Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Umpires help Indians beat Athletics
By David Schoenfield
You blew it.
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The Oakland Athletics and Cleveland Indians played a good baseball game on a sleepy Wednesday night in early May, the Indians winning 4-3. The A's scored three runs in the fourth off Justin Masterson -- bunching the only four hits they would get off Masterson in his seven innings. One of those innings that can just happen in the middle of an otherwise strong pitching performance. The Indians scored twice in the fifth without getting the ball out of the infield -- two walks, an infield single, a force at home and then a potential double play that Adam Rosales threw in the dirt and past first baseman Daric Barton, allowing two runs to score. Just one of those innings that happen from time to time during the long grind of a baseball season.
Then the Indians took a 4-3 lead in the sixth doing what they've been doing a lot of lately -- hitting home runs. Nick Swisher and then Carlos Santana connected off A.J. Griffin fastballs with long home runs. Swisher swatted a 2-1 four-seamer that was left up and away (catcher John Jaso wanted the pitch in) for a 404-foot blast to right-center, and then Santana clocked a nearly identical 3-1 pitch well over the center-field fence. One of those innings that happen when you fall behind in the count and your fastball checks in at only 90 mph.
We should be talking about Cleveland and its ninth win in 10 games, but instead the umpires blew a call in the top of the ninth. With two outs, Rosales drilled a Chris Perez fastball off the top of the left-center wall for a double. Replays seemed to clearly show the ball hitting off the railing behind the wall for a game-tying home run.
After a review that lasted nearly as long as the Twins-Red Sox game, the umpires emerged from the replay dungeon. Second-base umpire Angel Hernandez pointed to second base. Double. A's manager Bob Melvin proceeded to get very angry. The on-site consensus agreed that it was a home run:
After the game, Hernandez told reporters there wasn't enough evidence to overturn the call. Except there was. What's the point of having a replay system if you're still going to blow the call? Did the four umpires all watch the same replays and all agree? Hard to believe. Even Indians fans were tweeting that it was a home run.
Perez loaded the bases before finally get a ground ball back to the mound to end it -- Perez sprinted over to first base to record the out himself -- but the blown call tainted the final result. Suddenly, just another game in May could end up having huge ramifications by the time we get to the final week in September. What if the A's miss the playoffs by one win, or fall short by a game in the division race? A's fans will remember this game, that's for sure. The right call wouldn't have guaranteed them a victory, of course, but it at least would have extended the game and let the players decide the outcome.
I'm not usually one to knock the umpires, and every mistake they make gets thrust into the spotlight, fairly or not. But some of the recent negative publicity could have easily been avoided -- the David Price/Tom Hallion altercation in which Hallion ended up publicly calling Price a liar; the ridiculous ejection the other day of Bryce Harper by John Hirschbeck (MLB decided not to fine Harper, leading to his classic quote: "That's great. I'm glad I don't have to pay the $1,000. That's another $1,000 in my pocket"); and now this blown call that may have cost the A's the game.
None of this should be happening. We should be talking about Swisher and his joyous trot around the bases, his smile as wide as Lake Erie, and then his even more joyful reaction when Santana tied it a few moments later. We should be talking about Santana's incredible start (.358/.455/.674) or how the Indians have hit 21 home runs during this 9-1 stretch and averaged 6.7 runs per game. We should be talking about Barton's return to the majors and his mountain-man beard that would make Josh Reddick proud, or whether or not Rosales should have turned that double play.
Instead we're talking about Angel Hernandez, railings and another fiasco by the umpires. They have to do better.