Thursday, October 5th, 2010: Tampa Bay, Florida
Down one game to one in the ALDS, the Tampa Bay Rays were down to the Texas Rangers. Michael Young was at the plate for the Rangers. As with most second games in series, it is establishing a tempo. With a five game series, it can, nearly, determine the series. With the count two balls and two strikes, Young check-swinged to bring it to a full count… or did he?
Plate umpire Jim Wolf was sufficiently unsure of this question that he sent it to first base umpire Jerry Meals, who ruled that, indeed, Young had check-swung, to the chagrin of the Rays fans and bench. The call was only made worse when Young, on the next pitch, belted it for a three run homer, essentially putting more nail in the coffin for the Rays’ postseason hopes. The fans booed, loudly, and Joe Maddon, the Rays manager, called a pow-wow of his on-field players, which Jim Wolf eventually went to break up. Joe Maddon then complained to Wolf, who threw him out of the game.
Roughly three hours later: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Yankees at Twins: Yankees up one game to none. Yankee OF Lance Berkman got a lucky call: it was seemingly a strike, but called a ball. TBS’s “strike zone” graphic showed it was a strike. It was not called that way. Berkman hit a double that drove in two runs, putting the Yankees up 3-2. It would give the Yankees a lot of momentum that lead to their victory.
Ron Gardenhire came out, contested the call, and promptly got ejected. Contrary to what one of the commentators said, the ejection did not get the Twins motivated, and they lost the game.
What this all means…
The Buster Posey call in the Giants game is relevant, as well, with a missed out call leading to a Giants win. My friend Paulo went into great detail on this one, so I’m leaving it to him.
Bud Selig has contended that “the human element” is very significant to the game. A lot of people seem to think that replay would fix the game if used only on plays with runs scored. Not applicable here: the controversial plays occurred one play before the plays with the runs scored.
OK. Follow me here:
- With the system we currently have, we do need to give the umpires some benefit of the doubt. They are human, they do not have superhuman reflexes, and cannot be held accountable to a standard of perfection.
- However, we do have technology that does catch everything, and can be viewed and reviewed as many times as necessary.
- This technology has not been implemented though, which means we are stuck with the reality of the first point.
- Thus, we cannot hold umpires to the standard we see at home and on the monitors in the stadium, but can argue that they should have access to it.
Finally, I wish to reference a point by Tony Reali on Around the Horn:
“Referring aside, you gotta hit. You gotta show some energy, especially at home.”
Let’s face it: the Braves, the Rays, and the Twins, all the teams that were on the bad ends of the of calls, all had chances, good chances, to win their games if they could have only mustered some offense. These are not bad teams, they would not have made the playoffs if they weren’t. They all bombed out at the worst possible moments. I don’t want to hear that bad calls “demoralized” them. In two out of three instances, their managers went out on the field and got ejected to motivate the team and reinvigorate their home team fans. It didn’t work. Yes, the umpires made bad calls, and, yes, the other teams took advantage of it. That is what good teams do.
My big point here is that ultimately we need some additional implementation of replay, but there is a lot more to this than just that.