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Revisiting that pesky TV camera

11/2/2009

I know it's a day-old story, but sometimes these things take a while to percolate inside my fool head ...

    A day after Alex Rodriguez prompted the first video replay review in World Series and postseason history, the outfield landscape at Citizens Bank Park changed.

    Major League Baseball and FOX Sports, owners of the television camera that Rodriguez hit with his fourth-inning homer in Game 3 of the World Series, elected to push the right-field camera back several inches so that it no longer juts out into the field of play.

    "After close inspection by FOX and MLB, as a precaution, we've moved the right-field foul pole camera back slightly so that the edge of the lens is completely line with the top of the wall," Dan Bell, vice president of communications for FOX Sports, said in a statement.

    --snip--

    Replays clearly showed that the ball struck off the camera, which umpires had decided before the game would be ruled a home run.

    "We tour the field during the series whenever we go to a new ballpark and discuss specific ground rules and potential trouble areas just like that," crew chief Gerry Davis said after the game. "Because we cannot control what the cameraman does with the camera, one of the specific ground rules is when the ball hits the camera, home run."

When I read this, two big red flags popped out of my head.

1. Why are umpires making up ground rules? There are probably dozens of Major League Baseball executives running around the place, and the umps are making command decisions, hours before a decision positively must be made?

If nobody else noticed that camera before the umpires did, they should have alerted Major League Baseball, which could have either ordered that the camera be relocated (ever so slightly) or set the ground rule. Frankly, this is (or should be) above the umpires' pay grade.

and

2. Why did the umpires need a ground rule anyway? Ground rules are meant to be fair, and to avoid confusion. But in this case, the camera could have come under the purview of MLB's video-review rules. What the umpires could (and should) have said -- if they didn't want to get their employers involved in such a mundane matter -- is, "Gee, a baseball hitting that camera where it's hanging over the fence is a 10,000-to-1 shot. But if it happens, we'll check the video. That's what it's there for!"

Of course, they did check the video, but only to see if the ball hit the camera. Which it obviously did; automatic home run. To be fair, though, someone should have determined, as best they could, whether that ball would have carried the fence if it hadn't struck the camera. Most people think it would have. I'm not so sure. But I think that would have been an interesting discussion to have.

The bottom line is that the camera simply shouldn't have been sitting where it was. Lesson learned, I hope.