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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

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We left one out for the Yanks:

-Bush Administration ends major entitlement programs.

SF: You know that's not true. This administration is never going to stop handing out cash to the already well-heeled.

And another, applicable to some players on both teams:

-no bonus clauses in contracts for World Series win.

Before I forget, sf and yf, thanks for a fun season of posts.

You are very welcome, Nick. We love doing this, and even the occasionally snippy (some might say "obnoxious" or "arrogant") banter is all in fun; this is baseball after all, and a source of entertainment. Unless you're an Angels fan this morning.

Guys don't come any better than A.J. Pierzynski. Just ask Jeff Kent.

Whenever I watch the Yanks, Jorgie always tags the third out of an inning if it's a strikeout, regardless of how cleanly he caught the ball. Surely the Halos' catcher could/should have done the same?

They should on Baseball Tonight that the ump's hand gesture was for strikeout, not out, and all parties agree that he didn't call "out". I think the play was entirely the Josh Paul's fault.

Finally, though, I just want to say kudos to Scioscia for his graciousness after the game. He didn't blame that play, but rather his team for not being ahead by the bottom of the ninth. Classy guy.

Surely the Halos' catcher could/should have done the same?

Yes, and surely a first baseman could catch a ball at first base, then run back towards home plate to intercept the runner if he hasn't yet reached first base, just to make sure he completes the out in two manners, and in case he doesn't turn around to make sure the umpire gave a proper signal. That's patently absurd. You are off on this one Sam. This was a sh*t call at a sh*t time by a momentarily sh*t umpire, and though it didn't necessarily cost the Angels a win, it did cost them the game. It's not worth deconstructing the incident much further than to call it what it was: a horrid, though probably honest, mistake, made worse by evasive and dishonest explanations.

Also, Redding's "out" call is not the issue here: he was completely inconsistent regarding this issue, as reviewed in the first half of this post here:

http://www.baseballmusings.com/archives/011874.php

This is part of the year when I get to agree with SF. Yeah, it was a horrible call, and the catcher deserves very little of the blame.

Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospecuts places the blame squarely and 100% on Eddings. Excerpt:

Both of these statements are true:

* Mark Buehrle and Joe Crede deserve credit for what they did to help the White Sox win last night.

* The Angels got screwed.

Let's make this very, very clear: Home-plate umpire Doug Eddings called A.J. Pierzynski out. Out. Out.

Out.

There is something of a resistance to calling this what it is. I think people want to blame Paul, or the Angels, or credit Pierzynski for a heads-up play. No one really wants to say that Doug Eddings made one of the worst big-stage decisions in baseball history, changing the course of a critical game and perhaps the seasons of two teams.

Here's the blue point of view: Umpires sometimes make mistakes. Also, they sometimes make decisions that are not clearly right or wrong (even with instant replay). Players, managers, and fans have the freedom to blame umpires when things don't go their way. But this will ultimately never bring them more victories. What will bring them more victories is to realize that an out is not an out until an umpire says it is, and to react accordingly. They have to ask themselves: do I want to be a winner or a whiner?

Mike:

"Blaming the umpires" for a loss and calling out an umpire for a clear mistake are two different things. Mike Scoscia said it best, that there is no way to blame the umpire for their loss, but that the Angels didn't play well enough to, as he said, "absorb" the mistake. But it was a mistake, perhaps two mistakes. First, the ball didn't hit the ground, so that was an error in judgment. One can rationalize Eddings' mistake that the replays are ambiguous, but that's applique, post-haste, and poor analysis. Second, the out call was inconsistent at the very least, Eddings' own umpiring habits tell us exactly that, and his demeanor in the post-game interviews tells us that something happened there. Someone at SoSH posted that he hadn't seen someone dissemble like that since the Watergate hearings. I would think players are entitled to a reasonable level of consistency from the umpires, whether it's in the rulebooks, a style manual, or not listed at all.

But we agree that no matter what, the umpires didn't lose the game for the Angels. However, that doesn't mean that the umpires performed well, at all.

Well, I think that's the whole issue, and the point Sheehan makes in the full article. Umpires may sometimes make mistakes and that's part of the game, and I think we all accept that. You're arguing, however, that because the ump didn't speak the words "you're out", there wasn't an out and the play was legit. Sheehan and others argue that Eddings did "say" there was an out with his fist pump, and I agree. He may not have said it verbally, but he used the same action to signify the out on strike three as he had for other batters in the same game and throughout the season. Furthermore, it's an action that is generally understood as "you're out." He is now saying that it's his "strike three mechanic," not his indication of an out, which sounds like CYA hooey. The fact that he didn't say "no catch" or "ball in play" -- which of course he was not obligated to do, but why wouldn't he have -- suggests to me that he called an out, then changed his mind.

It's always been my understanding that an umpire's gestures are equivalent to anything they say. Otherwise, why have them? Those gestures shouldn't be open to interpretation any more than saying "you're out" should be. The guy pumped his fist. The Angels jogged off the field. He then called AJ safe. He reversed his "out" call mid-play, and that's what Scioscia was (apparently) arguing -- not whether the ball was in the dirt or not, though after he heard about the replay he argued that issue too.

As for winners and whiners, most of the Angels interviewed, Scioscia included, have said, "that sucks, but there's nothing we can do about it so let's just go win tomorrow, and we still bear some the blame for the loss by not scoring more runs." There was not much "we got robbed" sentiment, at least publicly.

If there is anything that comes from this, I think it should be that umpires should enforce a uniform and unambiguous signalling system for every kind of play.

Does the rule book say that an ump has to verbally make the call? (I don't know; I'm asking.)

Ivan X, the rulebook doesn't cover mechanics. In umpire school, they taught me to make a strike call by pumping my fist - exactly like an out call. Once you get a little more experience, you develop your own person strike call. I have to say that calling a strike is an emotional thing. It's a little like saying to the batter, hey that was a good pitch and you didn't swing.

A swinging strike, however, as in our little example, is completely different. The strike call is more of an acknowledgement of what everyone saw - a swing and a miss. Swinging strike calls are not voiced (despite what you see in the movies). So in the game, Eddings did what I normally do, which is revert to the basic strike call, which looks like an out call, but is less emotional and feels a little more polite. I agree that in this case it led to ambiguity, which is wrong. To his credit, Eddings said he will change his mechanic from now on, as will I.

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