I was watching the Giants-Cubs game on Saturday night when Javier Baez hit a ball hard and slid into second base well ahead of the tag. Baez didn’t get a double, however, he was called out. Why? Because on replay review, initiated by Bruce Bochy, it was shown that Baez’s momentum bumped him up off the bag for a split second, causing him to lose contact.
This is an absolutely stupid result. Many pedantic people have argued with me that, hey, he’s off the bag, and thus he’s out, but that misses the larger point: never, in the century and a half of baseball history, was a runner out in that situation. He was never held to a standard in which the briefest of disconnect from the bag led to him being out because we could never see that brief disconnect before subjecting such plays to slow motion replay. And even if a bounce or a bump was detectable by the naked eye, an umpire had the power to pass judgment. Unless there was a clear, obvious and intentional loss of contact from the base, the umpire exercising such judgment never called him out and no one on either team considered it an injustice. Now the inevitable product of basic physics — the product of a man running fast and sliding hard — has become an inefficiency for an opposing manager to exploit in a tactical fashion.
Using the replay rule in this fashion risks turning slides in baseball into receptions in football: a once pretty straightforward event that has now been turned into an overly legalistic affair. Over at FanGraphs today Dave Cameron argues that we should adjust the slide rules at second and third base to account for this, thereby letting baseball plays happen as they always have rather than elevating strategy and technology to an absurd level of importance. I agree with him 100%.
Instant replay is about righting clear wrongs. Not searching for wrongs where no one ever thought they existed in the first place.