was in effect;
(d) the blown-but-unreviewable call constituted the game’s margin of victory; and
(e) all of that led to extended delays.

As for the facts: the entire description of what went wrong and why can be read here.

As for the opinion: Why a totally defensible, but ultimately unsuccessful challenge on one play deprives a manager of a challenge on a wholly unrelated play is utterly beyond me. Why umpires — or anyone — can’t initiate review of plays that are clearly botched before the seventh inning is likewise beyond me. Why Bruce Bochy and the Giants have to bear the burden of fixing the umpire’s mistakes — and do so in a manner that requires game show-like calculation and management of scarce, gimmicky resources — is so far beyond me that I’d get jet lag if I had to go visit it. Baseball sold the challenge system on its “uniqueness and charm.” This was certainly unique, but not at all charming.

I’m sure, to the extent there are any official responses to the events of this game, they will reference the fact that, as recently as last season, the same outcome would have occurred here but, unlike last year at least there was a chance for the run-scoring call here to be reviewed (that chance being had Bruce Bochy not burned his challenge). Don’t accept that answer. Baseball had carte blanche and the support of everyone to institute a system that got calls right. They chose, however, to go with a system that, by definition, does not have getting calls right as its sole objective. A system which managers do not care for and which its former head of umpiring said “would lead to unbelievable confusion and would miss the point of instituting replay.”

Well, mission accomplished.

Rangers 3, Phillies 2: Adrian Beltre singled home Shin-Soo Choo in walkoff fashion. Before that there was replay stuff here too, but it was the other side of the coin from the Giants-Dbacks game. Ron Washington came out on to the field following a play at third on a sac bunt but ultimately didn’t challenge the call that the Phillies runner was safe. A few minutes later Washington successfully challenged a pickoff play which eliminated a runner at second who would have scored on a subsequent hit. Of course, anyone who lauds this as an example of the system working and cites it as a counter-example to what happened in the Giants-Dbacks game needs to explain to me how justice would’ve been served had Washington used his challenge on the sac bunt. And they should also note that even though only one replay was used here, the game was delayed both times anyway because we’re letting managers walk out on to the field to chat while everyone ponders whether a challenge should be issued.

Dodgers 3, Padres 2: Yasiel Puig disrespectfully hit a baseball off of the Western Metal Supply Building in left field for a two-run homer. Just pathetic, really. That building was declared a historic landmark in 1978, and this arrogant, hot-blooded young punk decides that attempting to damage it with projectiles is a good thing to do. Someone needs to sit him down and teach him how things work in Major League Baseball.

Astros 6, Yankees 2: There was a certain segment of Yankees fans who spent the past few days on Twitter lamenting that baseball’s marquee franchise — with its retiring demi-God shortstop — deserved better than to start the season on what was, in effect, baseball’s fourth “Opening Day,” on the road, in a night game and against baseball’s worst franchise. Keep opening like this and you’re gonna get this kind of quaternary billing on the regs.

Braves 5, Brewers 2: Freddie Freeman hit two homers and Jason Heyward hit a two-run shot of his own. Alex Wood continued his excellent spring training pitching into the regular season, allowing one run on five hits in seven innings. The Brewers had taken eight of the previous ten games against the Braves, six of which were won by shutout. Atlanta scoring five off of them is like some kind of miracle.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $40,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Wednesday’s evening MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $6,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on WednesdayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Marlins 4, Rockies 3: Nate Eovaldi allowed two runs and struck out six. The Marlins even scored a couple runs for him after he left a tie game to hand him the win. And while four runs may not seem like a great luxury, they are for Eovaldi. He’s had the worst run support in baseball over the past couple of years.

Blue Jays 4, Rays 2:  Drew Hutchison pitched his first game since June of 2012 and got the win. Adam Lind’s three-run homer would be all the runs he’d need. Fun times: with Jose Reyes out, Melky Cabrera was the Jays’ leadoff hitter. He went 2 for 5 and scored a run.

Mariners 8, Angels 3: Brad Miller hit two homers and Justin Smoak hit a bases-clearing double after Mike Scioscia decided to intentionally walk Robinson Cano to get to him. If Smoak can keep taking advantage of other teams’ understandable reluctance to pitch to Cano with men on base, the Mariners may actually have something here.

Indians vs. Athletics: POSTPONED: Though he is unaware of it, Indians catcher Yan Gomes is a Quasi Supernormal Incremental Precipitation Inducer. In laymen’s terms: a Rain God. The clouds want to be near him, to love him, to cherish him and to water him. This could be a bad thing to be as a baseball player, but it may give him a lucrative second career in taking money from resorts and similar places in exchange for not going there.

A-Rod will be back on Fox for the playoffs

Alex Rodriguez
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Alex Rodriguez made for a shockingly good analyst during last year’s playoffs. He’s clear and concise and is able to criticize players without being a jackass. That’s key, as so many current and former players who spend time doing analysis seem loathe to call out a player despite the fact that that’s what they’re there for.

Fox obviously liked what they got out of A-Rod, because he’s coming back:

Now, if they can refrain from hiring Pete Rose and if TBS brings back A.J. Pierzynski, tuning in to the pregame and postgame shows may actually be worth your time this October.

Blame Baseball’s copycat behavior for its lack of diversity in the executive ranks

Rob Manfred
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Following on yesterday’s stuff about baseball’s marked lack of diversity in the executive ranks comes a Ken Rosenthal column which digs into it a bit.

I might observe that, while, Rosenthal is right on all of the facts, there is a whiff of pushback in the story. As if MLB folks were hearing the criticisms Murray Chass and others have leveled in recent days about the lack of women, minorities and other candidates who don’t fit the “30-something MBA from an Ivy League school” mold of so many of today’s top execs and wanted to get some points out there. The league’s search firm is examined and there is a bit of “well, here is an exception; and here are a few more . . .” to it. Which, hey, that’s fair. Like I said, Rosenthal has his facts right and treats the issue seriously.

I think Rosenthal’s best bit, however, is the point he hits on at the end, when he says “homogeneity is dangerous in any industry, particularly when bright people are excluded.” That’s probably the key word to think about when you think about baseball’s hiring practices. “Homegeneity.” Baseball has a distinct lack of women and minorities in key positions, but I don’t think it’s because baseball is maliciously racist or sexist. Rather, it’s because baseball is acutely prone to copycat behavior that breeds homogeneity.

Everything about baseball culture, from the first day of a player’s minor league career-on and from the first day an intern is hired to get coffee for an assistant general manager is about not being different. About not sticking out. About emulating successes. You may mess up or you may fail, but if you do it while going about your business the way other, successful people went about theirs, you’ll be way better off than if you did things differently or stuck out.

This is true of all industries to some degree, but it seems far more prevalent in baseball. It’s a smaller world with fewer opportunities than business at large. It’s a more conservative world in terms of temperament. It’s one where you’re far more likely to have a reporter ask you about why you did something than, say, the accounting industry. It makes people afraid to take chances and makes people far more likely to do what that last successful guy did than to go out on even the shortest of limbs.

Not that things don’t change. Indeed, today’s preference for 30-something MBAs is radically different than the old model of hiring some old “baseball man” to run baseball operations. But it only came to the fore after the sabermetric and analytical model forced its way into the conversation with success and/or efficiencies that were impossible for even the crustiest old baseball man to ignore. That said, it was a transformation that was so difficult and radical that it was literally turned into a book and a movie and led to a decade and a half of arguing. A philosophical change which may have been casually noted in another business and then quickly emulated played out like some sort of cultural civil war in baseball circles. Change came, yes, but it wasn’t easy.

But here we are again, with the old baseball men replaced by the “Moneyball” disciples, who have become the new normal. A normal which one deviates from at great risk in baseball’s conservative world. I don’t believe that baseball’s homogeneity in the executive ranks is a function of bad people who believe bad things making bad decisions. I think it’s about fear and conformity more than anything else. Now there is a fear that not hiring that Ivy League MBA is the radical and perilous move. And if that Ivy League MBA was one who worked under another Ivy League MBA with another, all the better. And the easier we can sell him to fans as “the next Theo Epstein,” well, the better. And it sure would be easier to do that if he looked like Theo Epstein! Comps are the lingua franca of old baseball scouts. They’re the lingua franca of baseball decision makers too.

Whatever the causes, the net effect of all of this is no different than if there were virulent racism and sexism in the hearts and minds of baseball’s decision makers. It’s the same rich white boys club that maliciousness and bigotry could’ve created, even if it was created via more benign means. If baseball’s leaders truly believe that diversity in their leadership ranks is important — and I believe them when they say they do — they need to attack the problem of its homogeneity in the same manner they would if there was something malicious afoot. They need to stop throwing up their hands and saying “well, that’s what clubs do” or “that’s what our search firm gave us” and make achieving diversity a goal with an action plan, not just a goal which is merely stated.