Friday, July 4, 2014

Don't Trust the Ump?

Should a baseball player always trust a call made by an umpire? Well, you would think that, at the very least, he shouldn't be penalized for doing so. But that's exactly what happened in Thursday night's game between Oakland and Toronto.

In the second inning, with a Blue Jay on every base, Anthony Gose hit a grounder to A's first baseman Nate Freiman. Freiman made an effort to tag Munenori Kawasaki, who was on his way to second, and then threw to catcher Stephen Vogt, who stepped on home plate without tagging Edwin Encarnacion racing home from third base.

First-base umpire Vic Carapazza ruled Kawasaki safe – he didn't see Freiman apply the tag – and Vogt, apparently seeing Carapazza's safe sign, believed that all he had to do was touch the plate to record the out at home.

Vogt logically trusted Carapazza's call. But Toronto manager John Gibbons challenged the call, and won. Which meant that while Kawasaki was called out, Encarnacion was declared safe at home plate; once Kawasaki was tagged, the force play was no longer in effect and Vogt needed to tag Encarnacion to record the out.

What all of this means is that Vogt should not, in this instance, have trusted the ump's call. He was, in a sense, penalized for doing so, and so were the A's. Is this unfair? Certainly A's manager Bob Melvin thought so, and the A's played the rest of the game under protest. (Which turned out to be moot, since the A's prevailed 4-1).

If there's a lesson to be learned, it's apparently this: Play as if the ump might be mistaken. Assume as little as reasonably possible. In this instance, tag the runner at home plate even if it seems unnecessary.

Now, all of that is much easier said than done. Players have reflexes rooted in a common-sense understanding of how baseball is played. But a new era has begun. In this brave new world of replays and challenges, a little distrust may in fact go a long way.


Posted by C.S. Soong



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