Gil LeBreton

Ground rule illogic prevailed on Escobar-Mazara play

Big Brother prevailed in the sixth inning at Globe Life Park on Monday night.

Watching over all from its digitally infallible perch on the island of Manhattan, Major League Baseball replay reviewers determined that Nomar Mazara’s fingers and arms did not meet up with industry vinyl padding standards.

Ground rule double, the replay adjudcators said.

Animated disagreement ensued. Manager Jeff Banister was excused from the premises. Paying spectators who could, you know, actually see the replay on a giant, high-definition video board, booed lustily.

And the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim soon tied up the score with Banister’s Texas Rangers.

The call was rooted in such illogic that God immediately sent down a fluke rain storm, thus delaying the game 38 minutes.

(Note to the Joe West/Kerwin Danley umpiring crew: Lightning and a possible burning bush at second base could be next.)

Since rain is the Rangers’ magic elixir, the home team eventually prevailed 3-2.

The 29,068 at the ballpark left wet, but likely still perplexed. What was that ruling in the sixth inning all about?

Banister, who was ejected by West ipso facto because you can’t argue with a replay ruling, eloquently and calmly explained his view of the incident after the game.

“I was looking for an explanation,” Banister said.

West, on the other hand, had that droopy, confused look on his face that he usually does. He appeared almost relieved when Angels manager Mike Scioscia asked for a replay.

As Banister correctly noted, “The runner (Yunel Escobar) looked like he was going to stop at second base. When he saw Mazara drop the ball, he decided to go and got thrown out at third.

Exactly. The only ones who thought Escobar’s hit was unplayable were the replay reviewers in New York.

If an outfielder can reach in and retrieve the baseball and make a throw in one continuous play, how can a guy in front of a TV in New York logically decide that the player can’t? It makes no sense.

Escobar himself thought the play was alive, because he continued to third base. And only after being thrown out by six feet did he appear to claim that somebody raised their arms, the universal surrender sign for a ground rule double.

“In my estimation, that’s not a lodged ball,” said Banister, who had plenty of time to look at the play in his office after being tossed.

In the Fox Sports Southwest postgame show, Pudge Rodriguez wryly observed, “I never saw this rule in baseball.”

It’s a rules loophole, that’s why. If a fast batter hits a ball that rolls to the base of a distant wall – a sure-fire triple, in most cases – all an outfielder has to do now is raise his arms, and the fast batter will be sent back to second base.

Coincidentally, the same thing more or less happened to the Rangers’ Ian Desmond two years ago when he played with the Washington Nationals. Twice in one week, both times against the Atlanta Braves, Desmond hit would-be inside-the-park home runs, circling the bases while the baseball sat untouched beneath an outfield wall pad. The umpires changed both to a double.

But wait a minute. The ball-lodged-in-padding ground rule is designed to help the outfielder, not penalize the baserunner.

On the first of Desmond’s two plays in 2014, once Braves left fielder Justin Upton saw Desmond continuing to circle the bases, he simply reached down and, with no apparent distress, picked up the baseball.

He could have played the ball, just as Mazara did play it – honestly and with fair intentions – Monday night.

Please fix this rule, MLB. It’s broken.

And it’s really skewed when a guy sitting in a replay room at Chelsea Market in New York thinks he can determine that a major league outfielder can’t bend over and grab the baseball.

And come to think of it, why are there gaps in the bottom of the outfield wall padding, anyway?

Why can’t the pads go all the way to the ground, the way that the players’ pants do?

Please fix this, MLB.

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