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 Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.
Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.
Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.