Getting the Call Right

By Blaidd Drwg

What is up with the umpires in MLB right now? Two days last week involved just flat out terrible decisions by the crews involved. I have written about this before – things happen very quickly on a baseball field and calls can get missed or come out wrong. This I understand; the umpires are human and they make mistakes. My issue is when you incorrectly apply a rule or use the replay and still get it wrong.

In case you have been under a rock, here is what happened:

On May 8th in the 9th inning of the A’s-Indians game, Adam Rosales hit a shot to left center field that hit a railing behind the fence and was initially not ruled a home run. Bob Melvin immediately left the dugout and asked for a review, which he was given. Crew chief Angel Hernandez came back out a few minutes later and ruled it a double, even though it was clear to everyone – the players, fans and announcers that the ball did, in fact clear the wall. Well, everyone except the 3 umpires who looked at the replay. Melvin came back out to argue and summarily (and properly) was tossed from the game.

I happened to be watching the Red Sox get pounded by the Twins that evening and was only half paying attention to the TV when they cut into the game about the issue. I looked up at the replay, said, “home run” and immediately tuned back out what the commentators were saying.

My problem here is two-fold – Angel Hernandez made the situation worse by not making himself or the crew available after the game and MLB’s cop-out response to the issue. Hernandez is generally one of the worst umps in baseball and he did nothing to aid that perception by not only getting the call wrong but then not willing to face the music afterwards. At this point, Hernandez needs to be fired – he is horrible at his job and if it was any other profession in America, he probably would have been long gone. MLB’s response was worse:

By rule, the decision to reverse a call by use of instant replay is at the sole discretion of the crew chief. In the opinion of Angel Hernandez, who was last night’s crew chief, there was not clear and convincing evidence to overturn the decision on the field. It was a judgment call, and as such, it stands as final.

I don’t see how replay is a judgment call. This is MLB admitting that the call was wrong but not being willing to do anything about it. Unless Hernandez was looking at a replay from a different game or looking at it on a 13 inch black and white TV with crappy reception, I don’t see any way he could have gotten it wrong.

Here is a montage of the call from all 4 broadcasts – both radio and TV for the A’s and Indians. They all think it is a home run.

On May 9th, the Astros initiated a pitching change. Astros manager Bo Porter brought in Wesley Wright, who took a couple of warm up pitches before Porter came back out and replaced him with Hector Ambriz. Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who probably knows the rules of the game better than any manager, came out to argue that Wright could not come out of the game without facing one batter – Scioscia is right, any pitcher who enters a game needs to face one batter unless he is hurt before the batter is retired or reaches base (which did not appear to be the case here). This is basic rules 101 for umpires and one of the 4 umps on the field – Home Plate – Adrian Johnson, First Base – Fieldin Culbreth, Second Base – Brian O’Nora, Third Base – Bill Welke, should have realized this or at least looked it up if they were not sure. This is a pretty good crew, so it is more inexcusable that they would have botched such a straight forward call.

Swing and a Miss

By Blaidd Drwg

It was a good week for pitchers in the strikeout department:

On Wednesday, Doug Fister set an AL record when he recorded 9 consecutive strikeouts. He broke the record of 8, which had been done by several pitchers, most recently by Blake Stein (!) in 2001. He didn’t quite make it to the MLB record, which is 10, held by Tom Seaver.

On Tuesday, the Oakland A’s set an AL record for hitters strikeouts in a season with 7 games left on their schedule. The A’s batters swung past the Tampa Bay Rays 2007 total with their 1,325th K. They will end up obliterating the AL record. They still have a way to go to set the major league mark – that is 1,529 set by the 2010 Arizona Diamondbacks

On Monday, the Angles showed us just how bad the Mariners can be by tying a MLB record by striking out 20 Mariner hitters in a 9 inning game in a 5-4 victory. Zach Grienke struck out 13 in just 5 innings before giving way to a parade of reliever who fanned 7 over the final 4 innings of the game. With all of those strikeouts, the Angles did somehow manage to put Miguel Olivo down on strikes only once in his 4 plate appearances (even more shocking – Olivo had 3 hits in the game).

And Down the Stretch They Come…

By Blaidd Drwg

The NL has 4 of its 5 playoff spots finalized, with only the 2nd wild card still remaining. Even then, the Cardinals have a 3 game lead over the Dodgers with 6 games remaining, making it unlikely that the Dodgers will catch the Redbirds.

The AL is a different story – no one has actually clinched a playoff spot and it could be an interesting last week of the season. Going into Friday’s games, the Yankees lead the east by 1, the Tigers lead the central by 2 and the Rangers lead the west by 4. The wild card also has races, with the Orioles 1 game ahead of the A’s for the first spot and the A’s 2 games ahead of the Angels and Rays for the 2nd spot.

Here is how this is going to play out:
East:
Yankees have 6 games left – 3 at Toronto and 3 vs. Boston. They are in the best position to win the division since they play the two worst teams in the division and neither Boston nor Toronto is playing particularly well right now. As much as I know the Red Sox would like to spoil the Yankees playoff chances, I don’t think it will happen. I see the Yankees taking 5 of the 6 to win the division.

Orioles have 6 games left – 3 vs. Boston and 3 at Tampa.
Rays have 6 games left – 3 at Chicago and 3 vs. Baltimore.
The final TB-Baltimore series could really put a monkey wrench in the playoff chances for one of the two teams. Both the O’s and the Rays are hot and they both need to sweep their weekend series. It is entirely possible that both of these teams could make it to the playoffs, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they do.

Central:
Last week, the White Sox had a 3 game lead in the division. This week, they are trailing the Tigers by 2.
The White Sox need to take at least 2 out of three from the Rays (they really need a sweep) and then sweep the Indians in their last series. Why? Well the Tigers benefit from the most favorable remaining schedule of all the contenders – the have 3 at KC and finish with 3 vs. Minnesota. That is going to make it very tough on the Sox.

West:
The Rangers are in the driver’s seat, but by no means have it locked. They play 3 vs. the Angels and 3 at Oakland. Basically if they take 2 out of 3 from the Halos, the Rangers win the division and the Angels go home for the season.

The A’s are playing the Mariners for 3 and then finish with the Rangers. They really need to sweep the M’s and hope that either the Rangers fell apart against the Angels or have won the division and decided to monkey with their rotation to get it set for the playoffs. The A’s are a longshot to win the division but are in a pretty good spot for a wild card, even with their all-rookie rotation.

The Angels just basically need to win out against the Rangers and the Mariners. It could mean that there is meaningful baseball played in Safeco field in October, just not for the Mariners.

My Prediction:
East Winner: Yankees
Central Winner: Tigers
West Winner: Rangers
Wild Card 1: Orioles
Wild Card 2: A’s

Depending on everyone’s final record and how the wild card standings finish, you could actually end up with this nightmare scenario:

Oakland wins the 2nd wild card and flies to Baltimore, arriving sometime in the wee hours of the morning on Thursday

Oakland at Baltimore for the wild card game on Friday if Baltimore ends up with the best wild card record.

New York at Baltimore for the ALDS on Sunday if NY ends up with the best record.

MLB has decided in its infinite wisdom that the team with the best record gets to play the wild card winner (great), but the series format is 2 games at the WC winner and 3 at the Division Winner. So, the Yankees might not know that the need to get on a flight to Oakland until late Friday night. As much as I hate the Yankees, I don’t understand how that makes any sense. It probably negates any advantage they gain from playing the wild card winner. Of course, this gets much more interesting if there is a tie anywhere and we need a playoff to determine the winner.