MLB to consider tweaking replay review of runners coming off base on tags


A baserunner slides into the bag, beats the throw, touches the base before a tag is applied and then either his momentum or a virtually undetectable nudge from the fielder causes him to lose contact with the bag for a millisecond. The fielder, trained to keep his late tag on the safe runner until time is called, does so. He then motions to his dugout, telling his manager to challenge the safe call. He does so, super slo-mo replay catches that millisecond and the call is reversed. Out.

We’ve see this play a handful of times recently. Most notably in the ALDS between the Royals and Astros when Terrance Gore stole third in a key moment and, while popping up from his slide as base runners are trained to do, gave a little hop and lost contact with the bag. In that case third baseman Luis Valbuena didn’t ask for the review, but the Astros dugout had time to look it over anyway because of a stoppage in play when Valbuena was inadvertently spiked:

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As I wrote at the time — and as commentator A.J. Pierzynski immediately observed at the one minute mark of that video — this is not what replay was intended to do. This is a bang-bang play, the likes of which have always happened and which have never been visible to umpires before the advent of high speed cameras and replay rules. It was not the kind of play that anyone complained about umpires getting wrong and was not the kind of play intended to be fixed by replay. Quite the opposite: it’s a dispute created by replay. An imperfection in human eyesight of which no one was aware and of which no one could reasonably be aware prior to 2014.

My beef with this, however, is not just that it’s a new thing. It’s that this sort of replay review negates what is, in reality, good baseball. In the ALDS example a fast runner on a fast team came in to change the game. And he did! He got a great jump and ran fast and slid perfectly and beat the throw and the tag but he was called out because of the sliding equivalent of throat-clearing and a little chippy business. In this case it wouldn’t have even been reviewed if Valbuena hadn’t gotten hurt due to his bad form and attempt to bend the rules with a partial base block. He and his team were rewarded for that, which makes it doubly galling. Either way, it wasn’t an isolated play. As Pierzynski noted in the video, players are aware of this glitch in the Matrix and are trained now to hold their tags longer on the off chance that they can steal an out.

Yesterday at the General Manager meetings Joe Torre talked about this sort of play and said that the league is looking at whether it’s the kind of thing that should be reviewed:

“I’ve talked to a number of managers about that, and in a lot of ways they feel it’s unfair. And yet when you’re dealing with replay and dealing with technology, it is what it is. If there’s a separation and his glove, the ball is on the runner, you can’t ignore that.

“We are going to talk about that, because there’s been a lot of inquiries about – is there any way we can sort of tweak the rule to keep that from happening? A lot of times you’re really negating good baserunning, where a guy slides in there and he’s popping up . . . Before replay we accepted the imperfections of our game, and now since replay we’re impatient with a play that may be missed.”

I’d argue that this wasn’t a case of an imperfection being accepted. It was an imperfection being wholly unknown and not troublesome to the game at all. Now that it has been detected our protocols and desire for perfection urge us to “fix” the “problem.” And in doing so we, like Torre said, are negating good baseball plays in the service of perfection.

Personally, I prefer good baseball plays over absolute perfection. Here’s hoping, eventually, Major League Baseball does too.

Padres claim 2-time All-Star catcher Gary Sánchez off waivers from Mets

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO — The scuffling San Diego Padres claimed catcher Gary Sánchez off waivers from the New York Mets.

The two-time All-Star was designated for assignment after playing in three games for the Mets. He went 1 for 6 with three strikeouts and an RBI, looking shaky at times behind the plate.

With the disappointing Padres (24-29) getting meager offensive production at catcher, they hope Sánchez can provide a boost. Austin Nola is batting .131 with three extra-base hits and a paltry .434 OPS in 39 games. His part-time platoon partner, second-stringer Brett Sullivan, is hitting .170 with four extra-base hits and a .482 OPS in 21 games since getting called up from the minors April 16.

Luis Campusano has been on the injured list since April 17 and is expected to be sidelined until around the All-Star break following left thumb surgery.

San Diego is responsible for just over $1 million in salary for Sánchez after assuming his $1.5 million, one-year contract.

The star-studded Padres have lost seven of 11 and are 3-3 on a nine-game East Coast trip. They open a three-game series at Miami.

San Diego becomes the third National League team to take a close look at the 30-year-old Sánchez this season. He spent time in the minors with San Francisco before getting released May 2 and signing a minor league contract a week later with the Mets, who were minus a couple of injured catchers at the time.

After hitting well in a short stint at Triple-A Syracuse, he was promoted to the big leagues May 19. When the Mets reinstated catcher Tomás Nido from the injured list last week, Sánchez was cut.

Sánchez’s best seasons came early in his career with the New York Yankees, where he was runner-up in 2016 AL Rookie of the Year voting and made the AL All-Star team in 2017 and 2019.

He was traded to Minnesota before the 2022 season and batted .205 with 16 homers and 61 RBIs in 128 games last year.

With the Padres, Sánchez could also be a candidate for at-bats at designated hitter, where 42-year-old Nelson Cruz is batting .245 with three homers, 16 RBIs and a .670 OPS, and 37-year-old Matt Carpenter is hitting .174 with four homers, 21 RBIs and a .652 OPS.