Inbox: Disputed calls, closer candidates and Weeks
Brewers beat reporter Adam McCalvy answers fans' questions
MILWAUKEE -- It's time to revive the Inbox, which will return as a regular feature throughout the summer. It looks like umpires, closers and Rickie Weeks are on your mind at the moment, so let's get right to it:
What do you think about the blown call in last night's game?
-- @mcrfan49 on Twitter
I think we just had the most interesting rulebook-related week in Brewers history, that's what I think.
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On Wednesday night, the Brewers had the tying runner at second base and two outs for Martin Maldonado, who hit a tapper in front of the plate that spun up and struck him. Maldonado was called out on batter's interference by plate umpire Paul Emmel, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke emerged from the dugout to voice his disapproval of the call, and the team's nine-game winning streak was snapped.
Blown call? Depends who you ask. I made some calls this morning and heard split opinions.
Let's see what the rulebook has to say.
First, I think Keith Law and others were wrong when they said the rule in question was 6.06(c), which says "a batter is out for illegal action when he interferes with the catcher's fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter's box or making any other movement that hinders the catcher's play at home base."
That's not what Emmel called, because when Roenicke came out to argue, he said over and over, "There's no way he's out of the box." That indicates the call actually related to:
Rule 6.05(g), which says "a batter is out when his fair ball touches him before touching a fielder. If the batter is in a legal position in the batter's box, see Rule 6.03, and, in the umpire's judgment, there was no intention to interfere with the course of the ball, a batted ball that strikes the batter or his bat shall be ruled a foul ball."
And, looking back, as ordered, to 6.03, "the batter's legal position shall be with both feet within the batter's box."
So it appears we're in a grey area again, just like it seemed we were last week when shortstop Jean Segura inadvertently ran the basepaths in the opposite direction.
If you watch the video of Maldonado, I think we can all agree that both feet were not on the ground in the batter's box when the baseball struck him. But was one foot in the box? Looks like it. Was that foot actually in contact with the dirt when the baseball struck Maldonado? Does that foot have to be in contact with the dirt, or just within the white lines of the box?
None of that is specifically spelled out in the rulebook, but Brewers broadcaster Bill Schroeder, a former Major League catcher, said it doesn't matter. He's seen it dozens, if not hundreds of times: Unless a batter makes contact with a fair ball after both feet have left the box, it's just a foul ball.
"That's just the way it's always called," Schroeder said Thursday morning from Los Angeles, where the Brewers were set to open a series against the Dodgers on Friday night. "That happens all the time when a guy has one foot in the box -- it's routine. That's a foul ball.
"I said this on the postgame show last night: We're not here to rag on the umpires. Ninety-nine times out of 100, they make the right call. But that's an easy call to make, and not only did they get it wrong, considering it ended the game, the umpires should have gotten together to make sure they got it right."
Are the precise mechanics of the Maldonado play spelled out in the rulebook? Not exactly, Schroeder said. But that should not matter.
"You have rules in the rule book and there are interpretations the umpires have to make," he said. "Like that thing with Segura going back to first. You can't put every single situation in the rulebook."
Regarding that strange Segura play: ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reported Thursday morning that Major League Baseball issued a memo to umpires this week clarifying that play. Segura should have been called out, that memo said, because of Rule 7:01 (a runner can't settle in at one base and then return to a previous base once the pitcher "assumes his pitching position") and a comment amended to Rule 7:08(a), which says "any runner after reaching first base who leaves the basepath heading for his dugout or his position believing that there is no further play, may be declared out if the umpire judges the act of the runner to be considered abandoning his efforts to run the bases."
I'll say it again: Baseball is a beautiful game.
How short is the leash on Rickie Weeks?
Flash back to 2012, when at least an injury explained Weeks' early-season slump. What explains his current funk? I don't know, Roenicke doesn't know and neither does hitting coach Johnny Narron. It comes at a particularly troublesome time for the Brewers, who need all they can get from their healthy big hitters, considering first baseman Corey Hart and third baseman Aramis Ramirez are sidelined.
Weeks didn't pan out as a replacement for Ramirez in the cleanup spot (4-for-43, two RBIs in 11 starts) and has five hits in his last 67 plate appearances overall. He talked his way out of a day off during the Brewers' last homestand, but I would be absolutely shocked if Roenicke does not sit Weeks during one of these three weekend games against the Dodgers after he committed two errors and another near-error in Wednesday's one-run loss to the Padres.
But for those who want Weeks out of the lineup indefinitely, I'm guessing you will be disappointed. The Brewers stuck with him last year after an early funk, and Weeks rewarded that faith with a productive .344 on-base percentage and .789 OPS from June 1 through the end of the season. I don't think anyone wants to start the clock on Scooter Gennett just yet, so it looks like Weeks will again get the opportunity to swing his way out of this.
Why isn't Maldonado at first base most nights? Alex Gonzalez is struggling hard at the plate, and they've got Blake Lalli on the bench for emergencies.
-- @brewerfan17 on Twitter
Roenicke is trying hard to get Gonzalez going, though it appears last year's knee surgery has cost him a step. The thinking is that Gonzalez is a plus in the field, and that they would like to see him build some offensive confidence before moving him into a reserve role when Hart and Ramirez return.
What are chances anyone convinces Roenicke to stick with Jim Henderson as closer if it's working?
-- @robbymaxximus on Twitter
I'm very interested to see what happens if the Brewers face a save situation at Dodger Stadium. With the way John Axford has been throwing, it could be the perfect place to reinstall him as the closer, and I think the consensus is that the team will be best served over the long term if Axford is a successful closer and Henderson is the setup man.
But it was difficult to read Roenicke's comments this week. On one hand, asked what it would take to reinstall Axford as closer, Roenicke said, "Probably not much." But on the other hand, he said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "I think right now, we're not going to flip Ax back in the closer's role."
Let's see what happens in L.A.
Where is Mark Rogers in all of this?
-- @superfanpete on Twitter
Double-A Huntsville, where Rogers worked around a hit and a walk in a scoreless inning of relief on Tuesday to begin a 30-day rehabilitation assignment.
The Brewers still view Rogers' future as a starting pitcher, but they have been shifting him to relief, on one hand in an effort to restore his missing velocity by using him in short bursts, and on the other hand because it looks like relief offers the best path to this year's team. Remember, Rogers is out of options, so at the end of these 30 days, the team will have to make a decision on him.
Keep the questions coming. We'll make this a regular endeavor.