Full disclosure, the latest blunder involving MLB’s replay system ultimately would not have mattered considering the Cardinals still have not scored a run against Aroldis Chapman since way back in 2011 — when Albert Pujols last donned the Birds on the Bat. However, the outcome of the game should not matter when discussing replay in Major League Baseball. Instead, we should evaluate the system in a vacuum considering the process was implemented to specifically fix incorrect calls made on the field. Now, is the process working?
The play in question occurred with one out and two runners on base in the bottom of the eighth inning. For whatever reason, in this reasonably high leverage situation (losing 2-1 with a Wild Card berth in reach), the Cardinals manager called on Jonathan Broxton to put out the fire. In fairness, Broxton, outside of a solo home run allowed in his last outing versus the Rockies, had actually been pitching pretty well of late, but considering the urgency of the situation, it seemed like the perfect time to use Seung Hwan Oh, the team’s best reliever. But discussing the manager’s bullpen decision is a secondary talking point behind what happened on Broxton’s first pitch to Javy Baez.
Broxton went up and in to Baez with a 98 MPH fastball. The pitch rode too far up and too far in on Baez’s hands and appeared to land squarely on the knob of his bat (Baez’s bottom hand doesn’t cup the knob of the bat like former Cub Moises Alou). Somewhat surprisingly, MLB created an embeddable video of the event which I have included below:
First and foremost, if Baez’s bottom hand had indeed been clipped by a 98 MPH fastball, his immediate reaction would have been drastically different. Just ask Matt Holliday or Aledmys Diaz about taking pitches off their hands (I am well aware that both got hit in more vulnerable locations). Now, any pain Baez did feel on impact (he does grimace almost simultaneously) is normal as the vibrations traveling through the bat certainly could have induced a “bees in the hands”-type feeling. The next thing to consider is Baez did not even try to “sell” the hit by pitch at all. In fact, he stood around home plate for roughly 15 seconds, conversing with his bat boy, before even beginning his trot down to first base.
Frankly, the next two screenshots tell it all, in my opinion.
“Like, really, [Fieldin Culbreth]? You think I just got hit in the hand with a 98 MPH fastball and was able to stand up as if nothing happening? Okay, cool, dude. I’ll take my base then. Thanks.”
Almost certainly questioned by Matheny, Baez provided the Cardinals manager with an honest nonverbal cue — a quick nod in agreement — as if to say, “Yes, you should come out and challenge this call. I was not hit by the pitch” Admittedly, this interaction would have been much better captured in GIF form (and should one become available, I’ll replace the screenshot).
Yet, despite all of the in-the-moment evidence provided above, along with a screenshot of the ball-to-bat impact below, the replay crew in New York informed the field crew in Chicago to stick with the call on the field. If after minutes of slow motion replay is not enough to make such an obvious call, then honestly, why even have replay at all?
As a fan of technology, I was a huge supporter for the incorporation of replay in Major League Baseball. Yet, if they simply cannot get obvious calls correct, and if they cannot even start the review process on blatantly missed judgment calls, then what is the point? If the commissioner’s office is so focused on speeding up the game, then I just might have the solution for him.