Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Why 'error' was made a hit for Ortiz
By Gordon Edes
MINNEAPOLIS -- As I said last Saturday, it should have been scored a hit from the git-go. And Wednesday afternoon, MLB announced that the original scoring decision made Friday night in Texas had been reversed, and that David Ortiz had been awarded a hit for the fly ball that fell between two Texas fielders.
And since MLB didn’t provide an explanation for why it reversed the decision by official scorer Steve Weller, allow me to explain again.
With two out in the seventh inning, Ortiz's fly ball to short right field fell between two Rangers players, second baseman Rougned Odor and right fielder Alex Rios.
Weller, the official scorer at Rangers games, scored it an error on Rios, which preserved Yu Darvish's no-hitter until Ortiz grounded a single through an infield shift with two outs in the ninth.
Weller cited a comment attached to MLB rule 10.12 (a)(1) which states, in part: "It is not necessary that the fielder touch the ball to be charged with an error. If a ground ball goes through a fielder's legs or a fly ball falls untouched and, in the scorer's judgment, the fielder could have handled the ball with ordinary effort, the official scorer shall charge such fielder with an error."
Said Weller to a pool reporter after the game: "In my judgment, when the ball goes up in the air, I felt like the second baseman or the right fielder under normal effort could have clearly caught the ball. I don't think there's a lot of argument about that."
And he's right -- as far as that goes. The ball could have been caught with ordinary effort, by either fielder.
But read the next paragraph in the same "Comment," and suddenly it's not so obvious. Here's the pertinent part:
"The official scorer shall not score mental mistakes or misjudgments as errors unless a specific rule prescribes otherwise."
And in the judgment of the late Bill Shannon, who scored games in New York (both Yankees and Mets) since 1979 and was the best official scorer I have ever known, that applies to misplayed balls in the outfield.
"That's a base hit whether we like it or not," Shannon said of a misjudged fly ball in the New York Times. "As a practical matter, we don't charge errors on those plays. No one says that baseball is entirely fair."
And that's how it has been scored, in the vast majority of instances, forever. Think of how many times you've seen balls that fall between fielders been scored as hits. Weller notes that Rios called off Odor, then did not make the play, which inclined him to charge the outfielder with an error.
Think back to the play from Game 1 of last season's division series between the Rays and Red Sox, in which right fielder Wil Myers called off the center fielder on a fly ball by Ortiz, then inexplicably pulled off the ball. Ortiz was given a double. Using Weller's reasoning, that should have been an error on Myers.
Shannon's view has always been the prevailing one, and in this case, was applied.