Best News of the Winter While Waiting for “Pitcher and Catchers Report”

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News reports suggest that the neighborhood play will not be reviewable.

The “neighborhood play” in baseball occurs on a double play attempt when the pivot man – shortstop or second baseman – takes the throw “in the neighborhood” of the base, drags his foot somewhere near or over (or on) the base, and completes the throw to first. Umpires call the runner out even when one of the following situations occur:

  • The pivot man drags his foot over the bag slightly before catching the ball.
  • The pivot man catches the ball and then releases his throw slightly before dragging his foot over the bag.
  • The pivot man catches the ball alongside the base or behind it and then steps clear of the runner as he throws, as long as there is a point at which he controls the ball while he’s near (within a half step or so of) the base.

Why? Well, if you read Going, Going, Gone, you’ll understand. Narrator and former big-league second baseman M.E. Sequoyah had his knee – and his career – destroyed when he actually planted his foot on the bag during a pivot and the baserunner barreled into his leg. The bag is soft, and spikes get caught in it. The result is that the player’s leg bends in all sorts of unintended directions, resulting in sprains, bruises, broken tibiae or ankles, or damaged medial or anterior collateral ligaments (MCL, ACL) in the knee.

Under baseball’s new (and dumb, but that’s a story for another day) review system, managers can challenge calls, as they do in football. (Because it works so well there. Of course it does.) If umpires were forced by challenges to call the second-base pivot exactingly, we’d see a lot of very expensive ballplayers (can you say Robinson Cano?) lose at least a year and a significant amount of speed and quickness when they got hit by baserunners. I’m grateful that baseball apparently (and I emphasize “apparently,” since this report isn’t confirmed) has decided that this would be an absurd price to pay.

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