No cause to replay Sunday’s ninth inning

A debate about Sunday’s triple play has been launched by this Dave Cameron column at Fangraphs. You can read the comments there to see it unfold.

Cameron argues that Major League Baseball should step in and order the game to be replayed from the moment umpire Dale Scott appeared to signal a foul ball on Jesus Guzman’s ill-fated bunt. His two main points: The call was different from the typical blown umpire’s call, and its effect on the outcome of the game could have affect this year’s playoff races.

I’m a friend and fan of Cameron’s, but we don’t see eye-to-eye on this at all — and I’d feel the same way if the call had gone the opposite way. (Longtime readers will be familiar with my live-and-let-live approach to on umpire rulings.) It was at best a confusing play, at worst an incorrect one, but in the end, one of those things that we live with every day in baseball.

Here’s my longest statement in the comments:

Even if Scott had been perfect on the play, did you see how fast Ellis picks up the ball and fires to third? The Dodgers certainly get two outs on the play (third and first) if not the out at second as well. Dale Scott did not keep the Padres from having a bases-loaded situation.

That said, the result isn’t the thing that determines my opinion on this. I realize the issue is Dave’s contention that the play should be dead from the moment the arms were waved (assuming that’s even something in the rule book – I’m not sure if it is or isn’t). However, the umpires huddled, discussed the play and made a decision. At that point, it’s in the books unless it’s protested and the protest is upheld.

If the Padres protested the call, I’m not aware of it.

I think the whole pinning the fate of the playoffs on this call is part of what’s off base in this column. Because there are so many bad calls that affect wins and losses, the idea that this one in particular needs to be addressed to save the integrity of the postseason, even given the play’s unusual genesis, is melodrama defined. Dave is basically arguing that the Dodgers have a tainted win, despite the fact that there would probably have been at least two outs on the play had it been called without drama and despite the fact that the Dodgers scored in the bottom of the ninth. He’s making a pretty massive leap. Do you think there won’t be a bad call against the Dodgers this year that costs them a game?

It was an unusual play that might have hurt the Padres, but they had the rest of the game to overcome it, just like the Dodgers did in the season opener when Dee Gordon was incorrectly called out for stealing, and in Game 2 when Ethier was incorrectly called out at home.

If the umpires had decided to rule foul ball on the field, based on Scott’s arm-waving, I wouldn’t have had a problem with that at all.

But the idea that MLB should step in on this play today, after the umpires had time to discuss it and after the Padres deemed it unworthy of protest – something, with the mid-inning break, they had ample opportunity to do — just doesn’t hold water.

  • Anonymous

    There was no protest filed.

    • Adam Luther

      As it should be.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-Bartholomew/1467188022 Bob Bartholomew

    I think they should replay the 1978 WS game 4 where Reggie Jackson stuck his big fat hip in the way of Bill Russell’s throw. :) 

    • Daniel Zappala

      That bugged me so much when I was a kid!

    • Anonymous

       I thought Lasorda was negligent in not arguing that call, and appealing to another umpire.

    • Anonymous

      And boy did it look FAT in retrospect!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ryan.hindinger Ryan Hindinger

    Until baseball can institute a workable instant replay review rule, the teams have to live with this kind of chaotic situation.  Frankly I think the triple play was as good an example as any that video review is something Baseball desparately needs.

    • Anonymous

      How does video rectify the situation?  No one argues the ball was fair.  The only argument was whether an umpire’s hand signals designate a time out (which is not in the rule book as far as I can see).  Basically the lesson is, play out the play or live with the consequences.

      • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

         If Scott wasn’t aware of how his arms looked, and saw the replay, and realized the impact it had, I can see where that might be of value. But generally, I think this play was just one of those things.

        • Anonymous

          It was a strange thing to watch unfold at the game.  But if the 3 other umpires (including the one at third base who immediately signaled out after Ellis threw the ball to Uribe) didn’t think the play was dead, can’t see how looking at it would change things.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/R4TFGFUODUFEHZ2ZJF24GITKTA Chiefs12

        The call should be Foul Ball, DEAD BALL. Not foul ball……. then fair ball when people are standing around. Have you ever seen it when a batter will foul off a ball off of their leg and it rolls fair. That is a DEAD Ball, just as this idiot umpire initially signaled.

        • http://twitter.com/wdevil67 Scott Griffee

          A ball is not declared “dead” or “foul” until an ump actually declares it (i.e. audibly) “foul” or “dead”. 

          Think about when an ump calls for “time out”.  He has to yell out “time” and then “play ball”.

        • Anonymous

          The play was called correctly as a fair ball.  Nobody is arguing about that.  The ball hit his bat, then the ground and rolled fair.  That should be ruled a fair ball, in play, which is what the umpiring crew did in fact rule.

  • Adam Luther

    Arms raised is not in the rule book, and the win is not tainted.  Guzman bailed out on the play and made no attempt to run to first.  Kudos to Guerra and Ellis.  My guess is that Scott did not “call foul” otherwise Ellis perhaps doesn’t make the throw for risk of throwing it by Uribe.  At a minimum he could have tagged Guzman out (the force still would be on with one out) but instead, he plays the ball in fair territory and thus makes history.

    • http://twitter.com/wdevil67 Scott Griffee

      That is the point I’ve raised to my friends that never umpired before.  Had Scott made an audible “foul ball” call, or his flailing arm movement cause the base umpires to call “foul ball”, then I would agree that the play should be deemed dead.

      An audible “foul ball” is what officially kills a play.  Ellis’ reaction tells me that Scott never called the ball foul.  Guzman was 10 feet to the left of home plate so he was at least 100 ft. from first base.  The very least that would have occurred even if the Padres were not “confused” by Scott’s arm movements was that the runner going to 3rd and Guzman would have been out, but my guess is that there may have very well been a triple play turned anyway.

      The Padre runner at first and Guzman should never have “reacted” to Scott’s gesture anyways.  They should have been running until they heard “foul”, or the base umpires at 2nd and 1st waved the play off in front of them.  Why were they looking at Scott?

      It was just a screwy play – how does a ball going directly at a player’s chest hit the handle of the bat between his hands (and crack the bat, btw – I heard it!) and the ball not touch the batter or go foul?  THAT is what caused the runners and Guzman to freeze, IMO.

      • Anonymous

        Until a ball stops rolling or has been touched in foul territory or passes a corner base in fair territory, the play is alive.  An umpire holding his arms up is saying he can’t make a call yet.

        • http://twitter.com/wdevil67 Scott Griffee

          Yes and no.  In all honesty, Scott should not have had his hands up because it could be confusing.  There is no such “I don’t know” gesture an umpire should be making.  But without an audible “foul ball!”, all offensive and defensive players should treat the ball as alive and/or fair.

          I will concede that I’ve seen too many umpires, from Little League to professional level, call balls foul too soon.  This especially happens on dribblers around home plate.

          Unless the ball hits the batter, catcher, umpire, or something else in foul territory, there should be no rush to declare a ball foul.  Let the runners run in out – if they ball rolls foul and comes to rest, the runners return to the base they start at – no harm done.

          THAT is my criticism with the Padres – neither of the two base runners were more than a couple feet off the base and the batter actually was further from first base than he was prior to the pitch!     

          • John Blanchard

            Whoo, Scott. You nailed it again! Great responses.

      • John Blanchard

        Scott, you nailed it. I always say *everyone* should have a year or two behind the dish (or on the field, whatever) to understand the minutiae of umpiring. Just like you said, it’s a screwy play. The umpires count on the players to act like professionals also. Guzman, if he was the ultimate professional, would’ve high-tailed it for first when he realized that, by rule, that ball was live, and most certainly could’ve been a fair ball. The gentleman down here in Lakewood that taught me umpiring always said that the worst umpires were ballplayers, because they don’t know the rules.

  • Adam Luther

    And Jon I agree that “calls” go either for or against teams all the time, and that if instant replay would be ushered in on every type of play that could go either way, that sure wouldn’t make for “moving the game along” for speedy play.

    BTW if they want to speed up the game, just raise the mounds again.

  • Anonymous

    You can use video review this year for fair/foul calls. And it was done yesterday in Boston.

    The rulebook states that the ball is in play until the umpire CALLS “Time.”

    • Anonymous

      Pretty sure no one said he did that.

    • Adam Luther

      Yep “CALLS”.  Perhaps MLB and umpiring schools will have to revisit the rules and utilize megaphones.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Marlon Byrd has had enough with the negativity in Jackie Robinson Day stories  http://yhoo.it/IRnjUS

    • Anonymous

      I am not sure about the best relief pitcher in New York being African American but a nice thought by Byrd.

  • T.M. Brown

    Jon, good to see you over on FG taking them to task on this whole thing. I’m not sure when devoted sabermetricians crossed the line from statistics driven analysis to dehumanizing baseball. Calls, bad  or good or controversial (this one is probably all three), are part of the game. I was sitting in the front row of the reserve and was glad to say I saw one of the most bizzarre plays of my 23 year old baseball viewing life!

    • T.M. Brown

      Also, from little league to HS where my playing career stopped we were coached to run whether we thought it was foul or fair and not leave it up to chance. 

      • Adam Luther

        Bingo.  Guzman did everything right accept he didn’t run.  Of course if he runs, then for certain Ellis throws to third and nails the runner, or does he?  We’ll never know.

        • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

           I think Guzman was in shock and happy he was still alive. But the other guys were way too close to their bases to put all the blame on Scott.

          • Adam Luther

            I’m kicking myself for leaving early yesterday but that’s another story…can’t agree more on Guzman…also Guerra must have been salivating that Guzman the clean-up hitter was called to bunt and not hit away with no outs and a runner in scoring position.  So much for that home/away cliche.  

          • http://twitter.com/wdevil67 Scott Griffee

            Exactly, Jon.  I was at the game behind the plate on the field level and heard the bat crack – it was obvious to me the ball hit the bat and not Guzman’s chest.  I did not know if it subsequently hit him, but I’m sure Scott did not yell “foul ball” or ALL action on the field would have stopped.

            The Padre players were confused with what happened – Scott’s semi-foul ball gesture or not.  Guzman did not run – in fact, he backed away 5 to 10 feet.  The Dodgers get AT LEAST a double play on the play even if Scott had not made any call.

        • Anonymous

          Yes, except the catcher had to wait for the ball to roll into fair territory.  If  he picks it up too soon, it is a foul ball.  The runners can not be called out if the ball is foul so might as well run.  If the runner on third is standing next to home plate waiting for the ball to either be picked up foul or fair, he either scores or walks back to third safely.

          San Diego can’t protest a game for stupid base running without being laughed at even more.

          • John Blanchard

            Man, this blog is waaaaay smarter than the stands at a typical HS/Pony baseball game.

  • Adam Luther

    The first base umpire (signaling the third out), does not verbally call “out” and gives a rather restrained out signal.  Why?  The play at first was not close since Guzman made no attempt to run.  The official rules could be stretched enough to indicate that only on close plays should a call even be made (safe or out is assumed-hence the first base umpire does not always call “safe” upon a runner reaching first on a non-close play) and an accompanying gesture is simply an add-on.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/WJIZD64EG2GE77HFFMKC6EBDRI zjh

    this silly contoversy is distracting everyone from what is the main issue; the padres are a terrible mismanaged ballclub.

    ignoring the umps “mistake”, the padres would still hvae found a way to lose.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/WJIZD64EG2GE77HFFMKC6EBDRI zjh

    also, the dodgers had some well deserved good karma on their side on jackie robinsons day.

    long live the bison.

  • cburkhardt

    Spot on analysis, Jon. Calls go both ways. That’s inherent in the human element of umpiring. Thanks for putting this in context with Gordon’s stolen stolen base, and Ethier’s stolen run.

  • Anonymous

    In the context of Guzman’s failed bunt attempt, we should also give credit where credit is due: Juan Uribe, also rarely called on to bunt, got it down in the bottom of the inning.

    • Anonymous

      yes, he could give Harang a few pointers

  • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

    I agree with all arguments being made here. But also on the notion that the inning should be replayed, you would also be taking away the Dodgers efforts to load the bases and Dee Gordon’s hit. How could you take that away from a team because you thought the other team may have been wronged? Silly.

  • Anonymous

    Jon, thanks for having Shawn Coyne write about his Harvard Park documentary.  My daughter and I watched it on Sunday and we both enjoyed it.

  • Anonymous

    The point is the Dodgers played the play out–and the Pads didn’t run the play out —-Oh well.
    The Dodgers have got a lot of luck in the early going and that usually evens out. So I won’t feel bad until that happens.

  • John Blanchard

    If the umpire had a chance to do it all over again, he never would’ve raised his arms. I guarantee he’s sorry he did that, although it was certainly a screwy play. It’s hard to be perfect, and one would’ve had to be absolutely dead-on perfect to handle that play. He likely couldn’t really “see” the bat hit the ball and was trying to assess what happened on the fly. That ball hits the batter something like 90% of the time, I’d guess?

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    FYI, the Dodger Thoughts era from ESPNLA has now been imported into the current site’s archives, which are at the bottom of the sidebar. 
    You can also see pre-2009 Dodger Thoughts posts via the Baseball Toaster website.
    The DT era at the L.A. Times is currently MIA.  

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT

  • Anonymous

    MLB senior vice president Peter Woodfork released the following statement on Monday afternoon after investigating the play (via Gaslamp Ball):
    .”After review and discussion with the umpire, we have determined that the call itself of a fair ball was correct. However, while making the call, there was an incorrect mechanic, which appeared to confuse San Diego’s base runners. At no time did the umpire verbally kill the play on the field. After reviewing the entire situation following the game, the umpire realizes his hands were in an exaggerated upward appearance similar to a call that would indicate a dead ball. While we all agree that it was a fair ball that did not hit the batter, the umpire recognizes that the proper mechanic was not executed as he tried to avoid the catcher.”
    .
    Per http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/dodgers-turn-first-2-5-4-3-triple-023719180.html

  • http://twitter.com/noodleyack Ted Moore

    I think the action of replayability is questionable….but the real issue was the way the call was handled on the field.  It COULD have been remedied on the spot…sorry guys..I called it foul…let’s redo this.  This action was ignored by 3 other umpires, and the umpire who KNEW he had made a dead ball signal.  Letting the call stand, especially now when we can clearly see he made an incorrect hand signal is atrocious, the argument of letting bad calls stand is ludicrous when a real and actionable reparation is available.  Replay the at bat and rest of the game, next time fix this when you are ON the field and save everyone time.

  • Anonymous

    Jon-W .. discovered your site via an espn link .. thanks for this avenue to discuss the Dodgers and their quest to ‘Hoist the Hardware’..

    Padres are all ‘Class’ w/ concern to the play that was befuddlement defined.. 

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/nationals/padres-moving-on-from-bizarre-triple-play-against-dodgers/2012/04/16/gIQATTwUMT_story.html

    safe travels

  • Anonymous

    A little late with my response, but…On the triple paly  – I watched the replay several times and I think everyone is missing what the umpire did.  Right after the bunt, Scott leaned in, then stepped backed very quickly with his body and at the same time his arms went up to get out of the way of Ellis (to not interfer with him) who jumped up quickly to field the ball. For some reason, he left his arms up and didn’t make a call right away – then with his arms still up, point fair with his right hand.

    Scott probably thought that he had not raised his arms since it was a natural reaction to get out of the way of the play.