Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.

Thoughts on the Jose Bautista-Logan Forsythe interference call

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Last night’s interference call on Jose Bautista in the Jays-Rays game presents us with an opportunity to talk about the difference between desires and reality. Between baseball how some of us think it should be and baseball for what it is. Let’s explore that a bit, shall we?

I was against MLB implementing new sliding rules for second base. There were already rules on the books about that. They gave the umpire judgment about when a baserunner went too far in interfering with the fielder and gave the umpire the choice to call a runner out if he crossed some line. That rule was ignored for a long time, unfortunately, and baseball, rather than reemphasize that old rule as it could’ve, decided that it didn’t want judgment here. It wanted a bright a line as it could get, complete with instant replay review which, by definition, means that the call is no longer a judgment call. What we got? A rule which doesn’t penalize conduct that is severe in some way. Rather, it’s a rule which penalizes attempts to “initiate contact with a fielder.”

The rule, of course, was intended to stop violent takeout slides. But whether something is a violent takeout slide is a judgment, and we can’t have that! No, when you add on the idea of “initiating contact with a fielder” and you purport to make that an objective thing, gray areas are out the window. Did Jose Bautista attempt to violently crash into Logan Forsythe in order to break his legs and leave his bones scattered on the infield? Of course not. Did Bautista initiate contact with Forsythe? Of course he did. The replay said so, judgment and an opinion about how brutal or non-brutal Bautista is being is beside the point and the runner is out.

It’s totally valid to say the rule is stupid. It’s totally valid to say that we want to be able to make judgment calls about what really is or is not a problem slide. That’s certainly my view. But Major League Baseball and the MLBPA decided that those determinations are irrelevant when they adopted the new rule. As such, arguing about how bad or how minor Bautista’s actions makes little sense. Appeals to the “wussification” of baseball and claims that Hal McCrae or Pete Rose would NEVER have stood for this kind of nonsense do nothing to advance your case. Baseball does not care. Baseball wants to make objective that which, in the past, was subjective. It’s doing so for a noble cause — protecting fielders — but that’s what it’s doing.

Back to Bautista-Forsythe. I said this morning that the grab of the leg was horses**t and it was. Indeed, I think even Pete Rose and Hal McCrae would think it bush league to try to grab a guy’s leg and that someone doing so would lead to purpose pitches and unwritten rules conversations. The call, however regrettable it was cosmically, was not horses**t under the rules.

At the same time, it came in the second application of the rules of the season on the season’s third day. I don’t think, therefore, it’s time to worry about the rule creating an existential crisis. If this happens every other game, well, yes, that will be bad. If it inspires infielders to flop like soccer players or act like Bill Laimbeer pretending to take a charge, whoa, that’s even worse. For now we can only hope that the umps and the replay officials focus on the runner and not the reaction of the fielder when making these calls. We should let this rule shake out a bit and see where it goes.

I don’t like baseball’s increasing efforts to remove judgment from the game. I think it’s a bad impulse that will lead to a lot of bad outcomes. This could be one of them. But let’s keep the distinction between what is the valid result of a misguided philosophy and what is actual injustice. The Bautista play is the former, not the latter. He, the Jays and everyone in baseball knew what was coming when their league and their union approved these new rules. They, and those who support their side in this, cannot act like this is some crazy, arbitrary and capricious outcome.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

Associated Press
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Here are the scores from last night’s games. Here are the highlights:

Rays 3, Blue Jays 2: Logan Forsythe was involved in two pivotal plays here. First he hit a two-run homer in the eighth which brought the Rays back from behind. Then he was grabbed by Jose Bautista on a slide into second as the Jays rallied in the ninth, leading to the big brouhaha Bill described last night. The one in which, when Bautista’s slide was held to have violated the rules, he said “I just don’t see how my play was unsafe,” and “I could have done much worse and chose not to.” Well, Jose:

(1) the rules aren’t about a slide being “unsafe” they’re about them interfering with the fielder and freaking grabbing him is interfering. But in baseball terms, your play was not “unsafe.” it was “horses**t”; and

(2) “Hey, I could’ve done MUCH worse but didn’t” is probably not a defense you want to be trotting out all that often because it’s really, really lame.

Though not as lame as what your manager said after the game:

Look, you can either agree that rules dictate what happens on a field or you can simply assert that any behavior is acceptable as long as it conforms to your b.s. ideas of what is manly or not. If you’re gonna have rules, live by them. If you wanna go flex your manly muscles, go start a league without a rule book. Also: stop equating what you consider to be femininity to weakness or whatever it is that you find unacceptable. That’s the worst bullcrap sexism.

Mets 2, Royals 0: Thor was untouchable. No one could lift his hammer. Well, Vision could, but he wasn’t here and Steve Rogers could wobble it but he wasn’t here either. Nine strikeouts in six innings for Syndergaard, whose changeup was faster than a lot of guys’ fastballs, rendering the entire exercise somewhat unfair. And he didn’t have to brush anyone back or send any messages. Even if the Royals fans booed him as if it still mattered one way or another.

Red Sox 6, Indians 2: Old homered (Ortiz) as did new (Betts). Meanwhile, David Price struck out ten dudes in six innings. As for Oritz, he said “When the light goes on, Papi goes on.” Not many people in baseball have earned the right to refer to themselves in the third person. David Ortiz has.

Astros 5, Yankees 3: Lots of controversy here as the Yankees played the game under protest following an odd play in which Carlos Correa ran inside the baseline leading to a consequential errant throw. That aside, the cold weather was the story of the game, along with Dallas Keuchel generally keeping a lid on things by allowing only two runs over seven. Expect the protest to go nowhere. Expect this to be one of the least memorable Opening Day games in Yankees history.

Pirates 6, Cardinals 5: Jorder Mercer singled home Gregory Polanco from second base with one out in the 11th inning. The real star here, however, was the Pirates bullpen which allowed no runs on three hits in six innings of work, allowing the Pirates to come back and holding down the fort as they did.

Tigers 8, Marlins 7: A win for the Tigers but one which had their fans reaching for the antacids thanks to that bullpen. The Tigers had a 5-0 lead after five innings. It shrunk to one rune, but then they had a three run lead once again heading into the ninth, only to see the pen implode again. It somehow held in the 10th and 11th, allowing Ian Kinsler to drive in his fourth run of the game, which proved to be the game-winner. This kind of thing keeps up and Brad Ausmus is gonna go from one of the most Handsome Managers in Baseball to this in the space of a season:

Poorly

Mariners 10, Rangers 2: Four homers from Mariners hitters: Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Seth Smith and Luis Sardinas. A nice little bit of chatter between Scott Servais and Jeff Bannister after a Rangers reliever plunked a Mariners hitter because he was all sad he no do his job so good. The first win as a big league manager for Servais, after which he gave interviews to reporters while drinking out of a bottle of champagne. That’s some baseball right there.

Giants 2, Brewers 1: All the scoring was done by the fourth inning — and two of the game’s three runs came on a fielder’s choice and a double play — and this one buzzed by in less than two and a half hours. That’s some uneventful baseball right there.

Diamondbacks 11, Rockies 6: Last year Shelby Miller‘s biggest problem was that he never got any run support. Last night he had another problem: he wasn’t pitching good at all, giving up six runs in the fourth inning. And, as so happened in Atlanta — though after he had usually pitched a lot better — he left the game on the hook for a loss. His teammates bailed him out, however, by pouring on some runs later, giving him a no-decision at least. Paul Goldschmidt drove in four thanks to a solo shot and a bases loaded triple. That’s some high-scoring baseball right there.

Cubs 6, Angels 1: Joe Maddon said he started Matt Szczur because he went to Villanova and Villanova won the night before. I suspect he might’ve started him because Szczur had a big hit in the opener and he matched up better with lefty starter Andrew Heaney than the lefty-batting Kyle Schwarber did, but we’ll let Joe be Joe. Either way, it worked, As Szczur hit a homer off of Heaney and later singled off of reliever Mike Morin. Who went to UNC. Which . . . freaky.

White Sox 5, Athletics 4: Jimmy Rollins hit a go-ahead homer in the ninth. The old man’s still an artist with the Thompson.

Dodgers 3, Padres 0: Another day, another shutout against the Padres. My brother has lived in San Diego for nearly 20 years. He texted me last night and said “nearly half my life in San Diego, but this is why I’m still a Tigers fan.” I can see that.

The Brooklyn Cyclones will give away a crying Wilmer Flores bobblehead

Associated Press
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It was a pretty touching scene at last year’s trade deadline. Word rapidly spread that the Mets had traded Wilmer Flores to Milwaukee for Carlos Gomez. Spread so far, in fact, even though there was no done deal, that Wilmer Flores heard about it while in the Mets dugout during their game against the Padres. Flores, understandably emotional about it, welled up on the field.

The trade fell through, however, and two days later the whole unfortunate episode turned heartwarming when Flores hit a walk-off homer to win the game. Yay!

Now the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets’ New York-Penn League affiliate, is commemorating the event. Both the crying and the happiness which came after, with a “from tears to cheers” bobblehead night:

One day you too may be so lucky as to have one of the most vulnerable and emotional episodes of your life turned into a collector’s item. Like, “that time my wife left me” bobblehead night. Or maybe there will be a “I just got laid off” gnome.