Author: Craig Calcaterra

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MLB to consider tweaking replay review of runners coming off base on tags


A baserunner slides into the bag, beats the throw, touches the base before a tag is applied and then either his momentum or a virtually undetectable nudge from the fielder causes him to lose contact with the bag for a millisecond. The fielder, trained to keep his late tag on the safe runner until time is called, does so. He then motions to his dugout, telling his manager to challenge the safe call. He does so, super slo-mo replay catches that millisecond and the call is reversed. Out.

We’ve see this play a handful of times recently. Most notably in the ALDS between the Royals and Astros when Terrance Gore stole third in a key moment and, while popping up from his slide as base runners are trained to do, gave a little hop and lost contact with the bag. In that case third baseman Luis Valbuena didn’t ask for the review, but the Astros dugout had time to look it over anyway because of a stoppage in play when Valbuena was inadvertently spiked:

As I wrote at the time — and as commentator A.J. Pierzynski immediately observed at the one minute mark of that video — this is not what replay was intended to do. This is a bang-bang play, the likes of which have always happened and which have never been visible to umpires before the advent of high speed cameras and replay rules. It was not the kind of play that anyone complained about umpires getting wrong and was not the kind of play intended to be fixed by replay. Quite the opposite: it’s a dispute created by replay. An imperfection in human eyesight of which no one was aware and of which no one could reasonably be aware prior to 2014.

My beef with this, however, is not just that it’s a new thing. It’s that this sort of replay review negates what is, in reality, good baseball. In the ALDS example a fast runner on a fast team came in to change the game. And he did! He got a great jump and ran fast and slid perfectly and beat the throw and the tag but he was called out because of the sliding equivalent of throat-clearing and a little chippy business. In this case it wouldn’t have even been reviewed if Valbuena hadn’t gotten hurt due to his bad form and attempt to bend the rules with a partial base block. He and his team were rewarded for that, which makes it doubly galling. Either way, it wasn’t an isolated play. As Pierzynski noted in the video, players are aware of this glitch in the Matrix and are trained now to hold their tags longer on the off chance that they can steal an out.

Yesterday at the General Manager meetings Joe Torre talked about this sort of play and said that the league is looking at whether it’s the kind of thing that should be reviewed:

“I’ve talked to a number of managers about that, and in a lot of ways they feel it’s unfair. And yet when you’re dealing with replay and dealing with technology, it is what it is. If there’s a separation and his glove, the ball is on the runner, you can’t ignore that.

“We are going to talk about that, because there’s been a lot of inquiries about – is there any way we can sort of tweak the rule to keep that from happening? A lot of times you’re really negating good baserunning, where a guy slides in there and he’s popping up . . . Before replay we accepted the imperfections of our game, and now since replay we’re impatient with a play that may be missed.”

I’d argue that this wasn’t a case of an imperfection being accepted. It was an imperfection being wholly unknown and not troublesome to the game at all. Now that it has been detected our protocols and desire for perfection urge us to “fix” the “problem.” And in doing so we, like Torre said, are negating good baseball plays in the service of perfection.

Personally, I prefer good baseball plays over absolute perfection. Here’s hoping, eventually, Major League Baseball does too.

Scott Boras says the Mets had a great plan for Matt Harvey all along

Scott Boras

Scott Boras just made his appearance at the General Manager meetings down in Florida. As he always does, he walked the hall, had the press gather around him and dispensed his wisdom about the current state of baseball and news which affects his clients.

One of his clients: Matt Harvey. Who you will recall was the subject of a little dustup between Boras and the Mets late in the season as the two sides argued publicly about how manny innings Harvey should pitch a year removed from Tommy John surgery.

Oh, about that:


I guess the plan looks a lot better now than it did back on September 4, when this was reported:

Meantime, Alderson, who sounded exasperated by the whole debate, suggested he was floored when he received an email from Boras late last month setting what he saw as a new limit when he said the team has proceeded cautiously in terms of pitch limits (he’s had no games over 115 pitches and only went over 110 pitches once) and everything has been going so smoothly. “For a guy to say to us on the 29th of August ‘180 innings and then you’re going to shut him down …’ don’t call me seven months later and tell me you’re pulling the rug out from under me, not after all we’ve done to protect the player.”

Matt Harvey seemed to have a change of heart about all of this, of course. Indeed, by the end of the World Series he literally demanded that he be allowed to pitch until he couldn’t pitch anymore. One suspects that he had a conversation with his agent too and told him to get on board with the Mets, at least publicly. Which is probably the right thing to do.

UPDATE: OK, maybe he wasn’t OK with the Mets’ plan “all along.” But he got on board with their new plan after everyone got all angry in late August:

Cardinals great Lou Brock recovering after leg amputation

Lou Brock

ST. LOUIS (AP) St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Lou Brock, a former base stealing champion, has had his left leg amputated below the knee due to an infection related to diabetes.

The Cardinals and a longtime friend, Dick Zitzmann, confirmed Wednesday that the 76-year-old Brock had had surgery last month. Brock is undergoing therapy at an area hospital and will be fitted for a prosthetic leg.

Brock was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes about 15 years ago and had the procedure done Oct. 27, Zitzmann said.

“He’s got a lot road ahead, but he’s a tough guy,” Zitzmann said. “He’s got a great attitude.”

Brock has been a national spokesman for a diabetes drug manufacturer the last five years or so. Zitzmann said Brock “watched his diet meticulously.”

Brock stole a National League-record 938 bases, including 118 in 1974, and was known as the Base Burglar. He also had 3,023 hits, becoming a star after a celebrated trade from the Cubs in 1964 for pitcher Ernie Broglio. Brock batted .391 with four home runs and 10 steals in 21 World Series games.

Zitzmann arranges appearances for Brock and other Cardinals Hall of Famers. He said Brock complained of leg pain on the return flight from a show in Washington, D.C., about a month before the operation.

“The infection got real bad, real quick,” Zitzmann said. “It just happened so fast.”

Visits from former Cardinals teammates, including fellow Hall of Famers Red Schoendienst, Bob Gibson and Whitey Herzog, have helped keep Brock’s spirits high.

Brock has been a regular guest instructor at spring training for many years. Zitzmann said Brock promised Schoendienst, who managed him on two World Series teams in the 1960s, that he’d be there on opening day.

The 92-year-old Schoendienst, an assistant to general manager John Mozeliak who often suits up before games, wasn’t satisfied, Zitzmann said. He told Brock to aim for spring training.

The Marlins made a lopsided trade with the Pirates as a compensation deal

Jacksonville Suns pitcher Trevor Williams fires in a pitch in the first inning against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos during a baseball game Thursday night, Aug. 21, 2014, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/The Florida Times-Union, Will Dickey)

In late October the Marlins and Pirates traded pitching prospects. Or, rather, “prospect,” with the Marlins sending well-regarded right-hander Trevor Williams to Pittsburgh in exchange for non-prospect righty Richard Mitchell. It was a head-scratcher of a trade, with the Marlins apparently getting fleeced.

Today ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that the reason for the imbalance was because the Marlins were compensating the Pirates for hiring away an executive. Stark:

The trade was announced one day after the Marlins hired away [Pirates special assistant Jim] Benedict to be their vice president of pitching. Benedict was one of Pirates general manager Neal Huntington’s most trusted aides, but also is regarded as being among the sport’s top pitching gurus.

Start notes that the Marlins had just recently hired another high-ranking Pirates executive, Marc Delpiano, and that the custom in baseball circles is to not allow a team to hire more than one front office person from another team in a short timespan so as to avoid “raiding” scenarios. When the Pirates complained about the Benedict hire, the Marlins agreed to give up Williams for very little.

Which, given the uncertainty surrounding pitching prospects could amount to nothing. Or, if Williams becomes something special, could look pretty bad in a couple of years.

Yankees trade infielder Jose Pirela to the Padres for a minor-league pitcher

Jose Pirela

I feel like the Yankees have traded with the Padres a billion times in the past 20-25 years. Maybe a little less than a billion, but they seem to trade a lot. And sign each other’s free agents.

These two teams dealt again today. It was not Chase Headley-level deal. It was not Andy Hawkins or Dave Winfield relocating from on coast to the other. But on November 11 we take any deals we can: The Yankees traded Jose Pirela to the Padres for minor-league pitcher Ron Herrera.

Pirela was thought by some to be the Yankees’ second baseman of the future and, to some degree, was given consideration as that by the club. He turns 26 in a couple of weeks, however, and has only been given 103 major league plate appearances in the past two years. His 2014 cup of coffee encouraged those who think things like “sample size” is the stuff of sorcery — he hit well in a mere 25 plate appearances– but in 2015 he hit poorly with a tad more exposure. His decent performance in Triple-A and a fresh start in San Diego could bode well for his future, however.

Herrera is only 20 but already has 82 minor league games — 74 of them as a starter — under his belt. In that time he is 23-24 with a 3.80 ERA and a 296/100 K/BB ratio in 415 innings. His top stop has been Double-A San Antonio where he was rather “meh” in eight starts this year. Figure on him beginning 2016 in Double-A as well.