Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Safe or Out is in the Eyes of the Beholder

By
Image courtesy of Daylife via Getty Images
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this one above was worth only one: safe.

For the second time this season, some shotty umpiring cost the Blue Jays a key run late in a game on the road. The first time was at the hands of Bob Davidson in Los Angeles, and the second was thanks to Brian Knight.

After the onset of the play, there wasn't much debate whether Edwin Encarnacion was safe or out at home plate. It was apparent he was just gunned down by a good throw by Darnell McDonald. However, the replays tell a much different story.

Initially, I didn't think there was any question about it either, but thanks to the video replays and the stills from the play at the plate we can see that home plate umpire Brian Knight botched that call.

The explanation is pretty simple: it appears as though Knight had his eyes fixated on Edwin Encarnacion's left leg trying to cross the plate, but it was his right leg that snuck through and touched home plate.

The angles suggest that Edwin missed home plate as his left leg ricocheted off Jason Varitek and missed home plate. However, Brian Knight failed to keep an eye on the other leg as well which did get down before the tag was applied.

So is it time to expand instant replay then?

This instance just proves how flawed Major League Baseball's replay system is. I'm not saying we need to question each and every single close play, but game-changers like the one which ended the game should definitely be called into question.

Maybe Bud Selig is afraid that adding more instant replays to baseball will take away from the human element away from the game, and that suddenly baseball won't need umpires at all just line in Base Wars.

I just think if the technology is there and available to question an important play, it should be used to its full advantage. There's no excuse not to use it other than the time issue, but that is a small sacrifice I for one would be willing to make.

Umpires have to make hundreds and hundreds of snap decisions over the course of a ballgame. I don't envy them because it's a thankless position, but no matter how hard they try there will always a margin of error. By incorporating instant replay, that margin of error can be lessened even further.

Every other professional sport uses instant replay to a far greater extent than baseball, so it's time to get out of the 19th century and step into the 21st century.

Edwin Encarnacion's textbook slide

Even though he was called out on the play, full marks should be awarded to Edwin Encarnacion for a beauty of a slide into home plate. This animated gif of the replay shows how EE ducked down and got full extension on this right leg past Jason Varitek.

Edwin obviously must've been studying old Blue Jays tapes prior to the game of how to properly slide into home plate, as demonstrated by the late Roy Hartsfield. (Hat tip to @thegoldenyear for the suggestion.)

Image courtesy of CBC.ca
Stop! Give Patterson the Red Light

As infuriating as it was to have tue home plate umpire take a game-tying run away from the Blue Jays, strangely enough I was more enraged by another incident that happened earlier in the game.

Since the top of the ninth was as dramatic as it was, this topic will likely fall by the wayside, but it simply has to be addressed. Corey Patterson getting caught trying to steal base in the top of the sixth was inexcusable.

I know from hours and hours of playing MLB 11 The Show that you do not make the third out at third base ... that's just baseball fundamentals. If you do, you get penalized 10 points in the game, and hopefully John Farrell makes Corey Patterson do 10 wind sprints as a punishment.

No one can be certain whether it was John Farrell who called for the steal or if Corey Patterson decided to swipe third base on his own, but it was just a very bad baseball decision. You simply do not do that with the tying run at the plate, and it's your second best hitter in the box.

With another failed attempt, that makes Corey Patterson 0 for 3 in steal attempts at third base. As a comparison, Rajai Davis is 13 for 13 when swiping third.

I'm not saying Davis was right to steal in all those situations, but if you're going to steal third, you better be damn sure you can get there safely with 2 out and 2 on. And in most situations I wouldn't even attempt it anyway.

5 comments:

  1. I was curious to do a little investigating and see what post-game convos the Bostonians might have had Re: Encarnacion, if only to see how they compared to our tweeting rampage in search of justice.

    A few examples:
    "Edwin "E5" Encarnacion was thrown out at home plate ... Except, he wasn't. Jason Varitek missed the tag and Encarnacion got his foot in. Tough way to win a ball game." -via Over the Monster
    "Replays showed that Encarnacion was probably safe. But umpire Brian Knight called him out." -via Extra Bases
    "I am making my own guess here, but it looks like [the ump] is looking at Varitek's glove more closely than at Encarnacion's feet." -via Joy of Sox

    It seems the Sox fans made no denials that EE was safe, although some posts were borderline ambiguous. To conclude, BoSox fans obviously weren't furious about the botched call, but at least they realized something needed to be said.

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  2. I think it's time for the Blue Jays to get a bad call go their way for once. That's what? 3 calls that have gone against them that would've had a direct impact on the outcome of the game?

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  3. Elise, when even the opposing team's blogs are admitting there's a possibility EE might have been safe, that's when you know the play should have come into question.

    I took a peek over at some other Red Sox sites as well, and the only other possibility I didn't entertain is that EE's right leg may have crossed home plate, but perhaps he didn't touch it.

    That being said, lucky bounces happen all the time and the Blue Jays were the benefit of some borderline calls during that game as well.

    Mazdaman, the umpiring hasn't been very kind to the Blue Jays on the road this season, that's for sure. Hopefully good karma will bestow the Blue Jays in the second half with plays like that.

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  4. Love the reference to MLB the Show, I love it when the announcers say that, one time when I was in road to the show and on the Jays. I tried to steal third once and they sent me straight down to AA New Hampshire. They didn't want any of that and neither should Farrell.

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  5. Matt, anytime I can squeak in a couple of video game references, it's a good day. I've had the same trouble as you; I was in the doghouse with my manager after I blew through the red light multiple times. But to be fair, sometimes the third base coach told me to steal when I had no business running. That's one of the little quirks of that game, I guess.

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