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Joe Maddon compares slide rule to soda tax: “All rules aren’t necessarily good ones”

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Joe Maddon wanted to get ejected. At least, that’s what he told reporters following the Cubs’ 5-2 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday, when he was tossed in the seventh inning following an overturned ruling at the plate. “That was a beautifully done major league play that gets interpreted tantamount to the soda tax in Chicago,” the Cubs’ skipper explained, later adding that he got ejected in order to defend “his boys.” “My point is, all rules created, or laws, aren’t necessarily good ones.”

Before we unpack those statements, let’s take a look at how the controversial play unfolded. In the seventh inning of NLCS Game 1, with one out and runners on first and second, Justin Turner lined a base hit into left field. Charlie Culberson raced home from second base and was nailed at the plate by a strong throw from Kyle Schwarber.

Upon review, however, things got a little messy. Cubs’ backstop Willson Contreras set up to receive the throw in front of the plate, where his left leg and foot blocked Culberson’s path to the plate in clear violation of the existing home plate collision rule. Per Rule 7.13, not only is the catcher required to leave a clear path to the plate, but he must have possession of the ball before moving to block the plate — unless, and only unless he is making a legitimate attempt to field the throw. Contreras, on the other hand, already had his leg and foot in Culberson’s path before receiving the ball from Schwarber and had not turned to receive the ball before blocking Culberson’s way.

As expected, the Dodgers challenged the initial ruling and successfully overturned it in their favor, tacking on an extra insurance run to their three-run lead. Equally predictable was Joe Maddon’s response. He argued with home plate umpire Lance Barksdale, then turned on crew chief Mike Winters before getting ejected from the game.

It’s easy to understand Maddon’s frustration. The play didn’t result in a violent collision, nor did Contreras appear to be committing violations with any kind of hidden malice toward Culberson. By the spirit, rather than the letter of the law, Contreras did nothing wrong. Still, tweaking the terms and conditions of a potentially dangerous play is, well, dangerous — no matter how beautifully a play is made or how innocently a catcher’s leg is thrown across a runner’s path to the plate. If Contreras is the collateral damage here, if it means that sometime in the near and inevitable future, a season-ending or career-ending collision will be avoided because of the same flawed rule, then maybe that’s not the worst thing.

Maddon should be available to manage Game 2 on Sunday.

Report: Diamondbacks acquire Steven Souza from Rays in part of three-team deal

Tampa Bay Rays
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Update (6:35 PM ET): This is a three-team deal also involving the Diamondbacks, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The Diamondbacks will receive outfielder Steven Souza from the Rays and second baseman Brandon Drury will head to the Yankees. Lefty reliever Anthony Banda will go to the Rays, Piecoro adds. The Diamondbacks will also receive prospect Taylor Widener from the Yankees, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post. MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert adds that the Rays will get two players to be named later from the D-Backs.

Souza, 28, is earning $3.55 million in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility, so the Rays are presumably saving money in moving him. Last season, Souza hit a productive .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs, 78 RBI, 78 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases in 617 plate appearances. Souza’s arrival almost certainly pushes Yasmany Tomas out of a starting gig.

Drury, 25, has played a handful of positions in his brief major league career. Last year, he played second base in Arizona, batting .267/.317/.447 with 13 home runs and 63 RBI in 480 PA.

Banda, 24, made his major league debut last season, posting an ugly 5.96 ERA with a 25/10 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings. The peripherals suggest he pitched better than his ERA indicated.

Widener, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the 12th round of the 2016 draft. This past season with High-A Tampa, he pitched 119 1/3 innings and posted a 3.39 ERA with a 129/50 K/BB ratio. MLB Pipeline rated Widener as the 14th-best prospect in the Yankees’ system.

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Robert Murray of FanRag Sports reports that the Rays will acquire second base prospect Nick Solak from the Yankees. The Yankees’ return is presently not known.

Solak, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the second round of the 2016 draft. He spent last season between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, hitting a combined .297/.384/.452 with 12 home runs, 53 RBI, 72 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases.

MLB Pipeline ranked Solak as the eighth-best prospect in the Yankees’ system and the fifth-best second base prospect in baseball, praising him for his ability to hit line drives as well as his speed.