The replay call that went against the Royals in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, when Alex Rios came off the bag on a stolen-base attempt, had Royals fans grumbling and some asking if such calls were in the spirit of replay.
To reset: With two outs in the fourth inning and the Royals leading 5-2, Rios singled and took off for second on the first pitch to the next batter, Alcides Escobar.
Rios and the throw from Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin arrived about the same time, but the throw was high. Rios had the base stolen, until he popped up on his feetfirst slide and both feet came off the base. Jays second baseman Ryan Goins kept the tag on Rios and the replay clearly showed Rios had come off the bag. The call was overturned. Rios was out.
Some have argued that replay wasn’t intended for such plays and runs contrary to the spirit of the expanded system that was put in place in 2014. Whether a ball was fair or four or a ball was trapped or caught. Not whether a base stealer’s momentum forced him to lose contact with the bag for a fraction of a second.
“But that’s the way the game is,” Royals manager Ned Yost said Wednesday before Game 5. “The technology is so good right now you see things evolve … like before last year infielders wouldn’t hold the tag on the runner. They’d just tag and get off.
“Now because of instant replay, you see everybody holding the tag on the runner.”
And Yost is OK with it.
“I think instant replay does a good job in showing all that,” he said.
After the game, Rios said he knew he came off the bag. He remained on second base until the umpires overturned the safe call, even though most of the Blue Jays had left the field when the replay was shown on the Rogers Centre video board.
“It’s tough,” Rios said. “You have to be conscious while you’re running to stay on the bag. That rule, I think, there’s going to have to be some adjustments made to the rule at some point.”
Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson, one of baseball’s fastest players, said replay has put base stealers in a difficult position.
“You got so much momentum going, it’s tough to just stop,” Dyson said. “It’s just like brakes in a car. If you’re going 100 (mph), you’re not just going to stop on a dime. That’s the thing with us. We try to gear up to get the bag.”
The Royals had a bigger beef on a similar play during the Division Series. In Game 4 against the Astros, pinch runner Terrance Gore took off for third, beat the tag and was called safe. But the Astros challenged, and the call was overturned when it was determined his foot came off the bag while a tag was being applied.
It could have been interpreted that the glove of Astros third baseman Luis Valbuena never touched Gore’s body, that it was Valbuena’s wrist that made contact. No matter, the Royals lost a base runner.
And baseball may look for a different way to apply the replay rule when it comes to sliding.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said he thought the call against Rios was obvious, but he’s seen enough not so apparent plays that he’s grown uncomfortable with how replay is applied in this situation.
“I don’t think that was the intention of instant replay,” Gibbons said. “Those guys are sliding hard, whether it’s feetfirst or headfirst, there’s a lot of momentum. It’s tough to stay with the bag. It’s tough to grab hold of that thing sometimes.”