Oct 24

Game 1 Of World Series Overcomes Bad Call, But Raises Issues

Maybe Jon Lester cheated in Game 1; maybe he did not. It makes for an interesting fodder and falls in line as to what is reviewable and what is not regarding expanded instant replay beginning next season.

Overturning a call by replay such as Dana DeMuth’s horrible one last night is not allowable within the current structure, and the Cardinals would have a legitimate beef had the umpires convened to watch the replay on a monitor.

Getting it right. (Getty)

Getting it right. (Getty)

However, one umpire – in this case, five – overturning a bad call is permitted and the umpires absolutely handled it properly in agreeing with Boston manager John Farrell for DeMuth to get a second opinion. Umpires should be applauded for seeking help. They shouldn’t think they are being shown up, but that the crew is working in concert.

Raised from last night’s first inning is the method of a manager challenging a call. Currently, the challenges are limited, but that’s not an efficient or fair format.

Whether a central monitoring system established in New York similar to how the NHL’s format is in Toronto, or have a fifth umpire in the press box who can buzz down to the crew chief seems preferable than the manager challenging from the dugout.

For one thing, an executive monitoring upstairs has an immediate picture of the play and can contact the crew chief. The manager, in this case Farrell, instantly knew it was a bad decision and bolted from the dugout as if he had a jetpack.

All plays won’t be that way and it is easy to envision a manager challenging based on his player’s reaction to the call. Players aren’t always right, they often go by emotion, and challenges could be wasted early. Presumably, this could be offset with a direct link to the dugout from the press box, similar to how a NFL coach is buzzed to throw the challenge flag.

Having an immediate set of fifth eyes would likely take less time and improve the flow of the game. Major League Baseball is always moaning about game length and this method is better. Presumably, under the new system everything but balls and strikes would be under review, which is the way to go.

Today’s umpiring is flawed, but I don’t know if it is any worse than what we had 10, 20 years ago. However, the technology is so much better and points out things missed in earlier decades. That should lead to a system that in the interest of fairness, the camera/review format should be the same for a Tuesday night June game in Milwaukee as it is in the World Series. Granted, there are more cameras for the Series, but having a designated number of cameras in specific locations can alleviate this.

More cameras and establishing a better review system costs money, but I don’t want to hear it. This is a multi-billion a year industry. There’s plenty of money to invest in getting it right.

What would have been fascinating was to mike the umpires the way FOX did Joe West in the ALCS. To hear that conversation between the five umpires in Game 1 would have been priceless television.

Fortunately, they got the call right, which is the ultimate objective. I can only imagine DeMuth assumed Pete Kozma made the transfer and was only watching his feet. That leads to a fair criticism about umpiring and assuming the outcome of a play. DeMuth was in position and looking at the call; he just didn’t make the proper decision.

If the intent is to get the play right, then why is there such thing as a neighborhood play, which surfaced earlier in the playoffs? If it is allowed in the interest of player safety, then modify the sliding rules. We also see too many instances of a runner called out simply because a throw beat him to the bag. These calls frequently show an umpire out of position.

But, and this is most important: Baseball is more black-and-white than other sports. Either a player is safe or he is out; it is either a strike or it is not.

That purity should be emphasized in spring training as it is in the World Series. I’m tired of hearing the phrase, “you just don’t make that call in the World Series,’’ just as I was Sunday when I heard “you don’t make that call in overtime on a 56-yard field goal attempt.”

Why the hell not? Out or safe; fair or foul. Just get it right. If it is a rule, then apply it equally regardless of situation.

That should also include balls and strikes, as the idea of each umpire having his own interpretation of the rules is ridiculous. This isn’t figure skating in the Olympics when the Russian judge screws the American skater with prejudice. The rulebook lists a definition of what is a strike. Just get it right.

Luckily, regardless of how the play was ruled, Mike Napoli doubled in enough runs to where it wouldn’t matter to the helpless Cardinals. The Cardinals played a terrible game, and fortunately for all involved, DeMuth’s call added drama but did not decide the outcome.

As for whether Lester used a substance on the ball or not won’t be known. Under expanded replay we could only hope the observer in the press box would have the authority to order the crew chief to examine a pitcher’s glove if he sees something on the monitor. Presumably, the umpires will have their eyes on Lester when he pitches next in St. Louis.

The fans have the right to believe what they see on the field is legitimate, which is why MLB has such stiff penalties on gambling and performance-enhancing-drugs. There should be a similarity when it comes to on-the-field cheating. Doctoring the ball isn’t gamesmanship, it is cheating and the penalty should be severe.

 

 

 

 

Oct 06

Ump Holbrook Blows Call To Cost Braves; MLB Needs Replay

Chipper Jones was right, the Braves didn’t lose to the Cardinals in the wild-card play-in game because of umpire Sam Holbrook’s horrendous infield fly call. Then again, it didn’t help and this game will forever be known as the “Infield Fly Rule Game.”

Jones made a critical error and the Braves committed three overall, but they had a chance to overcome them when they loaded the bases with one out in the eighth inning. Or so, everybody but Holbrook thought.

Another historic bad call.

Andrelton Simmons lofted a pop-up to left field – measured later at 225 feet from home plate — which landed perhaps ten feet behind retreating shortstop Pete Kozma and incoming left fielder Matt Holliday. Neither could have reached the ball with an all-out dive.

Kozma veered off at the last second, as if Holliday had called him off.

The rule states an infield fly would be called if the defensive player could have made the play with “an ordinary effort,” and must be made in a timely manner to inform the runners of the out and to allow them to advance at their own risk after tagging up.

Kozma’s feet never stopped moving, and when he veered off he actually ran away from the ball. This action alone is enough to show he had no intention of deceiving the runners, who never retreated to their bases.

That Holbrook, the additional umpire down the left field line, made the call directly in front of him should tell you Kozma was so far out that it wasn’t an ordinary play. It should have been the third base umpire’s call, but these guys rarely change a call. They don’t want to show up their partners.

In addition, Holbrook made the call late, with the ball on its downward flight.

All this can be seen on replay.

Later, Holbrook saw the replay and lamely defended the call, saying: “Once that fielder established himself, he got ordinary effort. That’s when the call was made.”

Trouble is, Kozma never established himself. He never stopped moving and his last movement was away from the play.

Don’t know what Holbrook was looking at either time. Other umpires have blown calls and at least had the class to admit they missed the call. Not Holbrook.

The Braves’ appeal to MLB was denied by executive Joe Torre, as was expected. With the expanded playoffs, there’s no time to wait another day to resume play if the appeal was granted. Never mind getting it right.

Torre’s decision was based on that it was a judgment call, but this was bad judgment by Holbrook. Plain and simple, he blew the call and not one analyst said otherwise. In fact, an ESPN poll had 69 percent respond this was an even worse call than the interception at the end of the Seattle-Green Bay game.

That’s hard to believe.

I understand the concept of an umpire’s judgment, but this was bad all around. Holbrook had no sense of what was going on. The rule is designed to not deceive the runners, but both Holliday and Kozma were so far away from the ball they never had the chance. Kozma’s actions alone would dictate this not being a normal call.

The technology is so good today that instant replay should be expanded to allow blown calls not decide playoff games. I’m tired of seeing games decided by incompetence. Not when there’s a vehicle for getting it right.

Play was stopped for 19 minutes as the grounds crew cleared the field of litter thrown from the stands. There’s no excuse for such behavior. There’s also no excuse for such a bad call.