Tuesday, October 13, 2015

October Madness

It appears the big story in the Major League Baseball playoffs is no longer about how well the Princeton alums have been doing.

Well, maybe that never was the big story to the rest of the world. To TigerBlog it was.

Princeton has three alums in the Major League Baseball postseason, and all three have done very well to date.

And then Chase Utley had to go and ruin it for everyone. And especially Ruben Tejada, whose leg he broke with a hard "slide" into second base to break up a double play.

It was 2-1 Mets in the bottom of the seventh Saturday night when the play happened. There was one out, with first and third, Utley on first, when a soft line drive was hit behind second. Daniel Murphy fielded it and flipped it to the shortstop Tejada, who caught it awkwardly, appeared to tag second while turned around, tried to get the throw off to first and then got wiped out by Utley well behind the bag.

As you might know by now, Utley was originally ruled out at second, which would have made it 2-2, with two outs and a runner on first.

While Tejada reeled on the ground, the Dodgers challenged the play, saying Tejada had not touched second. The umps agreed, putting Utley back on second with one out. A blink of an eye later and it was 5-2 Dodgers, series tied 1-1.

Then Major League Baseball got involved, and everything really got messed up. First Joe Torre, who oversees all this stuff, said that Utley had done nothing wrong and that the replay showed Tejada hadn't touched the bag, which meant it was irrelevant that Utley hadn't. BUT - had the Mets tagged Utley, he would have been out.

On its face, this is nuts. The Mets had no reason to tag Utley, because he was called out, and oh by the way, the guy with the ball also happened to break his leg.

Perhaps, TigerBlog thought, Torre's position would have been different had it been a decade ago and it was Derek Jeter with the broken leg after someone on the Red Sox had taken him out nowhere near the bag.

Anyway, that notwithstanding, Torre then turned around and suspended Utley for two games. Then the suspension was appealed.

So yeah, Major League Baseball really messed it up.

What really annoys TigerBlog is the use of replay. Had the original call stood, and it was 2-2, two out, runner on first, that would have been that. Instead, there was the use of the replay, which to TigerBlog still doesn't conclusively show that Tejada missed the bag.

But even if he did, so what? Do you know how many big postseason baseball games would have been different had every middle infielder who didn't touch quite touch second base had the play overturned?

It just looked awful, the way Utley was awarded second while Tejada had a broken leg, caused by Utley, who had no interest in finding the base. And why did he get the base? Because it looked like maybe, possibly Tejada didn't touch it.

Again, replay on its face is a good idea. In reality, it never, ever works out that way. It's not to fix glaringly wrong errors. It's to be used as a crutch by coaches or managers to try to get microscopic rulings overchanged as a last resort, and the flow of the game be damned.

The outcome of a replay ruling should be clarity. That's the last thing that existed in this case. There was zero consensus on anything. Did Tejada get the bag? Was Utley out of the baseline? Could he have touched second? Was it interference? Depending on who your team is, that's what your opinion was.

Replay was supposed to solve all that.

The other problem is that the series turned on that call. The Mets were in control to that point, having won the first game and being reasonably in control of the second. Suddenly it was all even.

So what happened next? Every Mets fan wanted to see Utley in the town square in stocks. Or drilled with some sort of retaliation. It looked like the suspension was possibly to keep Utley from playing in Citi Field, where some sort of brawl was likely.

And how did it play out? The appeal didn't happen before the game. Utley was eligible to play. The Dodgers didn't play him anyway. They played 18 players in the 13-7 Mets win last night. Not Utley.

As a result, there was no brawl. Wining, as one Met said, was the best revenge.

Maybe tonight though, in Game 4, right?.

Meanwhile, Princeton's alums are all still alive.

Chris Young and his Kansas City Royals came close to elimination yesterday before evening the series at 2-2 with a big rally against the Astros. Young has pitched in one game in the series, striking out seven in four innings while allowing one run.

For Young, it was his second postseason appearance in his career. His numbers in those two games: 10 2/3 innings, seven hits, one run, four walks, 16 strikeouts. That's not too bad.

As for the other two, they're both on the Texas Rangers, who are also in a 2-2 series, with a deciding game to come against the Blue Jays.

Ross Ohlendorf pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the 14th to save Game 2 in the series. That was 1-2-3, as in three strikeouts, by the way.

Then he pitched another scoreless inning in long relief yesterday. This time, he only struck out two.

If you add it up, between Young and Ohlendorf, they've struck out 12 in six innings.

Will Venable has seen limited action in the series, though he did get a hit in his first postseason at-bat.

Princeton is tied with three other schools - TigerBlog thinks they're Stanford, Texas A&M and Georgia Tech - for the most alums in the MLB playoffs.

That's a pretty good stat. And it was getting Princeton a lot of attention - until Chase Utley came along.

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