Contact and controversy in the ninth inning of last night’s Dodgers-Giants game

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As we mentioned in the recaps this morning, there was contact and controversy in the ninth inning of last night’s Dodgers-Giants game. To set the scene: tie game, Gregor Blanco on second base. Brandon Belt at the plate. Take it away, Vin Scully:

A couple of things are going on here. One is the contact between third base coach Roberto Kelly, the other is the umpire’s attention, or arguable lack thereof, to the play. But let’s start with the rule that governs all of this:

7.09
It is interference by a batter or a runner when — . . .

(g) In the judgment of the umpire, the base coach at third base, or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists him in returning to or leaving third base or first base.

I think we can all agree there was contact here. Blanco was not held by Kelly, but he was touched. The real question here was whether that contact “physically assisted” Blanco in returning to third base. I’ve watched this play a whole bunch of times and, despite my gut instinct in the recaps this morning, I tend to believe that the rules was not violated.

Blanco was slowing down when Kelly and he came into contact. He was not going so fast and was not so out of control that Kelly’s contact with him “physically assisted” him in getting back to the bag. If Kelly was three feet further back, Blanco still would’ve stopped and started back to the bag in the same place and would’ve been safe.

Maybe this is different if Kelly’s contact with Blanco truly helped Blanco apply the brakes. Maybe it’s different if, even with this contact as it was, the ball was close to third base and it might’ve been a close call as to whether Blanco would’ve been tagged out on his minor overrun. But neither of those things applied. Given that this is not a bright line, automatic “no contact” rule but, rather, a judgment call, I think Blanco was properly safe.

Not that this was perfect, of course. Because a judgment call requires the exercise of some informed judgment on the part of the umpire. And I’m not sure how third base umpire Fieldin Culbreth was exercising judgment in this case. Yes, the source of this screencap has an understandable bias, but it doesn’t change where Culbreth was looking:

To be fair, a fraction of a second before this pic, Culbreth was watching the bag (it’s clear on the video). But he was merely looking down at it to see if Blanco touched it before heading home, not watching the entire play unfold. Why he looked away and out to left field is a mystery. By the time he did that it was already clearly a single, so he did not need to signal for an out. He really had no cause other than mere curiosity and spectatorship to be looking out to left. His attention should’ve been at the bag where he may have needed to make an out call, up the line where he may have been needed to assist on a play at the plate or, in this case, at the bag to exercise some judgment with respect to interference.

So, the non-call of interference was right. But it was right despite the umpire’s view and judgment, not because of it. This, I am sure, makes no one really happy. Well, except for Giants fans because their team won the game.

 

Dodgers acquire Manny Machado from Orioles for five minor leaguers

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The Orioles and Dodgers finally completed the trade involving Manny Machado, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports. The Orioles will receive five prospects from the Dodgers: Yusniel Diaz, Dean Kremer, Zach Pop, Rylan Bannon, and Breyvic Valera.

Machado, 26, is in the final year of his contract, so this is currently a rental for the first-place Dodgers. Machado ended the first half batting .315/.387/.575 with 24 home runs, 65 RBI, 48 runs scored, and eight stolen bases in 413 plate appearances. In Los Angeles, he will handle shortstop, allowing Chris Taylor to move over to second base.

MLB Pipeline rated Diaz as the Dodgers’ No. 4 prospect and No. 84 across baseball. Kremer was No. 27 in the Dodgers’ system and Bannon was No. 28.

Diaz, 21, is considered the centerpiece of the trade. The outfielder hit .314/.428/.477 with 20 extra-base hits, 30 RBI, and 36 runs scored in 264 plate appearances at Double-A Tulsa this season.

Kremer, 22, was selected by the Dodgers in the 14th round of the 2016 draft. He spent most of his season with High-A Rancho Cucamonga before earning a promotion to Tulsa earlier this month. Overall, in 17 starts, the right-hander posted a 3.03 ERA with a 125/29 K/BB ratio in 86 innings.

Pop, 21, was selected by the Dodgers in the seventh round of the 2017 draft. He has spent his season between Rancho Cucamonga and Single-A Great Lakes. Overall, he compiled a 1.04 ERA with 47 strikeouts and 13 walks in 43 1/3 innings of relief.

Bannon, 22, was selected by the Dodgers in the eighth round of the 2017 draft. With Rancho Cucamonga this season, the infielder batted .296/.402/.559 with 20 home runs and 61 RBI in 403 PA.

Valera, 26, has appeared in 20 games at the major league level for the Dodgers this season, batting a meager .172 with a .445 OPS in 34 PA. Valera has versatility, having played second base, third base, and corner outfield this year while also having experience in center field, shortstop, and first base.