Trap Game

You won’t see this in the box score.

In the American League Wild Card Tiebreaker on Monday night in Arlington, Texas, the Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin makes a critical catch to end the away half of the 7th inning. This play took place with two Tampa Bay runners on base and the Rays hanging on to a 4-2 lead. There’s just one slight problem with the result of the play that leads to the future of how instant replay will be used in baseball.

Martin didn’t catch the ball. (Wonderful image right here:

Whenever the play-by-play announcer can spot on a live call that the ball bounced in front of Martin, that’s probably the first hint that the call was botched by the umpires. Tampa Bay won the game 5-2 and the uproar over the play quickly fizzled into a champagne celebration in the visitors clubhouse.

The ramifications of this play, which won’t be felt until it affects the outcome of the World Series, make instant replay the obvious answer to this solution. Right now, umpires can only review home runs in the game during the regular season and postseason. No challenge flags exist for a safe-out call or a catch-no catch option. We can all recite errors that umpires made in a critical postseason game:  Richie Garcia down the right field line in the ’96 ALCS between the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees; Don Denkinger’s safe call on an obvious out play in the 1985 World Series. The mistakes are woven into the fabric of the game. Think of them as a stitch in the baseball.

If baseball expands instant replay, how does Martin’s catch that hit the ground play out? Do the umpires award an assumed run to the Tampa Bay Rays? Does each batter gain 90 feet in this example? Would Delmon Young, the Rays batter, get a “do over” at-bat? I can’t think of a way where it’s fair for both teams in this instance. Does the runner score from second base? Probably. But you can’t assume a run. In a game that featured three baserunners committing outs, there’s a possibility that the runner at first gets tagged out before the runner at second even scores the run.

Baseball’s a game with infinite possibilities. How does the sport marry with technology?

Comments? Send me a tweet @WBALDash


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