Video: The Dbacks win in a controversial walkoff


Watch how the Diamondbacks beat the Pirates yesterday afternoon. Specifically, watch Nick Ahmed’s left arm reach up to block the relay throw that would’ve likely completed an inning-ending double play rather than allow the winning run to score:

Rule 7.09 controls here. Subsection (f) says:

If, in the judgment of the umpire, a batter-runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball, with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead; the umpire shall call the batter-runner out for interference and shall also call out the runner who had advanced closest to the home plate regardless where the double play might have been possible. In no event shall bases be run because of such interference.

I realize a lot of runners put their hands up when they slide, but (a) it’s usually both hands and it’s usually in a manner which is to balance them in the air, not a one-armed grab like Ahmed’s here; and (b) combined with the way in which he clearly moved off the baseline and toward the fielder, it was pretty clear that he was trying to break up the double play. But it is a judgment call, so it’s not like it was reviewable.

Here’s Umpire: Ron Kulpa’s explanation of the judgment made:

It has to have been willful and deliberate with obvious intent to break up a double play. The guy has to do something obviously, willfully, intentionally to break up that double play. Guys slide into second base all the time with their hands up.”

Tip your cap to Ahmed for selling it. And ask yourself whether Kirk Gibson and the Dbacks would’ve thought it was a swell play if the situation was reversed. Or, alternatively, whether they would’ve talked about it being bush league and maybe thrown at someone the next time they met.


New tax law could affect MLB trades

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Jim Tankersley of the New York Times notes that a tax law passed by Republicans could affect trades in Major League Baseball. The law added the word “real” to a certain line of tax code that now only allows real estate trades to qualify for tax immunity. Previously, certain assets like trucks and machinery could have been traded tax-free.

A perhaps unintended consequence of that change could mean baseball teams could have to pay capital gains taxes when they trade away and acquire players. MLB’s chief legal officer Dan Halem said, “There is no fair market value of a baseball player. There isn’t. I don’t really know what our clubs are going to do to address the issue. We haven’t fully figured it out yet. This is a change we hope was inadvertent, and we’re going to lobby hard to get it corrected.”

Tankersley wonders how players would be valued for the purposes of this tax law:

Mr. Verlander, for example, was clearly a more immediately valuable asset to the Astros than the three prospects they traded to get him. He gave up only four runs in his five regular-season starts for the team, then won four straight starts to begin the playoffs. In very simple terms, he brought value to the Astros in a trade, and had the new law been in place last year, the team would have owed taxes on that added value.

But what, exactly, was that value? Was it the size of his contract? Mr. Verlander earned $28 million last year, while the players traded for him drew minor-league salaries. Was it the additional wins he brought to the team? Statisticians estimate Mr. Verlander gave the Astros nearly two more wins last season, a value that, depending on the statistician, could reach $20 million. Or was it some calculation of the total future value Mr. Verlander will bring to the team, minus the total future value it gave up in the prospects it traded away — and possibly adjusted for the amount the team will have to pay Mr. Verlander?

Complicating matters further is that teams value players differently, and one player might help a certain team far more than another team. A struggling club with a surplus of starting pitchers might trade one to a playoff contender in desperate need of one, in exchange for position players who could improve a struggling lineup. In that case, both teams could, reasonably, be considered to have gained value in the trade, and thus would owe taxes on it.

Republicans said they weren’t trying to hamstring sports teams, but that’s exactly what they might have done here. It seems likely that the law will eventually be amended to exempt sports teams, given that leagues like the MLB and NBA are enormous and worth so much money. Whether that will be done in a reasonable amount of time is another question entirely.