A.J. Ellis doesn’t think Yadier Molina should have had to apply a tag on close play at home

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One of the memorable plays from NLCS Game 1 came in the top of the tenth inning. With one out, A.J. Ellis hit a line drive to right-center — a single if center fielder Jon Jay played it correctly. Jay, however, mistakenly dove after the ball and missed it completely. Ellis motored to third base as the ball made its way back to the infield. Hanley Ramirez was intentionally walked, bringing up Michael Young with runners on the corners and one out.

Young hit a lazy fly ball to right fielder Carlos Beltran. Beltran camped under it, then fired the ball home. Catcher Yadier Molina corralled the ball just before Ellis crashed into him. Home plate umpire Gerry Davis called Ellis out, ending the inning, keeping the Cardinals’ hopes alive. Replays shown on the TBS broadcast called into question the veracity of the call.

After the game, Ellis said that Davis made the correct call, even if Molina didn’t actually apply the tag. Via Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times:

“In the history of baseball, no one has ever been called safe on that play because they didn’t tag them,” A.J. Ellis said Saturday.

Ellis said he understood such a play would be subject to a replay challenge next year.

“That would be a shame for a great defensive play like that, the great throw by Carlos, and great play by Yadier at the plate to be overturned because of a technicality that he didn’t graze him with the glove,” Ellis said.

As a fellow catcher, it’s not surprising to see Ellis take Molina’s side. It is surprising to expect a defender to be given credit for an action without actually having to make it. Middle infielders are still expected to touch the second base bag and apply tags even when they have runners stampeding towards them from first base. What reason is there to treat catchers separately?

Sign-stealing penalties could be ‘unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history’

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Early this morning we learned that Major League Baseball was planning to talk to former Astros Carlos Beltrán and Alex Cora as part of the sign-stealing investigation. Late this morning Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the investigation is, actually, going to go much wider than that.

Passan reports that Major League Baseball will not limit its focus to the 2017 Astros, who were the subject of the report in The Athletic on Tuesday. Rather, it will also include members of the 2019 Astros and will extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentions the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Oh, it also includes recently-fired Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman, who the league plans to interview but who, Passan says, has hired a lawyer. Which is sort of interesting in its own right, but let’s stay on topic.

Passan:

The league is attempting to cull tangible evidence from the widespread paranoia of front offices and teams around the game about others cheating and has indicated it will consider levying long suspensions against interviewees who are found to have lied, sources said . . . The penalties for illegal activity are determined by commissioner Rob Manfred, though if the league can prove wrongdoing, the severity could be unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history, sources said.

The Cardinals were fined $2 million when an employee, Chris Correa, hacked the Astros computer system. Correa, of course, was permanently banned from baseball and served prison time. Former Braves GM John Coppolella was likewise given a permanent ban for lying about the team’s circumvention of international signing rules. If Passan’s source is right and the league is going to level heavy penalties here, that’s where you have to start, I imagine.

To me, the stuff about Coppolella’s lying and the bit about interviewees lying mentioned in the block quote is key.

Will anyone have the hammer brought down upon them for being responsible for stealing signs? Hard to say. But they likely will if they are not forthcoming with league investigators. Which is actually a pretty decent way to handle things when one is conducting an internal investigation. Maybe you don’t give amnesty to wrongdoers in the name of information-gathering, but you do signal to them that cooperation is incentivized and lack of cooperation will be punished.

It’s an approach, by the way, that Major League Baseball notably did not take in the course of its PED investigations a decade ago. That led to a final report that had massive gaps in information and caused the league to focus on and publicize only the lowest-hanging fruit. As I argued at the time, if information-gathering, as opposed to P.R. considerations was its true aim, MLB would’ve handled it differently.

In the early stages here, in contrast, it does sound like baseball is taking this seriously. That’s a good thing.