I know, the title is startling. There was actually a fan at a Florida Marlins game? Well, believe it.

The Phillies and Marlins played their third and final game of the series this afternoon and it got interesting in the top of the sixth inning. Starter Anibal Sanchez walked Ryan Howard to lead off the inning. Pence, being the aggressive type, swung at the first pitch and hit a fly ball to deep right field. Outfielder Bryan Petersen ranged back towards the fence, leaped up, and the ball appeared to glance off of his glove. Howard went to third and Pence landed on second.

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Petersen immediately made his case to the umpires that a fan had interfered with his ability to make the catch. Replays showed that two fans, including one in Phillies garb, did legitimately impede Petersen in his attempt to catch the fly ball. The four umpires got together to discuss the event. Suddenly, Joe West departed from the group to go review the replay. West later emerged, ruling Pence out and Howard back to first. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, of course, was surprised at the ruling and came out to hear West’s defense.

The way it played out originally, there was no interference call. Pence had a double. Instant replay, as it is allowed to be used now, can only be used for boundary plays, including whether or not a ball went over the fence for a home run. If West reviews the play and concludes that Pence did not hit the ball far enough over the fence for a home run, then to call Pence out, West must assume that Petersen would have caught the ball — quite an assumption, to say the least. But West instead ruled fan interference, which, as far as MLB rules (which are not very clear on the matter) indicate, is not a legal ruling after replay review, as it is not a boundary call.

Naturally, the Phillies protested the game. As seems to be the case, a crazy game got even crazier as the game was tied 4-4 after the seventh inning. Both teams would fail to score through the 13th inning. After several innings of teasing, the Marlins won the game on a walk-off walk. From the 9th through the 14th innings, the Marlins had 12 runners on base, but it took them until the bitter end to push one across home plate.

Phillies pitcher David Herndon pitched the final 3.2 innings, walking seven, five intentionally. It was just the tenth occurrence in which a pitcher intentionally walked five or more in a game. The record of six is held by┬áMike McCormick who accomplished the feat on July 19, 1967. Herndon’s performance was also the 305th occurrence in which a pitcher threw four innings or fewer and walked at least seven.

Each plate appearance during Herndon’s appearance had a leverage index of 2.00 or higher (average is 1.00). While Herndon, generously a #4 on the Phillies’ bullpen depth chart, labored, closer Ryan Madson stayed in the bullpen, lightly warming up from time to time. You know, because closers can only pitch when they have a lead between one and three runs.

After the game, the writers frantically searched for Joe West to get his explanation, but he was hard to track down. Matt Gelb, who covers the Phillies for the Philadelphia Inquirer, tweeted:

Chasing Joe West down a tunnel at Sun Life Stadium is exactly how I pictured it would end.

He did get one bit of information, though. West claims Manuel asked for a replay review; Manuel denied it. He said, he said.

If the Phillies’ protest is upheld, the game will be replayed from the point of the protest call. Here is a list of resumed protested games.

In the end, the game was a rather meaningless one as the Phillies are virtual playoff locks and the Marlins, at 27.5 games behind, are not. But it was quite an interesting, drama-filled game that we will remember long after the season ends.

Comments (8)

  1. Joe West seems to consistently find himself in the middle of these snafus. Time for a nice pasture somewhere…

  2. Not a fan of West — but I recognize the glacial progress of MLB in this area. It’s kind of like judicial review — if implementing increased video replay via progressive umpires is how it happens, then I can get behind that. I support umpires walking off the field and looking at replay in cases where it doesn’t apply — so long as they make more right calls on balance.

  3. Since we always have to hear about how MLB “must” start using instant replay everytime there is a blown call by an ump, let’s use this as an example of the counterargument. Not only did it cause a huge delay, it resulted in a call no better than the “naked-eye” version of the play.

    Let’s not pretend that this type of situation wouldn’t be a regular feature of a world with regular use of instant replay. Every week in the NFL there are instant replay calls that are far from definitive, usually involving some kind of interpretation of the rules (upon which today’s call also hinges)–only in theory does instant replay work as a purely clarifying tool.

  4. I do not recall many times where a replay in the NFL overturned a correct call or fuddled up the call any more. That’s because of the rule where the call on the field stands unless it is clear otherwise. There are few replay calls that are not definitive, since once again, the play on the field will stand if it is not clear that it should be overturned. So no, there really isn’t many issues with “interpretations” of rules when it comes to replay.

    Now, fan interference is a tricky problem. In this case, it was obvious that the fan interfered with the play. But it is not obvious that the player would have made the play in the first place. So what do you do? No idea. This is where unclear rules are a problem. Baseball as of now has no clear ruling on what to do in situations like this. However, this is not a strike against instant replay. The lack of a definitive rule and instant replay are not mutually exclusive, and this is just another instance of things (in this case keeping old rules that do not have authoritative clarity in regards to fan interference on plays such as this) that MLB needs to update.

    • perhaps you don’t remember when the lions lost in week 1 last year.

      • They indicated touchdown at first, but the ruling on the field after the refs conferenced was that it was incomplete. This was before they went to the cameras. So if there’s any issues with the call, it is with the ruling at hand, not the use of replay.

        • You are being far too generous to NFL referees. It is not at all uncommon for them to overturn a call when it is obvious there is no clear evidence on which to do so.

          One example that comes immediately to mind is a Pittsburgh-Baltimore game 2 years ago where a TD call at the end of the game was overturned when the replay showed no definitive answer on the play. Stuff like that happens all the time.

  5. You joke that “There was actually a fan at a Florida Marlins game?” but from what I see, there are at least 4 fans wearing Phillies stuff, and zero with Marlins garb.
    So there were fans there, there just weren’t any Marlins fans.

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