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Great Moments in Instant Replay: Yunel Escobar strikes out on a 4-2 count

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With the disclaimer that I like instant replay and that I think its results so far are a net positive even if it’s hard to get used to the often clunky implementation, it did not experience its finest hour in last night’s Rays-Twins game.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Yunel Escobar came to the plate. At one point he checked his swing and the ball bounced off the catcher’s mitt. At first glance it appeared to be a foul ball — that’s what the scoreboard operator registered anyway — but it was a ball. A few seconds later Escobar took his fourth ball, and then confusion reigned. Watch it all unfold here.

Both dugouts and Escobar thought it was ball four. The home plate umpire wasn’t sure — this is not terribly uncommon, actually, and sometimes they double check their little handheld clickers with the scoreboard — so they went to instant replay to review. But even instant replay got the call wrong and the count was officially set to 3-2, even though Escobar should have already been on first base. On the 4-2 pitch, Escobar struck out.

Major League Baseball agreed, issuing a statement after the game:

”An error was made when replay officials and supervisors mistakenly thought one of the pitches was a foul ball when it was actually a ball,” MLB said in a statement.

It ended up not mattering in the game, but it’s not a defining moment for instant replay, that’s for sure.

Leonys Martin feared for his life from alleged human traffickers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Leonys Martin #12 of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Leonys Martin, outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, testified yesterday that he feared for his life after he was smuggled from Cuba by a group of men prosecutors say worked for a sports agent and a baseball trainer currently on trial for human trafficking in Miami.

Martin took the stand at the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who face felony charges. He said that, after getting to Mexico from Cuba, men threatened to take him away. There was a kidnapping attempt against one of the men who had taken him from Cuba as well. Martin said that, eventually, he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas without any valid papers because his life was in danger and his safety was at risk.

Players like Martin who fled Cuba often hole up in Mexico while waiting to be declared free agents by Major League Baseball. There is pitched competition to sign agreements with the players in question, seeking to obtain promises of a cut of future baseball earnings for their services. Those promises can come under the threat of violence. Eventually, Martin promised to pay Hernandez and Estrada, but ceased paying them later, fomenting a lawsuit from them. In the wake of the suit, the allegations of threats and smuggling arose, leading to this trial.

Martin has been late to Mariners camp as a result of having to testify. He’ll likely report in the next day or so. The trial continues.

Josh Hamilton leaves camp with a tweaked knee

SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 28:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers poses during a spring training photo shoot on February 28, 2016 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Josh Hamilton was already a long shot to make the Texas Rangers roster, but his shot got even longer today, as he left camp to have his reconstructed left knee examined after experiencing pain.

As Jeff Wilson reports, Hamilton felt discomfort in the knee during the Rangers’ first full-squad spring training workout yesterday. Hamilton has had 10 knee operations in career. Which is a lot of knee operations in case you were unaware.

You have to wish good luck to Hamilton, but at the same time you have to be realistic. The guy has not played in the major leagues since 2015 and even then he didn’t play well, hitting .253 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 50 games. He appeared in one game last year for Double-A Frisco, on April 30. He’ll be paid $24 million this year, mostly by the Angels. One suspects that this will likewise be his last spring training.