Major League Baseball's expanded video replay system and the Boston Red Sox continue to coexist in an unfriendly way.
The Red Sox lost a replay challenge for the fourth time in five chances in 2014 after video evidence was deemed inconclusive to overturn Dustin Pedroia getting called out on a slide at the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday afternoon. The Red Sox, who were trailing by a run at the time, fell to the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 in the first game of a day-night doubleheader at Fenway Park.
Several members of the Red Sox expressed dissatisfaction and even incredulity at the call and replay system — pitcher Jake Peavy called it "a joke" — but, objectively, the system worked this time, and the umpires appeared to get a difficult call correct.
Pedroia seemed certain in the moment that he was safe — grabbing the helmet atop his head as if to keep from throwing it after umpire Toby Basner ruled differently — and Red Sox manager John Farrell said replays he saw backed up Pedroia's assertion. Anybody watching the play live on TV probably figured Pedroia appeared to beat the tag of Rays catcher Jose Molina after he tried to score on a double by David Ortiz.
Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield was ejected from the game immediately after the replay decision came down because he argued the result. Butterfield lost his cool, throwing down his helmet and screaming at the umpires. Butterfield's frustrations probably go back to earlier in the season, when Farrell expressed concerns and doubts about the replay system, saying it was hard to have faith in it after the Red Sox had questionable calls go against them.
The big question on Pedroia's slide seemed to be: Did his foot touch home plate? It might have, but the video evidence wasn't conclusive. Farrell noted that "the mark in the dirt" Pedroia made sliding showed that he crossed the back edge of the plate, but that kind of evidence isn't useful for replay. Farrell said Basner was in good position to make the call and told him Pedroia's slide was to the right of the plate. Basner, the first base ump, had rotated over because other umps had moved to different locations.
A lot was happening, and the umpires appeared to get the call right. There's no way to tell with certainty from video that Pedroia's foot actually touched the plate, especially with all of the dirt flying around from the slide. Basner appeared to have the best view of anyone.
Pedroia was asked after the game if he could "feel" the plate and he wasn't sure. He was asked if he could feel a tag; Pedroia joked that he should go back and touch the plate now (or again) just to make sure.
Pedroia also said that new sliding rules enacted by MLB to protect catchers and avoid crashes at the plate force baserunners to find the path of least resistance — in this case the bottom tip of the plate — when sliding. Pedroia was implying that, even if he didn't literally touch home, he was close enough to be given benefit of the doubt, considering the new rules.
Ortiz put all of this in motion by hitting the top of the Green Monster, just missing a two-run homer against left-hander Jake McGee. Pedroia, running hard all of the way from first base, was sent home by Butterfield without hesitation, forcing the Rays to make a perfect relay to Molina at the plate. Outfielder Matt Joyce and infielder Yunel Escobar did just that.
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