The unintended consequences of the replay challenge system

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Reader Chris Rochon tweeted a good question to me a little while ago:

The “neighborhood play” meaning those times, especially on double plays, where the runner is called out at second even if the shortstop or second baseman doesn’t tag the bag when he has the ball. It’s very common and allowed because allowing it is in the interest of protecting players from getting their legs broken. But yes, technically, those plays should not result in outs under the rules.

So what happens to that in a challenge system? My guess — unless MLB specifically prohibits challenges on neighborhood plays — we get a varying system where neighborhood plays aren’t challenged in blowouts but are in close games where a runner on second means a lot. And in order to prevent that, shortstops will hold the bag longer in order to get the runner and eventually someone gets hurt.

Or, if we’re lucky enough to where that doesn’t happen, we get into dumb arguments about the “unwritten rules” of challenges. Where it’s sometimes OK to do it and sometimes OK not to and it just adds another layer of derp to these sorts of discussions like we’ve seen when someone bunts to break up no-hitters or steals a base when up by six runs. That’s uplifting. Let’s call it the “full employment for talk show radio hosts rule.”

On the other hand, if MLB does outlaw challenges on neighborhood plays, it has essentially institutionalized the neighborhood play, which it has never seen fit to do before. Which will open the floor, logic dictates, to other safety-driven defacto rule changes. Catcher collisions maybe? Which, hey, that’s cool. I’d be open to talk about all of that stuff. Larry Granillo wrote about the neighborhood play a little while ago and, as he pointed out, maybe it’d be a good thing if it were gone.

MLB just needs to realize, though, that when it takes the application of the rules out of the hands of umpires and into the hands of the managers it looses control of the situation pretty quickly, the game gets changed and it has to do a lot of work to make sure things are even-handedly applied. None of which I think it intended when it proposed a challenge system.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Mets 24, Phillies 4; Phillies 9, Mets 6: At least in a doubleheader you have the chance to shake off the first game if it doesn’t go your way. And boy howdy did the first game not go Philly’s way. In that one the Mets hung a 10-spot in the fifth inning and scored 24 runs on 25 hits. Only 11 of those runs were earned. It was an ugly, ugly game with two position players pitching including one, Scott Kingery, who was just lobbing in slow, fat pitches that didn’t even register on the radar gun. The only saving grave for the Phillies was that the game was “broadcast” on Facebook and no one watches those. If you want a full writeup of the carnage Bill, a Phillies fan, had to do it last night.

In the nightcap Philly righted the ship, with Zach Eflin pitching into the seventh and Phillies batters jumping on Steven Matz early. Rhys Hoskins hit a three-run homer and Kingery hit a solo shot that went out a bit faster than his fastballs came in in the first game.

Rangers 8, Angels 6: Neither of these teams are going to be playing six weeks from now, but they’ll always have this weird, kind of disjointed bases-loaded 5-4 triple-play to remember. It was an historical one too as it was the majors’ first triple play without retiring the batter in over 106 years:

Jurickson Profar, who started the triple play and was its MVP, at least if triple plays can have MVPs, also homered, as did Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo.

Rays 3, Yankees 1: Tampa Bay just has New York’s number I guess. Blake Snell returned to toss two-hit shutout ball for five innings and the Yankees would only manage a Giancarlo Stanton RBI double the rest of the way. Masahiro Tanaka was scoreless in innings 2-6, but unfortunately he started in inning 1, allowing two runs. Maybe the Yankees should try using a Rays-style opener for him?

Cubs 1, Pirates 0: Jon Lester hasn’t had a great second half — or last part of the first half — but he looked like the Lester of April and May last night, twirling six shutout frames, striking out eight and not walking anyone. Ivan Nova came close to matching him, but surrendered an Ian Happ solo homer in the fourth for the game’s only scoring. Chicago increased its lead in the NL Central to three and a half games over the idle Brewers. Pittsburgh lost its fourth straight to fall to .500.

Nationals 5, Cardinals 4Bryce Harper had three hits and drove in three runs to help the Nats snap its four-game losing streak and send the Cardinals to a loss for the first time in nine games. The most exciting thing here: the Nats taking a one-run lead into the ninth inning. Somehow Koda Glover held it. I mean, sure, he put two men on with two outs before closing it out, but what is life if it is not at least a little interesting?

Rockies 5, Braves 3: Atlanta could not close out its lead, however. In front 3-2 heading into the ninth, Trevor Story, the leadoff hitter that inning, reached via a Dansby Swanson error, Brad Brach — pitching in that situation because the Braves’ bullpen is sort of a mess right now — walked Gerardo Parra to move Story to second and then he came in on a Ryan McMahon pinch-hit RBI single to tie things up. Two batters later David Dahl — who had homered earlier — then came to the plate and knocked in both Parra and McMahon to give the Rockies a two-run lead that would hold up. The Rockies have won five of six. The only good news for the Braves was that Ronald Acuña played, singling in his first at bat and finishing 1-for-4.

Twins 15, Tigers 8: Logan Forsythe had five hits and Jorge Polanco drove in four runs for the Twins, three of which came on a three-run homer. There were lots of homers here, in fact, with the teams combining for seven round-trippers. The Twins must’ve left the air conditioner blowing out for the whole game. [*Editor whispers*]. Sorry, still not over the 1987 ALCS. I’m gonna accuse the Twins of somehow figuring out how to pull that crap in their new park too.

Royals 6, Blue Jays 2: For the third straight game a rain delay stopped the beginning of a game in this series, this time by over two hours. The Royals earned the series split, however, thanks to a single RBI from six different batters, including a Lucas Duda homer, and Royals relievers Brian FlynnKevin McCarthyBrandon Maurer and Wily Peralta shut down Toronto on three hits over the final five innings.

Diamondbacks 5, Padres 1: If you placed money on “Some time in 2018 Clay Buchholz will pitch a complete game, allowing only one run on five hits, getting the win for a playoff contending team” before the season began you would’ve been arrested for suspected time-traveling and/or placed in a rubber room so you could not do any harm to others or to yourself. Yet it happened. He got five runs of support in the first inning, thanks in part to a David Peralta three-run homer, and other than allowing a Hunter Renfroe solo shot in the eighth, he was lights-out. Not too bad for a guy everyone thought was burnt toast not too long ago.