Regular readers of this space know I’ve been a big advocate of instant replay in baseball. I’ve always felt it was an excellent move to allow a second look at disputed home runs to get calls right (like Alex Rodriguez’s doink off the FOX camera in Philadelphia during the 2009 World Series). I want to add one NFL-style manager’s challenge per game for things like a play at the bases, a fair or foul call or a trap/catch in the outfield.
I think the system can work and teams would likely hold on to their challenge for the late innings, so the game time would hardly be affected. The home run calls for the most part work just as intended right now. But then we have a situation like Wednesday night in Cleveland. That one is just completely inexplicable.
If you missed it, let’s reset the scenario: Indians lead Oakland, 4-3, with two outs in the top of the ninth, and Adam Rosales takes Tribe closer Chris Perez deep to left atop the 19-foot wall at Progressive Field. The ball hits near the top and bounces back on the field as Rosales stops at second with an apparent double.
A’s manager Bob Melvin comes out and requests a replay look, which the umpires easily give him. The replay is clear: The ball hit a railing atop the bleachers above the yellow home run line and bounced back on the field. Zero doubt. Zero gray area. Home run. Tie game.
But nooooooo. The umpires come back and rule the play a double. Crew chief Angel Hernandez quickly ejects an irate Melvin (technically correct by the rules, since you can’t argue a replay decision) and the A’s go on to lose, 4-3.
Hernandez is universally hailed as one of the worst umpires in the game. He was one of the worst in the American Association when he came through Buffalo 20 years ago and was one of the most reviled in that league. People back then were floored he got a promotion to the big leagues and observers can’t believe he’s still on the field two decades later.
You want the height of Hernandez’s arrogance Wednesday night? He did an interview with a pool reporter, veteran Athletics beat writer Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. But prior to taking questions he told Slusser – who is the president of the Baseball Writers Association of America – that he would not do the interview unless she turned off a tape recorder.
Legally within his rights, sure. But not really done much anymore. Unless you want to be able to later deny your words and say you’re misquoted. Terrible. Hernandez, by the way, said the views the crew saw were inconclusive. Sure. Nice accountability.
Retired Braves third baseman Chipper Jones took to Twitter on Thursday in a series of tweets ripping Hernandez that ended with “I can see the powers that be in the MLB offices, rolling their eyes, thinking to themselves, ‘oh no, Angel is at it again’!”
Jones won’t be fined, but some Athletics players probably will be for violating MLB’s social media policy against criticizing umpires. Tweeted reliever Pat Neshek: “Was going to go to the casino tonight but don’t feel like getting robbed again.” Added fellow pen mate Jerry Blevins, “There is a need for accountability of MLB w/ blown call tonight. We are clearly not on same level as NFL, NBA, NHL on replays. No excuses.”
He’s right. There are none. It’s fairly obvious MLB needs to either go the NFL route with a replay umpire in a booth above the field to make calls or an NHL-style war room in New York that has multiple angles on big screens in HD to ferret out the decision.
I’ve never worried about the time to make these choices. The umps leave the field now and it takes time. And ultimately, a replay decision often goes faster than all the gyrations a manager will do to protest a call that never gets changed on the field. At least MLB executive vice president for baseball operations Joe Torre admitted the umpires goofed.
Said Torre, “We recognize that an improper call was made. Perfection is an impossible standard in any endeavor, but our goal is always to get the calls right.”
Umpire supervisor Randy Marsh was sent to Cleveland Thursday to discuss the play with the umpires and to find out if all replay equipment was working. It was. No kidding. The men in blue blew this one.
Now they should fix it for the long term. Take replay out of the umps’ hands.
Jays get one right
At least the Blue Jays aren’t hard-headed. They basically admitted a wrong when they sent former ace Ricky Romero to the Bisons Thursday, which is where he should have been sent following his work in Class A to start the season. Now it will be up to Bisons pitching coach and former big-league veteran Bob Stanley to see if he can help Romero recapture the delivery that was suddenly lost last season and never came back this spring.
The arms in the top levels of the Blue Jays organization are in shambles right now. Josh Johnson is hurt while R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle have struggled with ineffectiveness. Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchinson are still coming back from Tommy John surgery. The Bisons entered the weekend with a starters ERA for May over 6.00 and scouts are chuckling at how they had the oldest rotation anywhere with 40-year-olds Miguel Batista and Ramon Ortiz on the roster.
One bright light to follow: Marcus Stroman, Toronto’s No. 1 pick last year, is just about ready to go to Double-A. The 21-year-old was suspended 50 games for testing positive for a stimulant last summer and has been stretched out as a starter in extended spring camp. He’s a viable option for the Bisons and even as a spot starter in the big leagues.
• The amazing run of the Pawtucket Red Sox sending radio announcers to the big leagues has continued with word that new PawSox voice Bob Socci is leaving July 1 to replace legendary Gil Santos as the voice of the New England Patriots. Socci had called Navy football since 1997. Dan Hoard, who called PawSox games from 2006-11, left last year for the Cincinnati Bengals.
On the baseball side, the PawSox have an all-star lineup of big-league voices that graduated from Rhode Island that includes Gary Cohen (Mets), Don Orsillo (Red Sox), Dave Flemming (Giants), Andy Freed (Rays), Dave Jageler (Nationals) and Aaron Goldsmith (Mariners), who worked in Pawtucket last season. I spent several winter nights with Freed as well because he was also the voice of Rider University basketball, a MAAC rival of Canisius and Niagara, at the start of this century.
• Best team the Bisons have seen so far has easily been the Norfolk Tides. Baltimore’s affiliate came to town last week and won three out of four. And who’s the Orioles’ director of minor-league operations? Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Brian Graham, the manager of the Herd from 1995-1997 and the holder of the franchise’s modern-era record for most victories until Marty Brown broke it in April.
• Quite a run of rehab assignments in the International League of late. Michael Bourn returned to Cleveland from Columbus on Thursday, the same day Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson opened a stint at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Braves slugger Jason Heyward got into the lineup at Gwinnett. Bisons officials are hoping to see Jose Reyes in Buffalo sometime after the all-star break.
Around & About
• With Eduardo Nunez hurting and a short bench after needing to make pinch-hitting moves with no DH, the Yankees used Vernon Wells at third base Wednesday at Colorado. When was the last time the veteran outfielder had come into the infield? “I got hit in the mouth when I was 12 at second base and I moved to the outfield,” Wells said. “In high school, report cards came out and our entire infield failed, so I had to go play short.”
• The NHL’s Kings and Ducks are saving what’s otherwise a black hole of sports in Los Angeles, especially since Mike Scioscia of the Angels and Don Mattingly of the Dodgers are vying for first manager to be fired. They’re easily the most disappointing teams in baseball, non-Blue Jays division.
• The open disgrace that is the Miami Marlins continued Wednesday with the announcement the Fish will be closing the upper bowl at Marlins Park for six dates during a nine-game homestand that begins Tuesday. That will cut capacity down to about 27,000, which is no big deal with the average paid crowd at 18,864 and the reported in-house crowds much smaller. All this in a publicly-funded park in its second year of existence. What a mess.