Atlanta Braves dodged yet another rule book disaster

Ultimately, this ruling may have impacted the Brewers more than the Atlanta Braves, but this MLB rule is still plain wrong.

The Atlanta Braves continue to be on the wrong side of the MLB rulebook… and for whatever reason, playoff games seem to draw all kinds of cruel and unusual interpretations of baseball rules to their games.

At least this time, it wasn’t as bad as what happened to the Rays when a magic ricochet ball did a 3-cushion shot off the Fenway Park wall, the ground, and then a Red Sox outfielder before leaving the yard.  But as umpire Sam Holbrook told us after that game, there’s a specific rule covering that situation in the book.  Yeah… but not a good rule.

What was in common with tonight’s Rule Book Follies was that common sense continues to be a concept that’s completely foreign to umpires.

Read this well:  when in any doubt whatsoever, umpires will:

  • Not change their calls unless forced to do so, and
  • Will always resort to the absolute letter of the law when defending a call.  This includes allowing any potential scenario to be brought in to make this happen.

That latter bullet is what happened during the 2012 “Infield Fly Rule” game as Sam Holbrook and company abused the definitions of both “ordinary effort” and “infield” to justify their call (Yes… Sam Holbrook continues to be involved in these “rule” games!).

By that logic, an infielder could be stationed on the outfield warning track and still get that ruling made.  But I digress… the pain is still real.


Replay Refusal

In Tuesday night’s edition of “let’s try and hose the Braves again”, let’s jump to the bottom of the 4th inning.  Braves are now down 2-0 at this point.

Austin Riley was still at first base after a single and an extended argument about the balk rule instigated by first base coach Eric Young.

I’ll ignore any discussion about the balk rule for tonight, as this horse has been dead and mummified for decades… beating it would only create breathing problems… but Young wasn’t wrong, either.

Adam Duvall then tipped a foul ball toward the third base dugout.  Catcher Omar Narvaez reached for it badly and succeed only in creating a tip-play opportunity for all-world third baseman Luis Urias (after Tuesday night, just give that man an honorary Gold Glove… sheesh).

It first appeared that Urias caught the ball for an out on the tip.  Urias sold it well, and the umpires believed him.  After all, he caught everything else in his zip code last night.

Ah, but the replays were shown…

From literally every single angle shown on TV and in the stadium, the ball was observed — clearly — to have hit the ground before being gloved.  It truly wasn’t that close.

Okay, no problem… get out the headsets and let’s do the replay review thing.  Several seconds later, the umpires removed their headsets and everybody — literally everybody — on the field figured that Duvall would be hitting again after this quick ruling.

Except that somebody on the monitors in New York knew something that nobody else (including the Truist Park umpiring crew) knew.

The Replay Review rules for major league baseball do not specify what can’t be reviewed.  They only specify what can be reviewed.  Here’s the relevant snippet:

The following calls are reviewable via replay:  […]

Catch plays in the outfield: An umpire’s decision whether a fielder caught a fly ball or a line drive in flight in the outfield before it hit the ground is reviewable, but fly balls or line drives fielded by a defensive player in the infield is not eligible for review.

Why???  Were the rule-makers convinced that there would never be a controversial catch play in the infield?  Or in foul ground in the infield area?

With the advent of protective netting all around between (and including) dugouts, you’d think that there might be a controversial play involving foul balls striking (or not striking) that netting… at the very least.

But those wouldn’t be reviewable either under this rule… or ‘non-rule’, if you will.

Sure — there was an effort to limit the use of replay since there was a fear that everything might be reviewed, but certainly that hasn’t been a big problem over the multiple years of this technology becoming a part of our game.

Heck, the biggest problem we’ve been having is the obvious reluctance of umpires to overturn calls made by their own brethren.

So okay then… even if you accept that the review wasn’t allowed — which is just dumb — then there’s the other possible angle:  the umpires could have decided “okay… we see that we blew this call and because it’s a critical playoff game we’re gonna make it right and overturn ourselves.”

See the first bullet point above about “umpires” and “doubt”.  Again:  common sense — and eyesight  — don’t win when in conflict with the MLB Rulebook and umpires will never choose to set any precedent that they can’t defend from those black and white pages.

The upshot of all this is that maybe the Atlanta Braves got the last laugh on this entire sordid scene.

Between the delays for the balk discussion and the delays for the replay non-review… the Braves managed to take advantage of the upset rhythm of Brewers pitcher Aaron Ashby — taking him for two runs in that inning to tie up the game again.

That set the scene for Freddie Freeman‘s later heroics.

We’ll take it.  This time.