MLB: NLDS-Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta Braves

There were numerous big moments in tonight’s Braves/Dodgers game, a 4-3 final that knotted the NLDS at one game apiece. Don Mattingly managing the seventh inning like it was his last…wait. Last? That should say first.

Don Mattingly managed the seventh inning — which his team entered down 2-1 and exited behind 4-1 after Donnie Baseball opted to work around Jose Costanza with a new pitcher then walk Reed Johnson to gain the platoon advantage against vastly superior and more platoon neutral Jason Heyward — like a man altogether unfamiliar with the nuances of the game.

But I digress, for this is not about Don Mattingly squeezing all life from the game while the opposition rallied. This is about the snuffing of the Dodgers last-ditch rally in the ninth inning.

No, Hanley Ramirez‘s home run did not kill the Dodgers’ rally. It brought them to within one run in the ninth inning. It brought the tying run to the plate. THAT IS THE PLATONIC IDEAL OF A RALLY. Ugh. More digression. Focus!

Craig Kimbrel was not quite himself after Fredi Gonzalez asked him to record four whole outs in pursuit of a playoff win. Kimbrel walked A.J. Ellis with one out in the top of the ninth inning. Dee Gordon came on to pinch run. More accurately, Dee Gordon came on to try and get himself into scoring position.

Kimbrel is a typical power pitcher with little-to-no interest in his time to the plate. He held Gordon as close as he could but, on the first pitch, off the Dodgers slight shortstop went for second base.

The throw from substitute catcher Gerald Laird was into the runner and low, but Andrelton Simmons picked it out of the dirt beautifully, keeping his glove down and close to the sliding Gordon. The second base umpire, perfectly positioned, made his call: out.

Courtesy of Buzzfeed sports

There you go, watch that GIF as many times as you want. Can you tell, definitely, that Simmons applied the tag before Gordon touched the bag? After this incredibly tough call, fans howled for video replay, as if a few video coordinators could make chicken salad out of the…available camera angles.

Video replay won’t be perfect for a long, long time. That is not a reason to fear or oppose it but we cannot pretend that flipping a switch and changing the rules will reduce the number of blown calls from “very few” to “nil.” It’s a tough racket, trying to perfectly position cameras to capture high speed action which happens in three dimensions in real time.

One national writer tweeted out the header image accompanying this post along with the declarative statement “he was out, folks.” How can anyone believe this is fact from watching one single still image in which there is no tag applied?

Umpiring is a tough, tough gig. Change is welcome but video replay won’t wipe blown calls from the Earth in one fell swoop. Hopefully, this close play at second base in the ninth inning doesn’t overshadow all the other elements that made this the first tight, well-played and entertaining game of the playoffs. No way should Don Mattingly get off that easy.

Comments (9)

  1. umps need go pros on their heads like some of the nhl refs did in preseason. that could help with adding some camera angles,,,

  2. just found this on reddit. does this change your mind at all?

  3. Looks pretty out. Close but out. Who knows?

  4. We don’t need video replay because of this kind of play. We need it for the ones where it’s clear to everyone in the ballpark except the one person who got it wrong and doesn’t have the balls to own up to it. It gives that umpire a socially-acceptable way out of an obviously bad call.

  5. All context and gravity aside, Gordon’s face after he pops up is absolutely priceless

  6. I love micro-analyzing replays as much as the next guy, but sometimes it gets me all metaphysical. What constitutes a “tag”? If you tag a guy with the wrist of your glove hand but not the glove itself, should he be called safe? Does the glove have to make physical contact with a sliding player or is a ripple of the uniform brushing past enough?

    Maybe I’ll go write a book about it. In the meantime, it’s hard enough for the rules to cover these little vagaries, let alone one measly naked-eyed ump at game speed.

  7. I’ve never understood why the ball has to physically touch the player to be out, and not just any part of the player itself. I feel like I’ve seen collisions at home plate where the catcher gets bolled over and his holding the ball, but the ball doesn’t actually tag the runner but the runner still gets called out. And most times its the glove touching the player and not the fucking ball itself.

    Why not have the ball touch the base on force outs instead of the players foot????

  8. The difference in sports that do employ replays is that, after reviewing the evidence and deciding you still can’t work it out, at least everybody can agree that it’s ‘too close to call’, in which case you can take some sort of default action.

    In this case, the end result might have been that Gordon got called safe on the basis that ‘the benefit of the doubt’ goes to the runner, but at least that way you don’t have 50,000 people wanting to kill the ump.

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