Blue Jays’ Randal Grichuk frustrated by impact of ‘stupidest rule by MLB’

Toronto Blue Jays Manager Charlie Montoyo talks to the media following a 3-1 Blue Jays loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the series opener.

TORONTO — In the bottom of the fourth inning with Toronto Blue Jays runners at first and second and Freddy Galvis at the plate, this happened:

Yup, that’s Tampa Bay Rays left-fielder Tommy Pham accidently flicking the ball into the stands. Assuming you’re up on your baseball rules, sure sounds like 5.05(a)(8), which states a batter becomes a runner when: “Any bounding fair ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands, or over or under a fence on fair or foul territory, in which case the batter and all runners shall be entitled to advance two bases.”

Given that, Justin Smoak, the lead runner, scores, and Randal Grichuk, who was about to touch third as Pham flipped the ball into the stands, should come around, too. Galvis, who was already round first, goes to third, right?


“The correct ruling was that a ball not in flight was subsequently deflected out of play. At that point, the reward is two bases from the time of the pitch,” crew chief Jerry Meals explained to pool reporters. “That’s what happened.”

Wait, what?

Turns out that Rule Interpretation No. 20 from the 2019 MLB Umpire Manual says exactly what Meals said, that “if a fair ball not in flight is deflected by a fielder and then goes out of play, the award is two bases from the time of pitch.”

So Grichuk, who had come around, touched home and taken his helmet off in the dugout, was sent back out to third and Galvis was ordered from third back to second. The umpire crew confirmed the ruling was correct with the replay centre back in New York.

The Blue Jays lost the run, and the inning ended promptly right after, with Danny Jansen narrowly missing a changeup and flying out in what finished as a 3-1 loss to the Rays.

Frustration doesn’t even begin to describe it.

“That’s the stupidest rule by MLB,” said Grichuk. “I just can’t wrap my head around how an outfielder comes up to make a play, starts gathering the ball or whatever you want to say, as two guys are two or three steps from touching the base at full sprint, and slings it into the stands, you don’t get an error and the guys don’t advance. I just don’t understand.

“The (umpires) said it’s to their discretion on if it was intentional or not. And I said, ‘If he does that and it hits the wall 10 feet from him in play, I’m easily scoring and Freddy’s easily getting to third.’ And they said, ‘Yeah.’ So I said, ‘I guess that just sucks for us.’ And they said, ‘Yeah. Unfortunate it went into the stands, so you all stay here.’ It’s just incredible to me. Incredible.”

Brandon Drury looks on as manager Charlie Montoyo reacts to call during fourth inning against Tampa Bay. (Nathan Denette/CP)

Grichuk wasn’t the only one incredulous.

Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo argued the call and after the game said the ruling left outfield play open to manipulation. A scout watching the game texted me his disbelief and said he would teach outfielders to do the very same thing if that’s the case.

Meals said umpires have the discretion to prevent that, as if a deflection is ruled intentional, “then it’s two bases (for the runners) from the time he does that. Now, if he has possession of the ball, and then loses it, it’s two bases from that time, also. But if someone does something intentionally, that changes the whole story.”

Grichuk wasn’t having any of it, saying there are ways to make it look like an accident when transferring the ball from glove to hand, or any other number of scenarios, especially at places like Fenway Park with short fences.

“If you can master making it look unintentional, then you’re going to get away with it every time,” he said. “I still can’t get over it. You have to get rewarded (for the error). There’s no scenario I’m out at home on that play. I’m scoring every time.”

The Blue Jays trailed 1-0 before the Galvis double, and would have been up 2-1 had Pham not deflected the ball into the stands. Instead, Travis d’Arnaud’s two-run single in the fifth provided the winning margin.

“Definitely a frustrating play for us, could have changed the outcome of the game, which is unfortunate,” said Grichuk. “I feel like that’s something that needs to get cleaned up, and not only because it happened to us, if it happens to anybody. Pham’s an old teammate (with the St. Louis Cardinals). A buddy. He’s got to get an error on that and advance the runners on the bases.

“Hopefully that opens up some eyes that maybe we need to change this.”


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