Was Robinson Cano’s homer a case of fan interference?

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I’m going to admit up front that I’m flummoxed. I’ve gone back and forth on this thing two or three times now.

In real time, Robinson Cano’s homer to right in the second appeared to be a case of fan interference, with those awesome, awesome fans in the front row slapping Nelson Cruz’s glove. When it happened I stood up in my living room, outraged, and took Jeffrey Maier’s name in vain.

Then I saw the replays. At least the TBS replays. All of them made it seem like it wasn’t interference. It appeared — looking squarely at the wall from the infield — that Cruz reached beyond the wall. And when you do that you’re doing so at your own risk pursuat to the rules of baseball.  Yeah, part of me wishes that fans would stay away from a fielder even when he’s doing that, but I wish a lot of things that aren’t likely or, oftentimes, even reasonable. Fine, I thought. Homer.

But then I saw this picture:

Sure looks like fans smacking Cruz’s glove on the field of play to me. Wouldn’t you agree? And it’s not like it’s really incidental. That white looking stuff behind the yellow of the wall is a couple feet of concrete that, theoretically anyway, separates fans from the field of play. Regardless of where the ball would have come down — it appeared on that concrete — our friends in the front row there had to make an extra special effort to hit Cruz’s glove right there. If someone has better video or photographic evidence I would like to see it, but barring that I’m now inclined to say that the call was wrong, Cruz was interfered with and Cano’s homer shouldn’t have stood.

Of course the elephant in the room here is why this play wasn’t reviewed in the first place. Right field umpire Jim Reynolds was pretty far from this play. How could he see it clearly? Even if you think I’m wrong and this wasn’t a case of fan interference, Reynolds’ call to that effect was just a guess. Just a couple of batters later he got the call wrong on Lance Berkman’s non-homer. Thankfully replay was utilized to overturn that one.  Why was it not utilized to review Cano’s blast? Reynolds was far from the action on both occasions.

The official answer is that some calls are boundary calls and some are judgment calls and blah, blah blah. I won’t have it. There are two kinds of calls. Correct calls and blown calls. And there is no excuse for baseball not allow and encourage the umpires to utilize the technology that is easily at their disposal to get the calls right. It may not have made a difference in the outcome of last night’s game. But someday soon it will.  And when it does, all hell is going to break loose.

Former trainers also allege discrimination by Mariners

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Dr. Lorena Martin was recently terminated as the Mariners’ director of high performance. Following her ouster, she alleged that members of the Mariners’ front office and coaching staff, including GM Jerry Dipoto, manager Scott Servais, and director of player development Andy McKay, made bigoted comments against foreign-born players. While the Mariners strongly denied Martin’s accusations, MLB opened an investigation into the matter.

TJ Cotterill of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that former trainers of the Mariners, based out of the club’s complex in Boca Chica (Domonican Republic), claim the club’s treatment of Latino personnel changed once Dipoto took over as GM. Those trainers, Leonardo Santiago and Jose Valdez, did not speak specifically to Martin’s claims, but did say their experiences with Dipoto and McKay could relate with hers.

Through an interpreter over the phone, Santiago said, “It seemed like Dipoto and McKay would talk to just about everyone who was of American descent and talk to them more personally and try to be involved with them. But never with me.” When asked if it was because he was Latino, Santiago responded, “Under God and before you and in my mind and in my heart — yes. Because I am a Latino of color.”

Santiago continued, “I felt like, ‘Wow.’ They have relationships with all the Americans. They would talk with all of them, but they never came near me. Andy McKay never stopped by, even though he would stop by every other area.”

Furthermore, Santiago commented, “Before Dipoto and McKay came, everything was in order. I didn’t feel discriminated against. Everybody respected everybody from different areas. But when they came, everything changed. In the past,  the previous regimes, the general manager would come and talk with us. They would visit more often, specifically the farm director. Andy McKay never came by my office. He never said anything to me. He never looked for a way to see how I worked, to see if I was good or bad at what I did. He never found a way to talk to me, but he would talk with everybody that was American.”

Per Cotterill, the Mariners apparently found it problematic that neither Santiago nor Valdez were certified. Santiago wondered why his lack of certification was never an issue for the previous 10 years he worked for the Mariners or the previous 15 he’d worked in baseball. The Mariners were paying for his training for certification in physical therapy. He has one year remaining. Valdez also said the club was paying for him to obtain his certification.

Valdez said through an interpreter, “It felt like the relations between the American employees and Latino employees within the club, it felt like they were different. Almost like one was superior to the other.” Though Valdez declined to name specific examples, he said, “It was just [McKay’s] demeanor. He would arrive, see us and not acknowledge us. He wouldn’t want to talk or be with us. He would arrive to the staff meeting and that was it. I never exchanged words with either [McKay or Dipoto].”

To date, neither Martin nor the trainers have provided concrete evidence of the discrimination they claimed happened while working for the Mariners. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen and it doesn’t mean the Mariners can’t face some kind of punishment by MLB. You may recall that MLB does not need a convinction in order to levy a punishment against players accused of domestic violence. Martin, in particular, risked a lot for what will likely amount to very little. She has burnt to a crisp her bridge with the Mariners and other organizations, even outside of baseball, will likely view her as a risky hire. She appears to be doing what she thinks is right by her and her former coworkers, which is commendable. Even for Santiago and Valdez, it would be a lot simpler and safer career-wise to stay quiet, which is why we should take these accusations seriously and give them the benefit of the doubt.