John Baker hoping to win roster spot even if he can’t catch

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John Baker has just recently started soft-tossing from 45 feet following September elbow surgery and likely won’t be cleared to catch again until at least May even if he avoids setbacks, but he’s still hoping to win a spot on the Marlins’ roster coming out of spring training.

He’ll be able to swing at full strength long before he’s able to do the same throwing, so Baker will try to show the Marlins that he’s capable of providing value as a pinch-hitter. When healthy Baker has a solid bat, hitting .273 with a .358 on-base percentage and .406 slugging percentage in 744 career plate appearances, but it may be tough for the Marlins to justify filling a roster spot with someone who can’t play defense at all.

Baker started 112 games behind the plate in 2009 and looked like the Marlins’ long-term answer at catcher before last year’s elbow injury, but this offseason Florida signed John Buck to a three-year, $18 million deal that seemingly makes him Baker’s replacement in 2011 and beyond. Where that leaves Baker, at age 30, is unclear, but he’s saying all the right things about focusing on getting healthy and being willing to fill whatever role he can while recovering.

Replay review over base-keeping needs to go

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The Red Sox are off and running in the first inning of Game 1 of the World Series against the Dodgers. Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez each hit RBI singles off of Clayton Kershaw to give the Red Sox an early 2-0 lead.

Benintendi’s hit to right field ended with a replay review. Rather than throw to the cutoff man, right fielder Yasiel Puig fired home to try nabbing Mookie Betts, but his throw was poor. Catcher Austin Barnes caught the ball a few feet in front of and to the right of home plate, then whipped the ball to second base in an attempt to get Benintendi. Benintendi clearly beat the throw, but shortstop Manny Machado kept the tag applied. After Benintendi was ruled safe, the Dodgers challenged, arguing that Benintendi’s hand may have come off the second base bag for a microsecond while Machado’s glove was on him. The ruling on the field was upheld and the Red Sox continued to rally.

Replay review over base-keeping is not in the spirit of the rule and shouldn’t be permitted. Hopefully Major League Baseball considers changing the rule in the offseason. Besides the oftentimes uncontrollable minute infractions, these kinds of replay reviews slow the game down more than other types of reviews because they tend not to be as obvious as other situations.

Baseball has become so technical and rigid that it seems foolish to leave gray area in this regard. A runner is either off the base or he isn’t. However, the gradual result of enforcing these “runner’s hand came off the base for a fraction of a second” situations is runners running less aggressively and sliding less often so there’s no potential of them losing control of their body around the base. Base running, particularly the aggressive, sliding variety, is quietly one of the most fun aspects of the game. Policing the game to this degree, then, serves to make the game less fun and exciting.

Where does one draw the line then? To quote Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, describing obscenity in Jacobellis v. Ohio, “I know it when I see it.” This is one area where I am comfortable giving the umpires freedom to enforce the rule at their discretion and making these situations impermissible for replay review.