As expected the Cubs just released Ian Stewart from Triple-A, but they also made an even bigger move by designating Carlos Marmol for assignment.
Marmol has been awful this season, making it easy to forget that not so long ago he was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball and his career ERA in 542 innings with the Cubs is 3.50. He’s posted a strikeout rate of at least 10.0 per nine innings every year since 2007, including 10.4 this season, but Marmol’s inability to consistently throw the ball over the plate made watching him agonizing all too often.
Among all active pitchers with at least 500 career innings Marmol has highest strikeout rate at 11.7 per nine innings, the highest walk rate at 6.1 per nine innings, and the lowest opponents’ batting average at .185. Unhittable when he threw strikes, unwatchable when he didn’t.
Marmol is owed about $5 million for the remainder of this season, so he’s likely to pass through waivers unclaimed and could remain with the Cubs in the minors if they don’t find a taker for him via trade. They’d obviously have to eat a bunch of that money, but Marmol is still only 30 years old and still incredibly tough to hit, so no doubt quite a few teams think “if we could just get him to throw strikes …” Chicago almost had Marmol traded to the Angels for Dan Haren this winter before Haren’s health issues nixed the deal and both pitchers have been a mess this season.
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.