Bud Black’s attempted replay challenge deemed “untimely” — which is kind of absurd

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Bud Black tried to use a replay challenge in last night’s Dodgers-Padres game. It came in the first inning when Yasiel Puig laid down a sacrifice bunt (he’s always giving himself up for the good of his team; just a standup, selfless guy he is) and reached when Padres pitcher Tyson Ross’ throw pulled Yonder Alonso off the bag. Puig’s called safe.

Black — after talking to his coach who is on a phone, presumably with a Padres replay assistant — walks out to challenge. The umpires convene for a second and then decide that the replay challenge was not issued quickly enough. Under the rules, you see, the manager must “immediately” inform the crew chief if he plans to challenge the play. Black’s challenge was not “immediate.” Which I won’t dispute, as the pitcher had taken the rubber and the batter had entered the batters box. The Padres’ catcher had even gone out to the mound to talk to the pitcher to buy some time.

Ss we’ve seen in the first few games of the season, however, managers have taken to popping out of the dugout pretty immediately on challenge plays, yet take their sweet time in actually saying they want to challenge. They do this so that their replay assistants can review the play and let them know whether it’s worth using the challenge. Someone flashes the manager a thumbs-up or thumbs-down or something as he’s killing time. That’s why the batter isn’t in the batter’s box and the pitcher hasn’t taken the rubber in so-called “timely” challenges. A manager is on the field. It’s just as much of a delay in that situation as Black’s delay here. One is allowed, one is not.

As for this challenge: they don’t have the video clip of it up on MLB.com, but I just watched it on MLB.tv and, for what it’s worth, the play was pretty darn close. Many times a game the umpire will call the runner out when the fielder’s foot is off the bag in the same fashion Yonder Alonso’s foot was off the bag here:

source:

It’s sort of a mini-neighborhood play for first baseman. The difference here was that Alonso was leaning to reach for the ball, not just moving his foot a bit early in a casual fashion like you see many first basemen do, so it’s more likely that umpires will look more closely at the footwork. I get that.

But I also get the absurdity of all of this. A clear takeaway is that managers are incentivized to get out onto the field fast and delay things while their staff deliberates challenges. If you do what Bud Black apparently did and wait to know if you want to use a challenge before issuing it, you’re out of luck because you are deemed to have delayed things unnecessarily.

Which, in this case, was determined only after a long delay occasioned by an umpires meeting in which whether Black delayed things too much was discussed.

Free agent market slow, but players who have signed have exceeded expectations

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The winter meetings are near the end — many execs are leaving Vegas tonight — and once again, the free agent market has moved rather slowly. Last year’s free agent market was perhaps the slowest in recent memory. This offseason, only 11 multi-year contracts have been signed by free agents to date. Six have been for two years, three have been for three years, one for four years, and one for six years.

Despite another slowly-moving free agent market, the players are optimistic because those that have signed contracts have exceeded expectations in terms of total value, per Jared Diamond of The Wall Street Journal. Patrick Corbin got $140 million, Nathan Eovaldi got $68 million, Andrew McCutchen got $50 million. Heck, even Lance Lynn coming off of a bad year got $30 million from the Rangers.

For comparison, as the offseason began, Fancred’s insider Jon Heyman (and an unnamed “expert”) made predictions about what the various free agent markets would get. Heyman and the expert predicted $100 million and $85 million, respectively, for Corbin, who got $140 million. They predicted $45 million and $64 million, respectively, for Eovaldi, who got $68 million. And they foresaw $39 million and $60 million for McCutchen, who got $50 million. Heyman predicted Charlie Morton would take the $17.9 million qualifying offer and the expert predicted he’d sign a one-year, $17 million deal. Morton got two years and $30 million. Heyman predicted 2/$16M for Lance Lynn and the expert only went a million higher at 2/$17M. He got 3/$30M.

Heyman isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so let’s also glance at the predictions from MLB Trade Rumors. 6/$129M for Corbin, 4/$60M for Eovaldi, 3/$45M for McCutchen, 2/$32M for Morton, and 2/$16M for Lynn. MLBTR hit a lot closer to the center of the dartboard, so to speak, but generally the players still got a bit more than anticipated, which is good, and justifies the optimism. Hopefully the trend continues over the coming two or three months.

Going forward, though, we probably should adjust our expectations of the winter meetings. Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times brought up a great point, tweeting, “One problem with the Winter Meetings is they are still marketed as a news-making event at a time when executives no longer feel urgency to make news at said event.” All of the execs and journalists have access to one another via cell phones, so it’s become more of a hobnobbing event than a place to wheel and deal. These days, a deal could just as easily happen in the days leading up to or following the winter meetings. Maybe it’s just the new normal that we’ll be going into February with handfuls of free agents still looking for a new home.