OK, so the top of the seventh inning of the Game 6 of the World Series went off the rails. I know you have questions. Lord knows I do. Let’s walk through everything that happened together and see if we can piece together this clusterfudge of a game.
So, first Trea Turner got hosed on a terrible, terrible call
Here’s the clip.
Turner’s left foot touches the grass as he makes his way to first base, and he hits the first baseman’s glove as he also touches the bag. The ball rolls away, and Turner gets to second.
BUT WAIT. The umpires rule Turner out seemingly because he interfered with the throw by running too far inside of the baseline. Rewatch the video and make your own conclusion whether Turner’s path really affected the throw. I don’t think it did, nor did anybody associated with the Nationals, nor did seemingly anyone watching the game who also had an active social media account.
Then, an interminable replay review (or what we thought was a replay review) ensued
For roughly 10 minutes — or what felt like hours in the midst of the biggest baseball game of the season — the play was reviewed. Or what we naively assumed was a review. We’ll come back to this. Keep a tight grip on my hand, we’ll get through this.
The same clip you can watch above, with the exact same clear angle, was replayed over and over on the Fox broadcast, millions of people miffed that umpires really needed that much time to figure out what happened.
Then the umpires seemingly still stuck to their guns. And instead of sitting in good position with runners on second and third with one out, the Nationals had to return Yan Gomes to first base with two outs.
Then, Anthony Rendon hit the mother of all BALL DON’T LIE home runs
Excuse me, I need to adjust that subhead:
BALL RENDON'T LIE— SB Nation (@SBNation) October 30, 2019
Anyway, watch this home run over and over and let yourself believe for a minute that there is truly a higher power who believes in sports justice.
Ball don't lie!— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 30, 2019
- Anthony Rendon, probably pic.twitter.com/3iPLAXNRMl
But wait, there were shenanigans. Nats manager Dave Martinez got thrown out during the seventh inning stretch.
Martinez did everything he could to make the umpire’s decision easy.
During the 7th inning stretch, Nationals Manager Dave Martinez was visibly upset with the umpires and was ejected during the exchange. pic.twitter.com/AZ23MusrNN— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 30, 2019
You couldn’t hear that “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was playing in the stadium on the broadcast, but it was, and it was delicious.
THEN, more details streamed in and made the situation worse. The Nationals reportedly challenged the call, and that challenge was not allowed.
This news came per Ken Rosenthal on the Fox broadcast. The reason why the review took so long was apparently because MLB’s New York office had to read the rulebook to the Nationals explaining why their challenge couldn’t be lodged.
Their reasoning: Interference by a batter-runner is a judgment call, and judgment calls can’t be challenged.
Which, maybe that’s fair enough, but the lengthy review only sewed more confusion, and gave us this excellent gnarly knot of an explanation from Fox MLB reporter Tom Verducci:
Did Trea Turner interfere with the first baseman’s ability to make the play before his last step at the base? In their judgment, the answer was yes. According to Joe Torre, the time on the headset was figuring out whether it was a rules infraction or not, and they determined that it was not.”
It wasn’t a rules infraction, so Turner was out, and there was nothing the Nationals could do about it. Sure.
This judgment call was made under a very, VERY strict interpretation of the rules.
In a tweet defending the umpire’s ruling, the Major League Baseball Umpires Association excerpted the section of the rulebook covering batter-runner interference. It reiterated that the umpire was allowed to exercise his judgment whether the runner veers off his line enough to interfere with the fielder.
The Correct Call;— Major League Baseball Umpires Association (@MLBUA) October 30, 2019
The runner is only allowed to EXIT the lane to touch 1st base. Turner was NOT IN THE LANE when he stepped towards first BASE and interfered with Guriel so he was NOT afforded the protection the lane provides. #MLBUA #2019WorldSeries pic.twitter.com/CFR28t0xpb
Apparently the umpire judged Turner’s one foot on the grass and running into the first baseman’s glove right over the bag as an intent to interfere. Sure?
In another reading of the rule, the phrase “the batter-runner is permitted to exit the three-foot lane by means of a step, stride, reach or slide in the immediate vicinity of first base for the sole purpose of touching first base” seemingly exonerates Turner if you assume he had good intentions instead of bad intentions.
I think. This is getting weird.
AND OH BUT WAIT. Was the replay even legal?!!!
Batter-runner interference is not one of the instances specified to be eligible for replay review. The full list is here. The closest applicable situation is “Interference on double plays,” and Turner was not attempting to break up a double play.
So what really happened? Well, turns out there never was a replay at all.
All that time when the world thought umpires were measuring the number inches that Turner’s foot had impinged the grass, they weren’t actually doing anything.
Here’s a video MLB’s chief baseball officer Joe Torre explaining:
(Torre also says that Turner was called out because he interfered with the first baseman’s glove, not because he ran off the baseline ... which seems like an equally bad call.)
What happened (as near as I can figure — it’s late, bear with me) is that the time spent in the midst of the inning was solely due to the conversation that the Nats were having with New York about their protest. The replay review was not illegal because there was no replay review to begin with.
Torre explains above that though the call can’t be protested, the game can be if the Nats wished to pursue that route. Which, they won’t. Because by the grace of Rendon—
The Nats won!
The Nats won! They did it. 7-2. Despite that unholy dangum mess of a seventh inning the Nats won Game 6 of the World Series to force a Game 7. And once again, just for this minute, if you want believe in that higher power who believes in sports justice, I won’t stop you.
Thank the lord this had a happy ending.
[More baseball: Juan Soto vs. Alex Bregman made Game 6 SO MUCH FUN]