Thursday, July 30, 2020

Unreviewable Line Drive Call Leads to Triple Play

The Chicago Cubs turned the first triple play of this 2020 season against Cincinnati thanks in part to MLB Replay Review rules that rendered 3B Umpire Larry Vanover's out call on a trapped line drive to third base unreviewable.

With none out and the bases loaded, Reds batter Shogo Akiyama hit a 0-2 fastball from Cubs pitcher Duane Underwood on a line drive to third baseman Kris Bryant, who dove in an attempt to catch the ball, resulting in an air out call, before stepping on third base to double up Reds baserunner R3 Nick Senzel for failing to tag up, and throwing to first base to triple up baserunner R1 Tucker Barnhart, also as a result of what is technically known as a live appeal play for failure to retouch a base after a batted ball caught in flight.

One problem: Akiyama's liner toward Bryant actually touched the ground before entering the Cubs third baseman's glove, meaning Senzel and Barnhart should have been under no obligation to tag up.

U3 Vanover signaled an out.
Another problem: Despite its introduction of expanded replay—including expansion to include reviews for catcher's interference in 2020—MLB replay has yet to allow video review for catch/trap plays that occur within the infield.

That left umpires with Official Baseball Rule 8.02(c), stating, "If the umpires consult after a play and change a call that had been made, then they have the authority to take all steps that they may deem necessary, in their discretion, to eliminate the results and consequences of the earlier call that they are reversing, including placing runners where they think those runners would have been after the play, had the ultimate call been made as the initial call," but in this case, the umpires stood by the initial call, Vanover informing Reds Manager David Bell of the crew's decision after talking it over with HP Umpire Lance Barksdale.

High home gives a full-field overview.
Had the safe/no catch call been Vanover's initial call, it is likely that R3 Senzel would have scored and R2 Freddy Galvis likely would have been out at third base on a force play. As for R1 Barnhart and BR least video review would have allowed Replay HQ to consult the wide-angle "high home" camera.

In 2017, tmac discussed replay's shortcomings and specifically referred to a similar play to that seen Wednesday in Cincinnati, writing, "Let's replay more things: Fair/fouls in the infield, batted balls off batters, and full swings that turn into HBPs are some of the disasters that are not reviewable...let's get it right." Catch/trap in the infield, indeed.

A 2012 triple play also was confusing.
At one point, former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig envisioned replay being used for "bullets down the line" such as that which, eventually, entered Bryant's glove on Wednesday, but thus far under Rob Manfred, the screeching line drive to the hot corner is not yet a reviewable play.

In 2016, we wrote of the perils of attempting to "unring the bell" in reversing an erroneous decision. Part of that discussion referred back to a play at Dodger Stadium in 2012 (pre-replay) when Dale Scott ejected Padres Manager Bud Black after Los Angeles turned a triple play when, with none out and two on (R1, R2), San Diego's runners didn't run on a botched bunt attempt by batter Jesus Guzman, claiming that plate umpire Scott gestured "foul ball" on a batted ball that Dodgers catcher AJ Ellis retrieved in fair territory.

In writing for the majority in the UEFL Appeals Board's decision on the Dale School mechanics/triple play call, tmac opined, "It's my belief that from a mechanical standpoint you can not kill a play like that and change your mind," and most pertinent to the Cubs-Reds play, "It's [akin to] calling a guy out on a catch in the outfield getting guys to go back to their bases and switching to a no catch call."
Related PostEjection 006: Dale Scott (1) (4/15/12).

Or, in this case, vice versa. | Video as follows:


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