Jim Leyland tossed after bad call leads to three runs

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Tigers manager Jim Leyland was ejected from Monday’s game after two innings following a bad call in Boston’s three-run bottom of the second.

With a man on second and two outs, Mike Aviles swung and tipped what appeared to be strike three, ending the inning. However, home plate umpire Jeff Nelson couldn’t tell if catcher Gerald Laird caught the ball and looked to first base ump Bill Welke for help. Welke ruled that the ball hit the ground, extending the at-bat. Replays showed that it was a clean catch by Laird, though.

Aviles went on to single, the first of three straight run-scoring hits for Boston that gave the team a 4-1 lead against Doug Fister.

After the inning concluded, Jim Leyland came out to state his case about the ball, likely arguing that Welke at least should have had the ball checked for dirt. When Leyland, Laird and bench coach Gene Lamont continued to argue from the dugout as the third was set to begin, Leyland and Lamont were both ejected, leading to another lengthy Leyland argument on the field.

Of course, we’re always told that instant replay would lengthen games. However, it would have taken about two seconds to identify that this pitch never hit the ground and might have shortened this game by a full 15 minutes, considering that the ensuing rally and Leyland’s argument wouldn’t have taken place.

The Phillies plan to spend money and “maybe even be a little bit stupid about it”

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In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.

“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.

“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.

Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.

How novel.