Thursday, May 9, 2013

Angel Hernandez Gives MLB a Black Eye and MLB Says "Thank you"

Toss the manager when you blow the call.
The first I heard of the controversial ending in Wednesday night's Oakland A's-Cleveland Indians game was while I listened to Mike and Mike on ESPN radio this morning.

Right off the bat - appropriate baseball phrase in this case - I had a problem with the fact that Angel Hernandez was the crew chief of the umpires in the game. In case you haven't heard about it, the A's trailed by one in the 9th when Adam Rosales hit a Chris Perez pitch high off the wall in left field.

A's manager Bob Melvin immediately came out to question the call. He felt that the ball landed up the yellow line, which would indicate a home run. Any ball hitting the line would be in play and that's how the umpires interpreted it. However, Melvin was right, the ball hit the railing past the wall and bounced back on to the field.

If you look at the three image captures below you can clearly (okay it's from a slow motion replay - you can "blurrily") see the ball is above the wall, descends and then passes the yellow line as it moves towards the field of play. Meaning it had to have hit behind the wall and ricocheted back on the field. It was clear as a bell. Apparently that bell was missing from the replay room.

Ball descends  and is about to hit the stair railing

The ball ricochets off the stair rail and caroms towards the field.

The ball begins to clear the yellow line on  its way to the  outfield grass.
Hernandez and the three other umpires came back out and ruled that there was no substantial proof that the ball was a home run. Melvin immediately got in Hernandez's face and was ejected. Hernandez is one of the most obstinate, the "game is about me" umpires in all of Major League Baseball. I could easily see him deciding that the crew was not going to be overruled by some piece of technology.

Yes, I am questioning the integrity of Hernandez and not just because of this one incident. And for anyone who thinks the integrity of officials should not be brought into question, remember the name Tim Donaghy. I agree with the two Mikes that the league should overrule the umpires and pick up play from the point of it being a 4-4 ball game. (This is not a safe/out call like the one that took away Armando Galarraga's perfect game.) I also agree that commissioner Bud Selig will never do it.

The mantra of "Getting the call right." is clearly just a suggestion and not a mandate. Major League Baseball, especially under Selig, has always been reactive rather than proactive in the way they deal with things that happen between or outside the lines.

Despite having suspicions for years, Selig and company ignored the use of steroids, HGH, and other performance enhancing drugs. Attendance was up and the game was recovering nicely from the work stoppage in 1994. (Yes, this is also the man who canceled the World Series.) Selig has tried to convince everyone that he and other executives in the commissioner's office were in the dark and had no idea how bad things were when it came to PEDs. But as stories unfolded and tests get released, it is obvious PED use was rampant in baseball. There's no way the extent of it could be unknown. Then Selig conducted his ridiculous witch hunt with the Mitchell Report that only concentrated on a small segment of baseball.

One of the new problems arose when it was decided that interleague play would be played all year long. So instead of taking enough time and planning things out, MLB threw together an awful schedule for the 2012 season with a plethora of two and four game series, ridiculous travel schedules, and forced rivalries. "Don't worry it will all be better next year", was the basic statement from Selig's office.

A situation that did not have a major impact was the league's failure to prepare for a tie in the All-Star game. Sure enough, the two leagues played to a tie in the 2002 All-Star game. The reactive commissioner added more players to the roster and pitched the motto, "Now it counts" since the All-Star league winner would get home field in the World Series.

MLB not only did not change the attitude of fans towards the game, but potentially screwed over the team with the best record by taking away home field advantage. Of course this is also the sport that alternated home field advantages in prior World Series and still has pitchers bat in half of the World Series games, which gives the National League representative a clear edge.

Enough with Selig and back to the bigger problem of leaving the decision in the umpires' hands. MLB needs to put into place the same set up that the National Hockey League uses- a media center where plays are instantly reviewed even if there is no call for one from the head coaches or referees.

A call is placed from the command center into Toronto to an official at rinkside. That person than contacts the referee, who will come over and get on a communicator (phone or headset) with the people looking at the replays in real time. While they may ask for input from the referee it is the officials in the situation room that uphold or overrule a call. This is what MLB needs to take the the umpires' egos out of the circumstances.

Alas, MLB won't do this until there's a World Series game decided in the wrong favor because the umpires didn't change or uphold a call. It would be nice to get a look at the replay facilities the umpires use. I get the feeling they're watching on an old Emerson eight-inch black & white TV.

MLB Responds - No surprise here:

President for Baseball Operations Joe Torre issued the following statement, which basically said it was a mistake, but we're not going to do anything about it.

“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.

“Home and away broadcast feeds are available for all uses of instant replay, and they were available to the crew last night. Given what we saw, we recognize that an improper call was made. Perfection is an impossible standard in any endeavor, but our goal is always to get the calls right. Earlier this morning, we began the process of speaking with the crew to thoroughly review all the circumstances surrounding last night’s decision.”

Case closed...until MLB does the right thing too late.

1 comment:

  1. Drew you are 100% correct. I advocate suspending any umpire one game without pay when a player or manager is ejected and the umpire is shown to be wrong. You would soon build a less imperial umpiring staff and getting the call right would be a real and financial goal.