No matter where you fall on the debate of whether Sam Holbrook was correct in calling the infield-fly rule on a pop-up off the bat of Andrelton Simmons during yesterday’s Wild Card between the Braves and Cardinals, this explanation by Harold Reynolds of MLB Network is worth watching.
I still think it’s debatable whether Kozma made what can be considered an “ordinary effort” to get to that ball. And I don’t think he had any grand design on dropping the ball to start a double play. But this is by far the best explanation I have seen as to why Holbrook made the judgment that it was the right call. Of course, the key word there is “judgment,” because a different umpire may have seen the play differently. And that’s why this still feels a little weird. Maybe the wording of the actual rule needs some cleaning up?
The continued controversy over this call is naturally getting a lot of attention, but don’t forget that the Braves shot themselves in the foot by committing three errors and botching a safety squeeze. This loss isn’t on Holbrook.
The Atlanta Braves selected high school pitcher Carter Stewart with the number eight overall pick in the 2018 draft. Then, after the draft, they gave Stewart a below-slot signing bonus offer, claiming that they found problems with his wrist in his post-draft physical. Stewart ended up rejecting the offer and the MLBPA filed a grievance against the Braves on Stewart’s behalf.
The grievance sought to make Stewart a free agent it was considered a long shot at the time of its filing and, in fact, the grievance was rejected. Stewart, unable to attain free agency, enrolled at Eastern Florida State College, a two-year school that would’ve made him eligible for the 2019 draft.
Now, Ken Rosenthal reports, Stewart has pulled a crazy Ivan and is heading to Japan, having signed with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League. The terms of the deal aren’t known, but Rosenthal says Stewart was looking for a $7 million guarantee.
It’s a fascinating turn of events for Stewart who, this time last year, was considered perhaps the best amateur pitcher in baseball. Being lowballed and having his health questioned by the Braves may have been a wakeup call to Stewart, however, about his chances of finding a quick path the bigs in the U.S. If the shine did come off of his prospect status in the past year here, there’s every reason to believe that $7 million and a path to the bigs in Japan is a much better deal than several million less and a path to the bigs in America.
He’ll be worth watching over the next few years, that’s for sure. Both for his own sake and to see if, in this era of Major League Baseball’s capping of amateur bonuses and teams’ habit of manipulating service time, going overseas becomes more attractive to American high schoolers and college players.