OAKLAND – There has been a quiet, building frustration in the Blue Jays' clubhouse with Major League Baseball's new replay and challenge system.
After Saturday night's 5-1 loss to Oakland, Toronto's third-straight defeat at O.co Coliseum, Jose Bautista blew the lid off the simmering pot.
First, the situation: With the Jays trailing 3-1 in the eighth, Jose Bautista was at the plate with two outs and Melky Cabrera on first base. Bautista doubled down the leftfield line off A's reliever Luke Gregerson. Third base coach Luis Rivera waved Cabrera around third. Shortstop Jed Lowrie's relay throw to catcher Derek Norris was on the money and Norris swiped a tag at a sliding Cabrera. Home plate umpire Bill Miller, the man involved in Brett Lawrie's infamous helmet spiking incident two years ago, called Cabrera out.
Manager John Gibbons challenged the play. It was close. The call on the field stood after a two-and-a-half minute review. The inning was over; the Jays wouldn't recover.
"I don't really know which replay they were looking at but clearly they must have had a different video feed than the one we had," said Bautista. "It's pretty frustrating for you to battle as a team, keep the game close, for our pitchers to be doing what they're doing, for us to keep grinding through games and facing some touch pitching and somehow be able to tie the game in the eighth inning, it all goes down the drain because somebody first, initially, made a bad call to begin with and then it gets upheld by God knows who in some room in New York supposedly."
Bautista, the gathered media were about to find out, was only getting warmed up.
"This whole replay thing has become a joke in my eyes," said Bautista. "I think they should just ban it, they should just get rid of it. I don't really understand the purpose of it but getting the right call on the field is not the purpose. That's pretty obvious and evident. I don't know what kind of agenda the people that are doing the replays are on, what their plan is, what their purpose is, who they're looking after. But obviously getting the right call on the field is not what they're doing."
There are those in the organization who've expressed quiet frustration at other challenges and reviews that haven't gone the Jays' way. Another recent example: Last Wednesday against Milwaukee when Munenori Kawasaki was called out at first base on a groundball to Brewers' shortstop Jean Segura. Segura's throw pulled first baseman Jonathan Lucroy off the bag. Lucroy spun and attempted a tag on Kawasaki. The call was upheld despite evidence to the contrary.
Baseball is cycling umpires through the so-called replay war room in New York City. When a play is challenged, the on-field umpire is getting on the headset and talking to a colleague. Regardless of what is the reality, the perception is increasing that umpires are watching out for umpires.
Count Bautista in that camp.
"I feel like there was a chance for Adam Lind to tie the game in the eighth inning (that) was taken away from us," said Bautista. "Man on second, two outs, 3-2 ballgame, we were right in it. Unfortunately some people, I don't know what the right word is, lack of integrity, lack of accountability, or some really good camaraderie that are looking after each other, are not doing what they're supposed to be doing. Because getting the right call on the field, which is why instant replay was instituted, is not the purpose of what's happening. The best evidence is what happened today."
Bautista surely will be fined for his outburst and his comments reflect a growing frustration with the club's play. The Jays are 9-18 since hitting their season high-water mark of 38-24 on June 6. A six game lead in the American League East has turned into a deficit. Following Saturday's loss, Toronto is a full game back of the Baltimore Orioles for first place.
The team is dealing with injuries, the latest suffered by Edwin Encarnacion (story here: http://www.tsn.ca/mlb/story/?id=456550). Brett Lawrie has a fractured right index finger and likely won't be back until August. Bautista is playing with a sore hamstring and Adam Lind is playing with a bruised right foot.
REYES ON TRADE MARKET
Shortstop Jose Reyes weighed in to TSN.ca about Oakland's acquisition of pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in Friday's blockbuster trade with the Chicago Cubs.
"It's good for Oakland," said Reyes. "They got very good two pitchers. Samardzija, he's been one of the best this year. To go along with what they have, I mean that's huge for them. That means they're pushing and they want to go all the way."
Judging by the package the Athletics sent to Chicago (2012 first round pick, SS Addison Russell; 2013 first round pick, OF Billy McKinney; P Dan Straily and a player to be named later) it's clear the Blue Jays couldn't match unless they were willing to part with a young pitcher off their major league roster.
Starting pitching may not be Toronto's priority, anyway. The staff has held up well through more than a half the season. An infielder, a second baseman or a third baseman, and bullpen help are just as important.
"I think he knows what we need," said Reyes. "As a player I need to worry about doing my job. Our GM, he's got a job to do so I don't want to get involved in that and get involved in his decisions. Of course, our front office knows what we need. It's no secret to no one."
GIBBONS: BUEHRLE'S AN ALL-STAR
Mark Buehrle's skipper thinks his left-hander should be in Minneapolis on July 15 for the All-Star Game.
"Yeah he should be an All-Star, no question. No doubt," said manager John Gibbons.
Buehrle (10-6) often jokes about luck and how it's the determining factor in whether he's successful.
After a 10-1 start to his season, Buehrle's dropped his last five decisions and is winless in six-straight starts.
Look closer, though, and you'll see he's still pitching well. Four of Buehrle's last six starts, the winless span, have been quality starts (six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs against).
Buehrle's ERA, in 121 1/3 innings this season, is a stellar 2.60.
IT'S A CRUEL BUSINESS
How is Tommy Milone feeling right now?
The A's left-hander tossed six innings of shutout ball against the Blue Jays on Friday and had a record of 6-0 with a 2.62 ERA over his last 11 starts dating back to May 9.
On Saturday, Milone was optioned to Oakland's Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento to make room on the active roster for newly-acquired starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.