Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Price is Wrong as Reds Fail to Replay Walk-Off 2B

A Cardinals' walk-off double stood when Cincinnati failed to timely challenge the game-ending play in St. Louis.

Diagram of Busch Stadium's left field wall.
With two outs and a runner on first base in the bottom of the 9th inning of a tied ballgame in St. Louis Thursday evening, Cardinals batter Yadier Molina hit a line drive to left field that bounced on the warning track before caroming up and off of the wall or recessed advertising panel in left field, ruled alive and in play by 3B Umpire Scott Barry, as baserunner R1 Matt Carpenter hustled around the from first base to score the game-winning run.

Busch Stadium ground rules address the top of the wall situation in left field, specifying that a batted ball in flight striking the top of the wall above the padding and rebounding onto the playing field shall be ruled in play. A ball in flight or otherwise that strikes beyond the top of the wall shall be ruled out of play.

St. Louis celebrates its walk-off win.
Thus, with regard to Molina's game-ending hit Thursday night, the bounding ball hitting the recessed advertising panel atop the padded wall, which is depicted on the right side of the above diagram, is to be considered out of play, whereas a ball that merely hits the top of the padded wall (as indicated by the teardrop marked "2") before rebounding onto the playing field is to be considered in play.

If the batted ball bounced out of play, pursuant to Rule 5.05(a), the proper award is two bases to both batter Molina and runner Carpenter, meaning he would be placed at third base. If the ball remained in play, the run obviously would count.

In other words, this was a crucial game-ending call that Cincinnati had nothing to lose by challenging.

Yet they failed to challenge the play. By the time Reds Manager Bryan Price sought out HP Umpire and Crew Chief Bill Miller to request a Replay Review, the umpires had already left the playing field.

Pursuant to Replay Regulation II.D.1 (Timing of Manager Challenges and Crew Chief Reviews), "A challenge to a play that ends the game must be invoked immediately upon the conclusion of the play, and both Clubs shall remain in their dugouts until the Replay Official issues his decision."

Replays indicate that nearly 30 seconds transpired from the conclusion of the game-ending play and Price's departure from the dugout to seek out an umpire. In other words, he was too late: the umpires had already left the field, and were under no obligation to entertain the manager's delay (furthermore, entertaining Price's challenge after such a delay would run afoul of II.D.1).

Price blamed MLB's rule for his non-challenge.
In post-game comments to the press, Price explained that his team was allotted 10 seconds to decide whether or not to challenge the play, and that he felt 10 seconds was insufficient to make such a determination: Price stated that his team did not have a real-time view of the play and, thus, didn't see it fall into dead ball territory. [NOTE: 10 seconds refers to a Manager's Challenge of a third-out play. As pertains to a game-ending "walk-off" situation, as well as a third-out Crew Chief Review, the Replay Regulation states the manager must leave the dugout to seek a challenge or request for review immediately after the conclusion of the play. "Immediately" may reasonably be interpreted as "10 seconds."]

Price also stated that a game with playoff implications should be treated more leniently in regards to the rule. While St. Louis has a chance to make the Wild Card, Price's Reds have been eliminated from playoff contention since earlier this season. Cincinnati's record as of Thursday night is 67-92.

In what may come as a shock to no one, Price in his comments displayed a lack of rules knowledge.

Unlike a potential Manager's Challenge that may occur at any other point during the game, wherein a manager might "hold" up play while he consults with his video coordinator, a challenge on the game's final play must be filed immediately, which leaves no time to internally review the play. Because Price failed to timely challenge Barry's "in play" call, the game was considered final the moment the final umpire exited the field and deemed Cincinnati had failed to immediately challenge the call.

In other words, the moment Price referenced a need to have more time to review the play and/or receive a phone call from the video room, his argument ran contrary to the spirit of immediately.

Managers have previously been ejected (Walt Weiss, by Jerry Layne, 6/17/15) and have even protested games (Joe Maddon, of Bob Davidson, 8/26/14) over complaints that the opposing manager took too long to request a Replay Review, suggesting there are at least a few skippers out there that have read the Replay Regulations well enough to at least have an inkling as to Replay Review timing. Perhaps had Miller honored Price's untimely challenge, Mike Matheny would have joined Weiss and Maddon in being ejected for or protesting the cause (in his own post-game presser, Matheny referenced the timely requirement in filing a challenge "immediately" after a game-ending play, indicating he knew of the rule). After all, the desire to win has always trumped fair play.


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