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Bud Black’s attempted replay challenge deemed “untimely” — which is kind of absurd


Bud Black tried to use a replay challenge in last night’s Dodgers-Padres game. It came in the first inning when Yasiel Puig laid down a sacrifice bunt (he’s always giving himself up for the good of his team; just a standup, selfless guy he is) and reached when Padres pitcher Tyson Ross’ throw pulled Yonder Alonso off the bag. Puig’s called safe.

Black — after talking to his coach who is on a phone, presumably with a Padres replay assistant — walks out to challenge. The umpires convene for a second and then decide that the replay challenge was not issued quickly enough. Under the rules, you see, the manager must “immediately” inform the crew chief if he plans to challenge the play. Black’s challenge was not “immediate.” Which I won’t dispute, as the pitcher had taken the rubber and the batter had entered the batters box. The Padres’ catcher had even gone out to the mound to talk to the pitcher to buy some time.

Ss we’ve seen in the first few games of the season, however, managers have taken to popping out of the dugout pretty immediately on challenge plays, yet take their sweet time in actually saying they want to challenge. They do this so that their replay assistants can review the play and let them know whether it’s worth using the challenge. Someone flashes the manager a thumbs-up or thumbs-down or something as he’s killing time. That’s why the batter isn’t in the batter’s box and the pitcher hasn’t taken the rubber in so-called “timely” challenges. A manager is on the field. It’s just as much of a delay in that situation as Black’s delay here. One is allowed, one is not.

As for this challenge: they don’t have the video clip of it up on, but I just watched it on and, for what it’s worth, the play was pretty darn close. Many times a game the umpire will call the runner out when the fielder’s foot is off the bag in the same fashion Yonder Alonso’s foot was off the bag here:


It’s sort of a mini-neighborhood play for first baseman. The difference here was that Alonso was leaning to reach for the ball, not just moving his foot a bit early in a casual fashion like you see many first basemen do, so it’s more likely that umpires will look more closely at the footwork. I get that.

But I also get the absurdity of all of this. A clear takeaway is that managers are incentivized to get out onto the field fast and delay things while their staff deliberates challenges. If you do what Bud Black apparently did and wait to know if you want to use a challenge before issuing it, you’re out of luck because you are deemed to have delayed things unnecessarily.

Which, in this case, was determined only after a long delay occasioned by an umpires meeting in which whether Black delayed things too much was discussed.

Jessica Mendoza and Chris Archer were great in the booth

Jessica Mendoza

Not news: Jessica Mendoza, who has been excellent on all of the ESPN broadcasts she has done since taking over for Curt Schilling, was excellent last night too.

She was great on the nuts and bolts, continued to show that she can describe hitting mechanics better than most color commentators — way more of them seem to be more comfortable talking about pitching — and was a seamless presence in the booth in terms of flow, timbre and all of the aesthetic aspects of broadcasting. If she has a fault thus far it’s that she leans on some cliches about hitters’ mindsets and desire to win sometimes. This puts her in with approximately 100% of all other color commentators in baseball now and throughout the history of baseball, of course, so it’s not really a demerit.

Ultimately, the true test of a good commentator is whether they (a) add insight; and (b) do so without distracting or upstaging the game. In this Mendoza is superior to most commentators in baseball and clearly superior to the “stop and listen to me” brand of analysts the major networks have employed on national broadcasts in recent years.

Indeed, the best compliment I think I can give Mendoza is that she was — in the literal sense, not the judgmental sense — unremarkable. Meaning: during the game and after there was nothing she said or did that was worthy of the highly-critical remarks almost every broadcaster gets, going back through Schilling, Kruk, Harold Reynolds Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan and everyone else ESPN and Fox have forced upon us in their history doing playoff baseball. I’m on Twitter during most playoff games and sometimes the broadcaster bashing is more interesting than the game. Mendoza gives the would-be bashers very little material.

At least those who would bash on the actual merits. There remains a group of deadenders who are irked by her very presence in the booth because she is a woman. The New York times rounds up some of the less mouth-breathery types today, but God knows there are many, many worse. Some of them even in professional media. At least for now. Whether you choose to ignore those people or choose to engage them — which, their dead end opinions notwithstanding can be a useful exercise in my view — know that they are out there being miserable and sexist as God and the First Amendment intended them to be.

While there are many who slam Mendoza on the faulty premise that she lacks credentials and experience in the booth, there was one person in the ESPN booth last night, at least for a while, who was a total TV noob. His name was Chris Archer. He pitches a bit for the Tampa Bay Rays. And lo and behold, he was pretty damn good himself.

Archer needs some polish for style — he has a lot of “ummms” and “uhhhs” about him — but his analysis is both sharp and quick. Meaning he was RIGHT ON the points when he needed to be without any of the usual prompting guests in the booth need from the play-by-play guy. At one point he even flowed into play-by-play and did a pretty good job of it.  Chris: if that pitching stuff doesn’t work out, you have a bright, bright future in television.

So, on the first night of the playoffs, there were no complaints about the broadcast. Mostly because the broadcasters weren’t the stars of the show. The game was. And it was complemented nicely by a couple of good voices.

And John Kruk.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.