Archive for the ‘Umpires’ Category

MLB: New York Mets at Atlanta Braves

Catch and throw. The essential elements of the game of baseball. Same as it ever was for 130 years. Some catches are hard and some are easy, but the act of catching the baseball has been very similar forever. Glove technology changed the dynamic but catching a baseball is really the same now as it was in Ty Cobb’s day.

Until 2014, that is. For a strange rule change, or at least a league-wide change in the reading of the rule as written, has essentially re-defined what a caught ball looks like.

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MLB: Cleveland Indians at Oakland Athletics

Plenty of words and pixels have been devoted to Major League Baseball’s new instant replay system. Whether you think of it as the game’s savior or as merely another stepping stone to a dull, anti-septic, technocratic future, it is here to stay, and debating its worthiness is pretty played out already one week into the season.

Instead, let’s talk about an overlooked and perhaps even unexpected aspect of the replay system: the strategic knowledge of managers will be tested in a big way.

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MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates

The video replay system isn’t perfect. It’s better than what came before (nothing) and will be improved upon as the years go by. For now, it works. It isn’t pretty but for now, it’s a success?

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MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at Minnesota Twins

One of the most awkward feelings in the world is having a friend play you a song on the acoustic guitar in small room. This is especially true if they aren’t a particularly skilled player. It’s one of those things, for me, I just never knew where to look. Especially when they look up from their fretboard to gauge your reaction. To I look this person in the eyes as they strum some corny chords? Stare at their fingers? Gaze out the window while trying to decide if the fall would break my ankles? Needless to say, few phrases freeze me in terror quite like “here, I’ve been working on something, check it out!”

Watching the umpire crews go through their video replay machinations felt vaguely like watching somebody play the guitar. Actually, it felt like watching somebody watch someone else play the guitar, knowing how uncomfortable they must be standing around waiting for the sick spectacle to be over.

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MLB: World Series-St. Louis Cardinals at Boston Red Sox

There is no doubt the decision of John Hirschbeck and his umpiring crew to reverse Dana DeMuth’s out call at second base in the first inning of last night’s Game 1 of the World Series was the correct decision. Kozma never caught the ball, as replays clearly showed. Mike Matheny went out to argue, and he was angered at his post-game press conference as well, but his arguments had little substance — he knew, just as everybody else knew.

But Matheny had a simple and understandable gripe all but the most fortunate in human history have shared at some point: “Why me?” Matheny thought he had another season until MLB’s planned instant replay system enters the equation. “It’s a pretty tough time to debut that overruled call in the World Series. I get… trying to get the right call,” Matheny said. “I get that. Tough one to swallow.”

At least according to my digging through the historical record, Matheny appears right. For all the controversial calls to ravage the World Series in its 109-year history, there doesn’t appear to have been a reversal of a call like what John Hirschbeck’s crew did to Dana DeMuth’s decision Wednesday night. But it certainly isn’t the first time such a call has happened in major league baseball, including the playoffs.

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In a scene straight out of your company’s annual softball game, an MLB umpire called balls and strikes from behind the pitcher’s mound on Tuesday. Tim McLelland positioned himself behind pitcher Wily Peralta in the first inning of Monday’s Spring Training game between the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. McLelland, in an effort to avoid a lengthy delay, filled in for home plate umpire Seth Buckminster when he was forced to exit the game after taking a pitch off his hand.

Anthony Johnson was tasked with the duty of changing into Buckminster’s gear to continue calling the game from behind home plate, but McLelland took the opportunity to keep things moving by making a rare appearance behind the mound, via

“Just keep it moving,” McClelland said. “We didn’t want people to sit. Both managers agreed to it, and I knew it wasn’t going to be long. This way we didn’t have to sit and could keep the game going.”

Peralta noted that it had been more than a few years since he last pitched with an umpire behind him:

“I don’t remember the last time I was pitching like that — probably Little League when I was, like, 13 years old,” said the Dominican-born Peralta. “It just forgot about it and [focused on] the hitters. It felt a little weird when he called, ‘Ball!’ behind me. It was like, ‘Oh, God!’”

Hey, it beats pitchers and catchers calling their own balls and strikes.


Video. Replay. Now.

The year is 2012. On Sunday, a human being left a pod suspended by helium 24 miles in the air and plummeted to earth at a speed that was faster than sound, in free fall for four minutes and twenty seconds. This was broadcast to us live from several different camera angles to our telephones, computers and televisions. Later that evening, another human being failed to see a base runner get tagged by a fielder in an important baseball game and incorrectly called him safe when he should have been out. This, too, was broadcast to us live from several different camera angles to our telephones, computers and televisions.

While the impressive accomplishment incorporated and embraced technology in order to make it possible, the folly had to ignore and turn a blind eye to available innovations in order to ensure a negatively impactful error.

Perhaps I’m being unimaginative, but I don’t believe there’s much in the way of a valid argument against the purpose of video replay, which is to ensure the most accurate judgment calls possible. All baseball fans want this. We must also admit that humans, alone, simply aren’t able to provide a suitable level of accuracy to meet this desire.

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