Looking ahead to two more Game 5s

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Four best of five playoff series, four Game 5s. Life is good.

We do it again two more times tonight, with the following action on tap:

Orioles at Yankees, 5:07 PM ET, TBS:  It has been an offense-free zone for both teams, but it’s not surprising given the big names and big contracts that the Yankees are catching all the heat right now. Alex Rodriguez has been terrible but, really, Curtis Granderson has been worse. And it leaves Joe Girardi with a tough call tonight: do you play an elimination game without your future Hall of Famer and your 40+ home run center fielder in the lineup? Do you go with Eric Chavez and/or Brett Gardner in an effort to shake things up?  I doubt he’d make both of those calls, but benching A-Rod would not surprise me at all.

But maybe it’s the Orioles who need to worry more about their offense tonight, as they face CC Sabathia, who shut them down in Game 1. And, while they’re not getting the headlines Rodriguez and Granderson are getting, Matt Wieters and Adam Jones have been godawful too. They’ll need to figure something out if the O’s are going to advance to a meeting against the Tigers in the ALCS.

Cardinals at Nationals, 8:37 PM ET, TBS: Two things that I sort of don’t believe in in baseball: momentum carrying over and experience carrying the day.  The Nationals — thanks to Jayson Werth’s dramatic walkoff homer — have the former and the Cardinals — thanks to having the 2011 World Series hardware in their trophy case — have the latter, but that’s not really gonna matter tonight, as momentum is your next day’s starting pitcher and experience doesn’t put runners on the bases.

For the Cardinals it’s Adam Wainwright, for the Nats its Gio Gonzalez. Each are coming off strong Game 1 performances and each are facing lineups who couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat in Game 4. The concern has to be more on the Nationals side, however, because even in victory yesterday the bats were mostly silent, whereas the Cardinals have been doing quite alright otherwise.  One gets the feeling that this will be a close, low-scoring game, however, decided by the bullpens.

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.