A ridiculous format, everything that’s wrong with MLB, a costly error, a costly injury, Tito to the Tribe, and there is no crying or magic in baseball.
What happened in Atlanta on Friday night was as disgusting as anything I’ve ever witnessed in MLB in my lifetime. After playing 162 games over the course of six months, the Atlanta Braves were forced to host the St. Louis Cardinals in a one game playoff to determine who would advance to the best-of-five round in the playoffs. Bud Selig’s brainchild was designed to “increase excitement” in the playoffs. Since the announcement of the playoff format for 2012 was announced, many of us were concerned with the randomness of a one game playoff, as well as the format under which the best-of-five round would be played. Many of us have been lamenting the sorry state of umpiring in MLB for quite some time, and this year’s umpiring was a new low. One of the greatest concerns I had about the one game playoff format was that one bad call could ruin an entire season for a team. On September 10th, I wrote the following article: http://yankeesfansunite.com/2012/09/10/travel-day-21/
All of those concerns were 100% validated on Friday night.
The Atlanta Braves finished six games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals this year and were clearly the better team. They may have been the better team on Friday night too, but we’ll never know.
Trailing 6-3 in the bottom of the 8th inning, the Braves had runners on first and second base with one out. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons came to the plate and hit a high fly ball to left field between Cardinals LF Matt Holliday and SS Pete Kozma. Kozma back pedaled to the ball, and at the last moment gave up on it, realizing that it was a play that Holliday was better suited to make. The only problem was that Holliday had given up on the ball already. As the ball fell to the ground with a thud, umpire Sam Holbrook stunned everyone watching and on the field by making the signal for the infield fly rule.
The official definition of the infield fly rule is as follows:
An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule.
When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare Infield Fly for the benefit of the runners. If the ball is near the baselines, the umpire shall declare Infield Fly, if Fair.
The ball is alive and runners may advance at the risk of the ball being caught, or retouch and advance after the ball is touched, the same as on any fly ball. If the hit becomes a foul ball, it is treated the same as any foul.
If a declared Infield Fly is allowed to fall untouched to the ground, and bounces foul before passing first or third base, it is a foul ball. If a declared Infield Fly falls untouched to the ground outside the baseline, and bounces fair before passing first or third base, it is an Infield Fly.
Rule 2.00 (Infield Fly) Comment: On the infield fly rule the umpire is to rule whether the ball could ordinarily have been handled by an infieldernot by some arbitrary limitation such as the grass, or the base lines. The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpires judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder. The infield fly is in no sense to be considered an appeal play. The umpires judgment must govern, and the decision should be made immediately.
When an infield fly rule is called, runners may advance at their own risk. If on an infield fly rule, the infielder intentionally drops a fair ball, the ball remains in play despite the provisions of Rule 6.05 (L). The infield fly rule takes precedence.
In layman’s terms, the two criteria for the establishment of an infield fly situation are that the play must be an ordinary one, and that the umpire must make the call immediately. The ball that Simmons hit was not an ordinary play, nor was it called immediately, to say the least.
As the infield fly rule is not a common call seen on a day-to-day basis, I wanted to ask the opinion of a friend before I decided how accurately or inaccurately that Holbrook had acted. I have a friend who umpires at the collegiate level and who umpires at the prestigious Cape Cod league every summer. I called him immediately and asked him what he thought of the call and he said that the umpire had blown the call badly in his opinion. He said that the generally accepted criteria for a play being ordinary and the rule being invoked was when the infielder making the play on the ball stopped moving his feet. He said that once the fielder stopped moving his feet and was set under the ball, that the infield fly rule must be invoked. The problem on the play in question was that Kozma never, EVER, stopped moving his feet. At no point in time was Kozma ever established under the ball as to make the play and ordinary play.
How would the inning have played out with bases loaded and All-Star catcher Brian McCann coming to the plate with one out? We’ll never know. While McCann drew a walk from Cardinals reliever Motte, you can’t assume that with bases loaded and only one out that Motte would have pitched McCann in the same fashion that he wound up pitching him.
The players and fans were denied a true and just outcome of this game. Playoff games are too important to be decided by incompetent umpires, and MLB’s insane refusal to join the other major sports in implementing full-scale instant replay never looked dumber than it did on Friday night.
Instead of talking about what should have been exciting baseball, the focus was strictly on everything that is wrong with MLB today, and that is very sad.
Home Sweet Home
The next time you hear from me, the Oakland A’s will probably be eliminated from the playoffs. That will be in no small part due to the insane format instituted by Nutty Buddy this year for the best-of-five series.
When you play 162 games and wind up with the second best record in your league, then wind up playing the first two games of a playoff series at the home of your opponent, who had the seventh best record in the same league, something is very wrong.
The biggest advantage of starting at home in a best-of-five series is facing the opponent’s best two pitchers at your stadium. This year, for reasons still unknown, MLB tweaked the best-of-five format in a most irrational fashion, forcing the higher seeds to begin on the road.
As roughly 75% of the best-of-five series in MLB playoff history have failed to go the full five games, the higher seed had only about a 25% chance of actually being able to play a deciding game five at home.
When someone can figure out exactly why this change in format was instituted, please drop me a line. I haven’t heard a single rational explanation yet.
While Coco Crisp‘s error in yesterday’s game in the A’s-Tigers series won’t go down in history in the proportion that Buckner’s error in the 1986 World Series did, it will linger over the Bay for quite some time.
Crisp’s error was the game deciding play yesterday that sent the A’s into an 0-2 deficit but overshadowed horrendous home plate umpiring in both of Oakland’s losses.
Anyone watching the first two games of this series had to be alarmed at the different strike zones for the pitchers of both teams.
Check out the strike zone maps by Brooks Baseball for Saturday’s game
The “love” Verlander got from the home plate umpire in this game was truly laughable, as the graphs don’t lie.
Yesterday’s game was even worse.
The two umpires working home plate in this series have earned NFL replacement ref status.
When will MLB take steps to insure fairly called games that the players decide?
Terry Francona’s year of rest came to an end this weekend when he was chosen to pilot the Cleveland Indians.
Fans will miss Francona in the broadcast booth, as he quickly gained accolades for speaking frankly and adding insight that was refreshing to listen to in an era of screaming television and radio personalities.
While his decision to accept the job with a team who is coming off of a very bad season may seem puzzling, Francona obviously couldn’t wait to get back in the dugout.
Francona had to deal with nonstop scrutiny and pressure in Boston, pressure that was rumored to have affected his health in an adverse fashion. Cleveland represents a good opportunity to cultivate a young team that is not totally devoid of talent. SS Asdrubal Cabrera and C Carlos Santana were signed to long-term contracts before the 2012 season and are the blocks that the Indians intend to build around.
A less demanding fan base and media market with the opportunity to manage young ballplayers may be exactly what the doctor ordered for Francona.
Sometimes people have to step outside the norm of their lives to find what they are looking for. Francona deserves thanks for making the game better to listen to while he was in the booth and I hope he finds success and happiness in Cleveland.
It is incredibly hard for me to listen to grown adults reciting woefully inaccurate cliches, superstitions, and attributing things they don’t understand to “magic”.
All season long, the Baltimore Orioles operated many standard deviations outside of the statistical norms in regards to their overall record in relation to their run differential vs. opponents, their record in extra inning games, and their record in one run games. “Magic” was used more times in relation to the Orioles than it was in the Houdini household.
Last night, with the Orioles tied with the Yankees 2-2 in the late innings, the key phrase being uttered and tweeted by irrational beings everywhere was “magic”. The TBS broadcasters bought in as well, seemingly sure that the Orioles would win the game in dramatic fashion. As a matter of fact, from the 5th inning on it seemed the broadcasters were eagerly awaiting and preparing those watching for what they apparently felt was the inevitable one run win over the Yankees.
In the top of the 9th inning, after Russell Martin homered, the announcers sounded sadder than the Orioles fan in attendance. By the time Robinson Cano had driven two more runs to blow the game wide open, the announcers sounded sad and dejected and shocked that a guy as talented as Cano could once again crush a pitch the opposite way and drive in two runs.
Earlier in the day in St. Louis, the broadcasters working the Cards-Nats game sounded stunned and suicidal when Tyler Moore‘s pinch-hit two run single in the 8th inning put the Nationals on top of the Cardinals.
All game long, the geniuses in the booth explained to everyone watching about the supposed “magic” that the Cardinals possess in the postseason.
Hopefully the TBS broadcast teams have gotten over the devastating blows to the “magic” they believe in and will be alright to work today’s games.