A strange replay in Oakland reveals a big hole in the replay rule

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The Oakland A’s were put in a lose-lose situation by an umpire’s call and an instant replay decision in yesterday’s game against the Blue Jays. It was a play and a call which should, if anyone is paying attention, lead to an immediate tweak to the instant replay rule.

Here’s what happened: with one out in the second inning, the Blue Jays loaded the bases against Sonny Gray and the A’s. Anthony Gose hit a grounder to A’s first baseman Nate Freiman. Freiman appeared to tag Munenori Kawasaki as he ran for second base, but umpire Vic Carapazza ruled that Freiman missed the tag and Kawasaki was safe. The play is still in motion with runners heading toward every bag. Freiman fires the ball home to catcher Steven Vogt. Vogt receives the ball and steps on home plate to get the force out of Edwin Encarnacion, who was running from third. Play ends. You can watch it all here.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons comes out to challenge the call on the Freiman tag of Kawasaki. That is, he comes out in an effort to have his own base runner, who was called safe, called out. He does so because if Kawasaki was tagged, there was no force play in effect at home and Encarnacion needed to have been tagged, rather than forced out. After a four minute+ review, it is ruled that, yes, Kawasaki was tagged and that Encarnacion, since he was not tagged, was safe at home. A run was awarded to the Jays.

Which is totally freaking insane.

Vogt had absolutely no reason to tag Encarnancion. He was, quite reasonably, relying on the call that was just made in real time during an active play — that Kawasaki was safe and thus a force play was in effect — in doing what he did. By awarding the run the way it was rewarded, the umpires and replay officials were doing more than correcting a call. They were creating fictions. Bob Melvin played the rest of the game under protest. Luckily for the A’s and the league it ended up not mattering, as the A’s won the game regardless.

You can’t anticipate every eventuality when a new rule is put in place, but you can certainly move quickly to patch a hole. Major League Baseball needs to patch this hole immediately and acknowledge that the players can only act based on what they know at the time, so what is known at the time has to control. There needs to be an immediate tweak to the rule which goes something like this: if an umpire’s call on the field affects the subsequent decision-making of players on the same play, the call is not reviewable.

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.