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Everything I Know I Learned During The World Series

MLB: World Series-Washington Nationals at Houston Astros
“Stop getting in the way of my terrible stretch for a terrible throw!!!”
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

First of all, I have to say this was quite a World Series, full of intrigue, drama, controversy, and a surprise victory in Washington that I actually liked. {flags self, you don’t need to bother} Now let’s parse some of the details...

There’s Starting Slow, And There’s...

If the A’s start next season 19-31 — and let’s face it, it would be the most A’s-y thing to do — I don’t want to hear any talk about how “the season is over” because the Nationals were the epitome of the old adage “It’s never over till it’s over.”

I remember discussing the Nats in late May and how they might be “sellers”. By the time I had compiled my official shopping list for the A’s, though, they were winning. And winning. And coming from behind in 5 different elimination games. And now hoisting a trophy. Go figure.

So as frustrating as it is when your team has high hopes only to start slow, any time someone complains that “it’s over,” unless the A’s are eliminated or, say, 20 games out, just remind them of the 2019 Nationals. (Or, conveniently, the 2017 and 2018 A’s.)

Replay.......Needs A Lot Of Work

Personally I hate replay, but if you are going to have it then a slew of changes are desperately needed.

- The idea that some plays are reviewable and some aren’t is pointless. The barometer should be simply whether replay can offer “clear and convincing evidence” that the umpire’s call was incorrect. Who cares what is “in front of the umpire” or “a judgment call”? Either a replay shows ample evidence the call was wrong, or it doesn’t.

- If Trea Turner’s interference was “not reviewable,” then why take several minutes reviewing it? Honestly, Dave Martinez’ protesting the game was unwarranted, because he was complaining about a bad call. You can’t win a protest just because an umpire makes a terrible call. In contrast, had the call been overturned, I think A.J. Hinch would have had a winning protest in his back pocket, arguing that a non-reviewable call was reviewed and changed. Why it took about 7 minutes to say, “Well, he has to be out...” is beyond me.

- Turner wasn’t out, he was safe. In order to interfere, the runner has to be in the wrong place at the time of the interference, and as was pointed out here and elsewhere if you look at the last step before Turner gets to 1B, which is when the interference happened, he is facing the RF foul pole going straight to the bag.

Had he been in the runner’s box, in order to hit 1B he would have to take his last step towards fair territory (where the bag is), meaning he would not be allowed to overrun the base! Or take a step left, then the next one right and risk tearing up his knee.

It’s not Turner’s obligation to veer out of a straight running path just because there’s a bad throw, and a guy not named Matt Olson at 1B. But it’s “not reviewable” so I guess we can’t discuss it.

- While we’re ranting about replay, add that umpires should have a mic in order to explain replay rulings to the crowd, runners should be deemed legally entitled to come off the bag for the nano-second it takes to go from sliding to standing up from a slide, and whatever limitations managers have on challenges should be strictly enforced without any “umpire’s review“ discretion nonsense.

So make all those changes, and then get rid of it entirely and focus instead on better training umpires as well as actually holding them accountable for their performance. And that’s your replay rant for today.

Hindsight is 20/20

A.J. Hinch has taken his fair share of criticism for his handling of the pitching in game 7. Don’t get me wrong, I like to pile on the Astros as much as anyone but ... I’m not sure that the level of critique is necessarily warranted.

I think it was always a stretch to assume Gerrit Cole would be a factor in game 7, after he threw 8 innings in game 5 on Sunday. Yes he had a couple days of rest and it was his “bullpen day,” but just last series the Astros learned, the hard way, the perils of messing around with career starting pitchers when Justin Verlander got rocked on 3 days rest. And there is no guarantee that when Cole began throwing, he felt terrific.

As for lifting Zack Greinke, I am among those who is always reluctant to yank a pitcher if he is still effective and has a low enough pitch count, but you have to factor in that Greinke has established a tendency to get wobbly as he turns the lineup over multiple times and as a result he was probably on a short leash even prior to the HR and BB that hastened his departure. Maybe not the right move, but really a defensible one.

And I don’t care if he gave up a HR the night before, I’m going to Will Harris every time. Harris has quietly been one of the best relievers in the game the past 3 years, as well as in this post-season. And you know what? The pitch Howie Kendrick hit off the RF foul pole wasn’t a bad pitch at all. Just a great piece of hitting.

So I’m not saying Hinch “nailed it!” — just that he does know his players and he made moves that, to me, made sense in context. And overall I have observed Hinch to be a pretty smart tactical manager with regard to his lineups and pitchers. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be for the home team to win a game.

Congratulations to the Nationals in 2019, and congratulations to the A’s in 2020!.......I hope.