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Joe Maddon shows us why limited instant replay and manager challenges are bad ideas

May 20, 2013, 3:41 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles Getty Images

In yesterday’s Rays-Orioles game, Matt Joyce hit a ball that maybe was a homer or maybe a double or maybe a foul ball. Hard to say on live viewing! It was initially ruled in play and Joyce made it to second for a double.

Buck Showalter came out of the dugout and argued that the ball was foul. So the umps went to replay. Except Joe Maddon wanted to be sure — indeed, he said that the rules demanded — that, no matter what the replay showed, the ball could only be ruled a home run or a double, not a foul ball.

Why? Because, Maddon claims, the replay rules only allow for replay to be used to decide if a ball was a home run or not. Not if it was a double or a foul ball. Here’s what umpire Gerry Davis said:

“Joe wanted to review to see if it was a home run, but only if the consequences were not the possibility of it being a foul ball,” Davis said. “He thought the only thing possible was it being a fair ball play, which would have been a double, or a home run. That’s not true. If we go to replay, whatever we ascertain from the replay is the call we make. So a foul ball is a possibility in that situation.”

The ball was called a home run — correctly — and that was that. But Maddon is still hanging on to this today. Just this afternoon he said that Davis “made stuff up on the field” and that using replay to see exactly what happened — as opposed to what, in Maddon’s view is a rule which does not allow for foul balls to be reviewed — is “baseball anarchy.”

Thing is: Maddon is technically correct that baseball’s replay rule is for boundary home run calls. Was it in or out, fair or foul. Not for balls in play that were called doubles to be switched to foul balls. So, technically speaking, it was improper for the umps to look to see if the play was a double or foul. They could only, technically speaking, see if it was a double or a home run.

But he is insane if he thinks it any way justifiable for the umps to look at a replay to see what happened, note that a ball was clearly foul yet be constrained from ruling it a foul ball because of some technical application of the replay rule. Which, thankfully, didn’t happen here, but easily could have. And which would have led to a protested game and no small amount of sturm und drang.

Which is why limited replay, like we currently have, is silly. Gerry Davis is correct to note how the right call should be made if replay clearly shows what should have happened. And that, but for all of Maddon’s arguing which delayed the process yesterday, it’s pretty easy to see what actually happened on the field via replay in any number of scenarios and to make the right call in relatively short order. It also shows why managerial challenges would be a bad idea under any expanded replay too, because it would lead to arguments about whether it was a “proper challenge” or not. Umpires managing this and simply using technology to get the call right under their own authority is far, far preferable.

To pretend that we can’t see these plays via replay is madness. To allow the replay system to become part of a manager’s strategy is also madness.  Whether it was technically proper or not, what Gerry Davis did here makes perfect sense. He looked at the play and got the call right.

Why does this have to be so difficult?

  1. rlj2170 - May 20, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    I watched the game and when i first saw the ball hit i thought it was foul. It wasnt untill i saw the super-slo-mo on it did i realize it bounced off the bottom of the pole. it clearly looked to me that it hit the foul line on the wall.
    Kudos to the crew to take a look at it and get it right?

  2. GoneYickitty - May 20, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    The point of having rules is consistency. It doesn’t matter how much sense something makes … when you’re talking about decisions that potentially have the impact of many millions of dollars (such as making or not making the playoffs), you need consistency. I agree 100% with Maddon and I’m surprised that a lawyer wouldn’t understand the need for rules.

    • Craig Calcaterra - May 20, 2013 at 4:02 PM

      I fully understand the need for rules. I am noting that the current rule is stupid, as are all rules which demand an outcome that is plainly contrary to what all of us can see before our eyes. And that any future rules that allow this stupid state of affairs to be maintained is stupid.

      • indycoltsluck - May 21, 2013 at 1:57 AM

        No you’re not, not quite. You stated that Maddon was “insane” for expecting them to follow the rules. Yes, the rule is horribly stupid; however, let us not forget that it has taken this long for MLB to build a consensus that would allow for them to implement expanded replay. In fact, we do not even know if they can implement replay on safe/out calls via the latest CBA. Baseball fans have argued tradition for decades and this is an area where views have been rapidly evolving.

        Maddon was acting in the interest of his team by pointing out the rules to the umpire. Acting in one’s own self interest is not anywhere near the definition of insanity. He was 100% right regarding the rules as they are today, not as we wish they were. The umpires are only allocated the power to enforce the rules on the book. We can hardly criticize umpires who abuse their power if we are to say the umpires here should have just winked at each other and overturned the play if it had been foul.

        No one wants this to be the NFL where even people who have been watching for 30 years have no idea what plays can be challenged or how a play will be determined after watching the replay. That is one of many things that makes our game vastly superior. However, the league has not implemented expanded replay yet. You cannot fault Maddon for acting in his team’s interests; let alone say he was insane for wanting the rule to be enforced as it is today.

        Have you ever been told by some who is dumber than you yet in a position of authority that even though you are the one who knows the rules (which is the umpire’s job) that you are wrong and you cannot do anything about it because someone gave someone of ignorance a position of power? They ALWAYS make things up when you confront them about a rule they should know something about. You are entirely correct we need to fix replay, but the attacks on Maddon and saying he was insane or denying that the umpire was “making things up” ignores the facts as they are in reality today.

      • Fr Joe R - May 21, 2013 at 4:30 PM

        Rules are rules, but the rule and having umpires have one underlying rule or purpose which is “get it right” If the ball could be a double, a home run or a foul, you don’t eliminate the foul because the rule is interim in putting it kindly.

  3. geoknows - May 20, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    Sounds to me like Showalter is the one who should have kept his mouth shut. You can’t ask for replay on a fair-foul call, which is what he did. As a result, what was ruled a double became a home run. His fault.

    Yeah, Madden is, I suppose, technically right, but I do thoroughly agree that we just want to get it right. Considering that they did review it, even it the thought was home run or double, if replay definitively found it to be a foul they should call it foul.

    • bigharold - May 20, 2013 at 5:05 PM

      “Yeah, Madden is, I suppose, technically right, …”

      Not so fast. Showalter was in fact wrong about reviewing the ball for fair or foul because there is no rule hat provides for that possibility. But, once you decide to review the call as to whether or not it’s a HR you have to go by what the replay shows. If the ball was initially called foul and Maddon had demanded a reply he would have to abide by the results. Conversely, if the play is challenged by whatever means and reply shows that it was a foul ball it makes no sense to grant a guy a double.

      If a play is subjected to review the final result should reflect what happened. Otherwise, we might have to get use to the New Age Angel Hernandez rules of suspended reality.

    • lessick - May 20, 2013 at 5:05 PM

      I believe Showalter was asking the umpire who called it to see if anyone else had a better look at where it hit the wall. A previous poster is right–without seeing a directional change from nicking that pole, it sure looked as though the ball hit the wall in foul territory.

      Although I could not hear the umpires’ conference on the field, it seemed like they were discussing fair/foul and whether or not to stick with the call on the field before possibly going to replay.

  4. indaburg - May 20, 2013 at 4:06 PM

    I agree that we should be getting the call right, but Maddon was also absolutely correct in arguing the way he did. If MLB doesn’t like the argument, then change the rules and make it so that we can get it right all the time, not just on home run calls.

    It doesn’t have to be this complicated. MLB is needlessly complicating this process. Other sports have been so helpfully beta testing this technology for years. Implement it already. Place a fifth umpire in a booth in the stadium continuously reviewing calls. Any controversial calls (or those seen as incorrect by the 5th ump) can be instantly corrected. The process would be seamless. I bet fewer than one call a game would be needed for review. I watched this game live yesterday and I am guessing it was at least a 10 minute delay for the whole mess to get sorted out.

    • kevinbnyc - May 20, 2013 at 4:29 PM

      But that would take away the human element of instant replay!!!

    • lukescottsbedsidemanner - May 20, 2013 at 4:35 PM

      Your use of common sense and logic is perturbing. Say something silly so I can feel comfortable staring at you.

      • indaburg - May 20, 2013 at 6:36 PM

        I liked your bunt against the shift in the top of the 9th today, you birther freak.

      • cur68 - May 21, 2013 at 1:14 AM

        You…you like me??? I . . . I can’t cope with “like” . . . uh. . .what are you wearing?

      • indaburg - May 21, 2013 at 9:39 AM

        I’m confused.

  5. mudhead123 - May 20, 2013 at 4:14 PM

    Maddon supports his cheating pitchers. What else should we expect from him?

    • mudhead123 - May 20, 2013 at 4:59 PM

      Facts angered 10 readers apparently

      • samu0034 - May 21, 2013 at 11:38 AM

        Facts do not prevent one from being an asshole. It is assholery that angers people.

  6. moogro - May 20, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    Craig’s point: The rules are structured as of now to create a situation where umpires forced to choose replay procedure over just getting the call right. But the cat’s out of the bag because of good video replay, so they should always just try to get it right.

    Me: finish painting the foul pole. Close seams in outfield walls. Standardize the cushion and give on park walls for player workplace safety. Weird if MLBPA wouldn’t want that. Remember that weird unpadded goal post in the middle of the football field. Miss it?

    • lessick - May 20, 2013 at 5:09 PM

      “Me: finish painting the foul pole.”

      Although I agree aesthetically, I’m not so sure that a white ball hitting a yellow pole would be any more visible that a white ball hitting a black pole.

      • moogro - May 20, 2013 at 9:57 PM

        Think about it. It’s like tennis. If it disappears into the yellow line, then you know it is fair. If there is a line of green or black between the line and the ball, then it’s foul. If it disappears into a pile of black metal (as in this case) without any kind of line, it’s difficult to tell.

  7. adge84 - May 20, 2013 at 4:22 PM

    Leave comments like this to yourself. Small market teams like the rays have made baseball great for all fans again. Not just the ones whose teams have inflated budgets. Get over yourself. They do it all the right way no cheating necessary.

  8. gugurich - May 20, 2013 at 4:25 PM

    Nice way to compete Maddon. “If the replay shows we didn’t deserve a hit, too bad, we’re taking it anyway and you can’t stop us.”

  9. mudhead123 - May 20, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    @adge84… You must be new to baseball or follow it very little. Peralta was caught CHEATING last year and Maddon defended him cheating. This is a fact not an opinion

    • indaburg - May 20, 2013 at 6:56 PM

      It’s funny how the Nationals had no issue with Peralta cheating while he was wearing a Nationals uniform. Rather convenient set of ethics there.

      All managers support their players. They wouldn’t be managing very long if they didn’t. (See: Valentine, Bobby.)

  10. blacksables - May 20, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    At the end of his career, Joe Maddon will have own more ‘Dick of the Year’ awards than ‘Manager of the Year’ awards.

    He’s already the front-runner this year.

  11. js20011041 - May 20, 2013 at 4:58 PM

    Can they just contract this organization?

    Joe Maddon is such a schmuck. Regardless of how well they charm the stat nerd crowd, that organization is wholly loathsome. Owned and run by Wall Street bankers that can’t stop whining about their stadium. Whiny players who take their cue from their whiny manager. A shortstop so reviled by his teammates in Atlanta, the team gave his incoming replacement a standing ovation. Another player who threw banana chips at a Dominican and called him a “savage.” Did I mention they employ a convicted rapist? Not a rapist in the sense of Kobe Bryant or Ben Roethlisberger, where there was no conviction. An actual, confirmed rapist.

    • indaburg - May 20, 2013 at 6:57 PM

      “Can they just contract this organization?”

      No. Next question, please.

      • js20011041 - May 20, 2013 at 7:33 PM

        Yeah, probably a bad idea. Where else are registered sex offenders going to find employment?

      • indaburg - May 20, 2013 at 8:13 PM

        Cute. Neither saints nor scholars are most athletes of most sports. Just flawed people, like you and me. Granted, some of us are more flawed than others.

        If you are going to base your fandom by number of good guys vs. bad guys on a roster, well, you’re very judgmental for one thing. You also won’t find many teams for which to cheer.

        (By the way, your original rant was very whiny. It seems like you would fit right in.)

      • indaburg - May 21, 2013 at 6:02 AM

        Would I date the man or invite him to dinner? Do I like that he’s on my team I like? Of course not. Contracting the organization because there are a couple of players I would never associate with personally? I hope that was hyperbole because it’s beyond ridiculous.

        (And what does any of this have to do with Craig’s original post regarding instant replay and Joe Maddon, anyway?)

      • js20011041 - May 20, 2013 at 10:36 PM

        What’s cute is ignoring a player’s vile past simply because of what hat he wears. I’ve never asked that all the players be the nicest guys in the world, but I’d also want my team to have some kind of standard, any kind of standard, regarding on and off field conduct. This is a standard that the Rays have actively avoided. There should be no doubt that there are only two reasons Matt Bush is no longer a part of that organization. Lack of ability and lack of availability due to prison sentence. The fact that he nearly killed a man had nothing to do with that decision. You can’t rationalize this team employing Lueke. He’s a disgusting individual, and so is this organization for trading for him.

      • js20011041 - May 21, 2013 at 9:05 AM

        It’s just part of a running theme of less than commendable behavior by people associated with this organization. As for Maddon, this latest incident is just typical for him. Of course he would try and bend the rules so that they don’t hurt his team, regardless of what actually happened on the field. He complains about umpiring incessantly. He had the Peralta incident last year. He loves to take the high road out of one side of his mouth while taking the low road out of the other side. I think he’s insincere and pretentious. He’s just not a guy I’d want to have anything to do with.

      • indaburg - May 21, 2013 at 9:39 AM

        Your holier than thou theme is tiresome. Sanctimony, much?

        Maddon wasn’t bending the rules. He was applying them quite literally as the powers that be wrote them. If they don’t like the rule–and I don’t–the rule needs to changed.

        Maddon raises money for our local homeless shelters with events he himself organizes and participates in. He raises money for a pet rescue facility (Pet Pal Animal Rescue) that coincidentally, I volunteered with in the past. He started the Hazleton Integration Project, an organization to promote understanding and growth in his old hometown between the new influx Dominican immigrants and the older white population that has been slightly less than welcoming. This is just a small sampling of the good things he does. He can occasionally be a wise cracking smart ass. Sometimes he can be a little precious. He’s not perfect. Some of his players need a little reformation. I can’t think of a better manager for that task. There are those of us who give up on people because of past sins, and there are those fools among us who still have hope that people can change. I am a damned fool and I would be proud to associate with someone like Maddon.

      • js20011041 - May 21, 2013 at 10:05 AM

        I’m sorry, but calling out an organization of for completely disregarding moral and ethical standards for it’s employees is not being holier than thou. If you want to say that we simply have a difference of opinion on Maddon, I can accept that. But I will not consider players like Josh Lueke and Matt Bush “flawed” individuals.

      • indaburg - May 21, 2013 at 11:20 AM

        Matt Bush is no longer with the organization.

        Having read some of your comments on other topics, you do have a touch of the holier than thou. It’s your prerogative. Some of us see the world in black and white, and others a little grayer.

        I am not going to stop rooting for the Rays because I dislike the past actions of one of their players. We will have to agree to disagree.

  12. rbj1 - May 20, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    So why wasn’t that area painted yellow?

  13. evanwins - May 20, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    It’s funny because 2 years ago Joe West used replay in a Phillies/Marlins game to determine fan interference. He determined that Logan Morrison (I think) would have made some type of tremendous catch on a ball if a fan hadn’t interfered with it. It was a HR ball and at the very least the runner should have been given 2nd. Instead it was determined that an average outfielder would have made an amazing catch and the runner was called out. http://philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110904&content_id=24211006&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

    It’s 2 years later and this is still going on.

    I just wish that MLB would just fix what everyone seems to agree is a really bad system. The fix wouldn’t even be that hard.

  14. freerayray52 - May 20, 2013 at 5:18 PM

    Actually the original call of a double was correct. The ground rules for camden yards say that the black part of the foul pole are in play, therefore no home run. I agree they should change that. But technically they went to replay and still got it wrong.

    • anthonyverna - May 20, 2013 at 5:42 PM

      Except I don’t see that on the Orioles’ website: http://baltimore.orioles.mlb.com/bal/ballpark/information/index.jsp?content=groundrules

  15. adge84 - May 20, 2013 at 5:22 PM

    @mudhead. No I’m not new to baseball and I’m also not a Rays fan. I’m a die hard mets fan which sucks as you can imagine. Do you really want to single out the rays for cheating because of Perralta. It’s baseball 70% of the league was cheating. I was just pointing out a poor comment on your end towards one of the only teams that is respectable in their operations in the sport. Perhaps you should step down off that pedestal you put yourself on. It’s incredible what they do with a meager budget and minuscule fan base.

  16. randygnyc - May 20, 2013 at 6:34 PM

    Kudos for Maddon playing to the rules. With that said, the limitation of the rule is what is silly. Has nothing to do with Maddon. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if you asked him, he’d tell you that the replay rules should allow for the call to be made right. But as long as the rule is written the way it is, it’s Maddon’s responsibility to utilize to his advantage. A rare Showalter fail.

  17. mudhead123 - May 20, 2013 at 8:09 PM

    I never pointed out the team cheating. I think every team does. I was making a point that Maddon openly approves to his players cheating and ridicules the opposing manager for calling his player out

  18. johnnyb1976 - May 21, 2013 at 12:15 AM

    This is difficult because the sheep want the game to be perfect. The beauty of baseball is that the game isn’t perfect. By players or umpires. It’s the only game that doesn’t “strive” to be perfect, and it’s fine just the way it is. If baseball was perfect and the calls were all made correctly. Where would all the drama be?

  19. jdl1325 - May 21, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    As in Cleveland part of the problem is that ballparks continue to have poor desalinations between boundaries. In Baltimore, the yellow fair/foul line inexplicably had a gap in it where the paint was black. I will never be an umpire apologist, but it seems common sense to me that clear color or other delineations should be required between in play and out of play.

    • jdl1325 - May 21, 2013 at 9:56 AM

      Too much salt water…

  20. therealtrenches - May 21, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    I don’t know what’s more tiring, baseball fans who are so hung up on “the sanctity of our national pastime” (said reverently, with a distant look and hand on heart), who think baseball is the “only game” that does or doesn’t do this, or baseball’s half-committal rules where replay is concerned.

    When was the last time basketball “strove to be perfect” with something like replay? You don’t see replay in basketball except where the timing of buzzer-beaters is concerned. Their refs are out there on an island, calling a *much faster,* much more difficult game to call. But you don’t see “basketball purists” running around saying “the human element is what makes our game so beautiful!” When refs make bad calls in basketball games, their fans just grab ankle and take it up the arse…because they know it stinks. They don’t try to romanticize it.

    Baseball is a dinosaur where replay is concerned, with half a foot in the door. The result is rules like this particular one, which Maddon used as an opportunity to draw more attention to himself, but that’s beside the point. The real problem with this rule is exactly what Craig is pointing out: it can result in arbitrary verdicts.

  21. scoocha - May 21, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    I consider Maddon a pretty good coach especially since he somehow wins without any hitting talent on his team (sans Longoria). But if you follow his moves, he’s not some great person, he wants the rules to help him. He’d argue even if he was 100% wrong. So I’m puzzled by the writer’s confusion that Maddon is just out for himself.

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