Posted July 16, 2013

The seven worst things about the blown call in Wednesday’s Indians-A’s game

Bad umpiring, Cleveland Indians, Oakland A's
Bob Melvin and Angel Hernandez

Bob Melvin’s protestations fell on the deaf ears of Angel Hernandez. (AP)

The blown call in Wednesday night’s A’s-Indians game may not have been the single Worst Instant Replay Mistake Ever, but it has to be in the running. Even if you’re not a fan of either team, it is infuriating on at least seven different levels and a complete embarrassment to Major League Baseball. Consider the following seven reasons:

1. This isn’t about the need for expanding instant replay, this is an egregious error within the system already in place

MLB introduced the technology to handle boundary calls back in late 2008, allowing umpires to review instant replay to determine whether a batted ball is a home run or not. While much discussion has taken place since then about expanding the range of calls that can be reviewed — fair or foul calls down the lines, caught or trap calls, safe or out on the basepaths — none of that has been added to the menu, to the frustration of many.

But this wasn’t about some futuristic if-only-it-could-be-reviewed scenario where men with opposable thumbs wonder how they can be used to grasp the obvious, this was exactly the type of call the current system was designed to address. The A’s Adam Rosales hit a drive to left-centerfield that at first glance appeared to carom off the top of the wall, and initially looked to be a double. The video, however, made it clear that the ball hit the railing above the yellow home run line before deflecting back into the field of play. A’s manager Bob Melvin asked the umpires to review the call, as was his right. The umpires did, but concluded that they didn’t have enough evidence to overturn the call. Said crew chief Angel Hernandez, who worked second base during the game, “It was not evident on the TV we had that it was a home run. … I don’t know what kind of replay you had, but you can’t reverse a call unless there’s 100 percent evidence.”

Amid the mess, ESPN’s Jayson Stark offered a potential defense of Hernandez via Twitter: “One possible defense of Angel Hernandez: Umps have complained to MLB they don’t always see same replay angles we see. Only feasible alibi.” Today, MLB Advanced Media executive vice president Dinn Mann responded via Twitter by saying, “The umpires do have hd monitors and access to extensive replay angles,” and added,”They do see the same video, in hd, during the review process. Ability to overrule centrally is missing.”

2. Even the Indians knew the call was wrong

Indians closer Chris Perez, who served up Rosales’ (non)homer, told MLB.com reporters after the game:

“Honestly, I saw it hit the yellow line and come down. So I thought it was in play still… Obviously, coming back in here, I saw different. Off the bat, I thought it was a homer. He hit it pretty good. It sounded like a homer. But then it came down, and I thought we had some life.

“They went and reviewed it. The longer it went, the more I thought, ‘All right. They’re going to say it’s a homer.’ Luckily, the call came in our favor. I don’t think I’ve ever been on the other side of a replay like that, but I’ve definitely been on the other side of bad calls and missed strikes and stuff like that. It’s part of the game. We’ll definitely take it.”

3. The call influenced the outcome of a game.

The A’s were trailing 4-3 at the time, with two outs in the top of the ninth inning. Had Rosales’ hit been ruled a home run, the game would have been tied. While Oakland subsequently loaded the bases when Perez hit Eric Sogard and walked John Jaso, Perez induced Seth Smith to hit a game-ending groundout.

Obviously, there’s no way to know whether the A’s would have prevailed after tying the game, or whether the Indians would have come back to win anyway, but both teams deserved an even shot at determining that themselves, rather than one benefiting from a clear mistake. Furthermore, it’s one thing to blow such a call in the early innings, as each team has many chances to work around such a mistake. This one happened when the A’s had one out to go, thus increasing the importance of the situation.

Through the Win Probability Added metric, which uses the base-out-score margin situation to calculate each team’s chances of winning at any point in the game, one can actually quantify the difference the blown call made. To do so, I went straight to the source: Baseball-Reference.com founder Sean Forman, whose site includes WPA data in each box score. When Rosales came to the plate the A’s had just a 3 percent chance of winning the game, the Indians a 97 percent chance. After the double, that chance increased to 11 percent, but had he homered, Forman calculated that the A’s would have had a 40 percent chance of winning; the Indians still had the bottom of the ninth to come back. In other words, the A’s chance of winning would have nearly quadrupled had the call been right.

Had the same scenario — nobody on, two outs, Indians ahead by one run — taken place in the third inning, the A’s would have had a 34 percent chance of winning when Rosales came to the plate, and a 36 percent chance after the double; had the double instead been a home run, Oakland’s odds would have increased to 46 percent, a much smaller swing.

4. It’s not reversible

There’s simply no precedent for a commissioner reversing an on-field result. The replay rules don’t allow for the game to be played under protest, which would allow the two teams to return to the spot of the misapplied rule and replay the remainder of the game – which is what happened 30 years ago in the infamous “Pine Tar Game” between the Royals and Yankees, when a go-ahead ninth-inning home run by Kansas City’s George Brett was taken away by umpires but restored by American League president Lee MacPhail, with the rest of the action replayed from that point several weeks later.

5. The game has the potential to influence the postseason picture for both teams

One game can be the difference between a team making the playoffs or going hunting in early October, and the addition of a second wild-card team in each league puts four teams in a one-and-done situation before the Division Series even begin. Look no further than last year’s AL West race to demonstrate the difference one game can make. The 93-68 A’s and Rangers squared off on the last day of the regular season, and Oakland’s 12-5 victory gave it the division title with 94 wins. The Rangers, who spent much of the season with the league’s best record, were bumped into the wild-card game, which they lost to the Orioles, abruptly ending their season.

The 2013 A’s have an 18-17 record after Wednesday night’s loss, putting them 3 1/2 games behind the Rangers in the AL West, and 2 1/2 behind the Yankees in the race for the second wild-card spot. The Indians now have a 17-14 record, two games back in the AL Central and 1 1/2 back in the wild-card race. Had the outcome been different, a 19-16 A’s team would have been the ones 1 1/2 back in the wild card, while a 16-15 Indians team would have been 2 1/2 back. Obviously, there’s a long season ahead, but what if this same mistake occurred in a game on Sept. 29, the final day of the season?

At the other end of the spectrum, even if the playoff picture isn’t altered by the outcome of a single game, a one-game change in either direction can change draft orders and bonus pool money. Given the historical difference in value returned by the overall number one and number two picks — the former has proven roughly twice as valuable as the latter — what if such a blown call changed who got first pick? The fate of a franchise could be changed.

6. This particular mistake involved an umpire with a reputation for making trouble

Following a 2011 ejection, Rangers manager Ron Washington said, “Angel is just bad. That’s all there is to it.” Indeed, Hernandez is less popular than many third world dictators. A 2011 Sports Illustrated poll of anonymous players included him among the game’s five worst umpires. He was among the three worst in a 2010 ESPN poll, and his name has similarly popped up in other such polls for most of a decade.

On an annual basis, Hernandez is involved in multiple controversies, blowing calls left and right with impunity, and acting belligerently towards players and managers. In 2011, MLB took the unusual step of breaking up the umpire crew that included Hernandez and the similarly reviled Joe West due to an excessive number of ejections.

Yet the 51-year-old Hernandez, who’s been in the major leagues since 1991, not only continues to work but to receive postseason assignments; he’s worked a Division Series in three of the past four postseasons and seven of the past 16, and he has four League Championship and and two World Series assignments in that span, though none since 2005. As part of the umpires’ union, he can’t be fired, and if he’s disciplined, it happens in secret.

Unlike players, umpires such as Hernandez aren’t publicly accountable for their mistakes. They’re shielded from the typical throng of postgame reporters that players and managers must face even after they make game-changing mistakes. In situations such as this one, umpires will only speak to one member of the media who acts as pool reporter and shares the responses with everyone else. On Wednesday night, that responsibility fell to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Susan Slusser, who happens to be the current president of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Hernandez wouldn’t even allow the interview to be recorded (a common tactic for anyone wanting to later claim they were misquoted), and wouldn’t answer many of Slusser’s questions:

I asked several questions about the angles available and the quality of the replay equipment but he repeated only that they did not find that there was enough evidence to reverse the call. I also asked if he believes that it would be better for a centralized office to review plays, much the way the NHL does in New York, and he declined to answer, referring me to the league office.

On Melvin’s ejection, Hernandez said, “When there is a replay, he can’t argue it, no question.”

7. All of this will happen again

Late last year, MLB experimented with two technologies for aiding fair/foul and caught/trapped calls but at the general manager’s meetings in November, the league and the teams decided to spend another year researching a more all-encompassing solution that could handle outs at every base. Unlike when the boundary call rule was introduced down the stretch in 2008, there’s no plan to implement a new solution in time for the 2013 postseason, and so calls all over the field may continue to be blown.

Furthermore, from the sound of Mann’s comments, it sounds as though MLB is unwilling to use the existing technology to centralize the review process at MLBAM headquarters in Manhattan, allowing video reviewers there to advise or overrule umpires’ decisions during currently allowed replay situations.

All of this is enough to make a baseball fan tear his or her hair out. A new system can’t come about soon enough.

73 comments
tukwilatommygun
tukwilatommygun

i find it incredibly stupid to write that as a union member, he can not be fired.  that is bs.  he can be fired for stealing, coming to weork unable to work(drunk)  poor attendance or striking another union member, for the first few reasons.

mgbuening
mgbuening

Replay is ruining all sports.  The NCAA basketball tournament was horrible when we had to wait endlessly for replay analysis essentially giving each team an extra time-out or two especially in the final minutes of the games.  Replay in football is annoying.  I quite watching baseball on TV years ago but why in the world do you need replay in baseball of all things?  If you aren't going to use a robot to rule on balls and strikes then I see no reason to use technology anywhere else.

There is this weird fascination in America, I don't know about anywhere else, with getting things "right" or near perfect.  I find the NHL's system of calling goals from a centralized office insulting.  We are humans and sports is supposed to be about humans trying to reach a high level of physical accomplishment.  That requires rules and officials to enforce the rules.  Those officials are human too and that's just part of the mix.

If this blown call means some baseball player misses out on a big financial bonus, or a team doesn't make the playoffs, etc. etc. I really don't care - it is just a game.  If you don't want to be at the mercy of the officials judgement then hit the ball 2" higher.

mgbuening
mgbuening like.author.displayName 1 Like

One more tidbit - as if anyone cares what I think.  But if an umpire repeated makes bad calls that umpire should be fired.  Not babysat by a camera in NY or overruled by a robot on the field.

bjvande
bjvande

 If you are as incensed as I am about this, go over to MLB.com, click on contact MLB customer support, and send them them your fan feedback.    If they get flooded with emails about the best interests of baseball being to allow this home run, and play from there, just maybe something will get done.  


Bill Simonson
Bill Simonson like.author.displayName 1 Like

1. Teachers   2. Police  3. Fire  4.  All other unions- lazy and inefective workers are "protected" by the Union- can't have any dues paying scum getting fired


tukwilatommygun
tukwilatommygun

@Bill Simonson bill,, get back in there a get those fries outa the fryer.  and wash your hands at least once a shift.  if you had a union you would have some protection too.  just the non havers blaming the haves.

Bill10
Bill10

We were constantly told the umps "had available" all the replays seen on tv, but there was never any confirmation that they had actually used every replay and enhancement device available to them.  My guess is that they arrogantly and lazily ignored some of the evidence---likely the views that were clearest.  If Bud Selig had any guts, he would reverse the call and continue the game from that point using his "for the good of the game" powers--and he would require umpires to meet the press for q & a after games in the same way the players and managers do.

rdbend
rdbend like.author.displayName 1 Like

enabling deficient people only makes them more deficient.  mr torre.

JohnG1
JohnG1

It's a regular season game. In May. I just don't think anyone will care about this after it blows over.

leehwgoc
leehwgoc like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

@JohnG1 Think of how many division and wild-card races are ultimately determined by a single game's result.

It matters.

Tony8
Tony8

Send the umpire to the minors!!!!!!!!!!!!

no7rider
no7rider like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Why was I not surprised that Angel Hernandez was involved?

Ohwell
Ohwell like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

If MLB had an annual arrogance contest for umpires, Hernandez would be in the top three very year.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Maybe the fix was in. It happened in the NBA, why not MLB?

h8theloonyleft
h8theloonyleft like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Yet another reason to hate unions. Wrecking our country in so many ways

naz51j
naz51j like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

who's ever heard of a job where a poorly performing employee can't get fired...union or not?

This comment has been deleted

StevenKeys
StevenKeys like.author.displayName 1 Like

Any chance of the next time an umpire blows a call in MLB '13 of writing a lengthy list on something else, something really serious instead, like maybe, the trouble ignited when some numbskull tried to start the wave at Wrigley & Fenway or force Kirk Gibson and NL'ers to accept the tired & dated DH rule?

PhilJoiner
PhilJoiner like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Definitely a blown call, but what IR DO they have? Are they stadium cameras set up for replay or do they have access to network feeds. Are they allowed to ask the network for shots from their feeds to verify and can they get the same blown up images? I have never heard an answer to that question..

Obviously if they HAD that access, they couldn't have missed it. My mother couldn't either and shes been dead for 10 years.

PBoggs
PBoggs like.author.displayName 1 Like

NFL: Hey, get rid of the replacement refs and bring on the real refs! 

MLB: Hey, these are the real refs!

Bahia
Bahia like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

Bad umpire + bad system = blown calls.  It will happen again so don't rise up in arms when it does.  When it comes to the powerful umpire union, fairness takes a backseat.

sero.evo
sero.evo like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

One thing about baseball and umpires I never understand is when anyone says they want the "human element." When someone says that, they're basically saying "I want mistakes."

As long as the game itself is played by humans, there will always be enough of a "human element." It's not flesh-and-blood umpires out there calling a game played by robots.

dami1
dami1 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@sero.evo This is not a mistake, this is deliberate cheating.

leehwgoc
leehwgoc like.author.displayName 1 Like

@dami1 @sero.evo This claim of your is just as presumptuously baseless as Hernandez's claim that the replay was insufficient evidence.  lol @ your oblivious hypocrisy.

What happened is pretty simple and clear-cut, dude.  No conspiracy, just an incompetent jerk being an incompetent jerk.

Hernandez simply didn't want to change his initial ruling. Because he's an arrogant d-bag. It's that simple.

Don't leap to conspiracy to explain what basic human stupidity accounts for much more naturally. 


evansmme
evansmme like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

What a buffoon

BF4L
BF4L like.author.displayName 1 Like

@evansmme I am not sure how it wasn't ruled a homerun. I am not sure exactly what video the umpiring crew were looking at. Was it a 1958 black and white spot on a 9inch TV? 

Cleveland would have a chance to win it in the bottom of the 9th which is where it should have been restarted from. 


JoeBellmore
JoeBellmore like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

They should have an off-field, central office looking at the replays and sending the RIGHT call back to the umpire. (This happens in hockey to determine goals and non-goals). This way the umpire has to admit he was wrong and make the RIGHT call. I think Hernandez was embarrassed that the wrong call was made and simply stated the right call was made despite the replay showing different...

BF4L
BF4L like.author.displayName 1 Like

@JoeBellmore And what happens when this guy makes a bad call in a few years.  No one is perfect. It is a shame that the A's didn't get their run. It is a shame that the Indians didn't get a chance to put this to rest by winning it in the bottom of the 9th. We won't get to know what could have happened and that is the unfortuate thing. 

Getting that win could affect the rest of the year. They win that game and might gain a little confidence instead of coming out flat today and being pretty much dominated for most of the game.

What MLB also needs to do is ensure that the umpiring crew they have are experienced enough. Having what some are saying the worst ump in baseball as a crew chief shows MLB is incompetent when putting together a decent umpiring crew.

But is it then fair to the Indians who got the win to take it away, knowing that they already won it once while leaving the A's in a no lose situation? Maybe the manager (actually someone else since he was thrown out), takes a risk he wouldn't normally take because he knows they already lost?  


Its over. Time to move on.


CobyPreimesberger
CobyPreimesberger like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

aagin there has been one umpire that said he was wrong Jim Joyce when he denied Armando Galaraga a perfect game, and what did the umps do in that case, many called out Joyce for saying he was wrong, and they shamed Joyce, this is why umpires don't speak out is because if they do, they get called out, and if I'm not mistaken one of the people that called out Joyce was don Deckainger who is known for the worst ever call in baseball history

Ted13
Ted13 like.author.displayName 1 Like

It's about time that baseball players say "We really don't need a game officiated by humans. Give us the robots!"

JoeVilleneuve
JoeVilleneuve like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

This is a problem with Hernandez.  He is the worst I've ever seen, and since the umps have a union he is immune and as the article says even rewarded...just because he exists.  He gets post season assignments because they are based on seniority and not quality.  I've never seen a situation where a team(s) have said they wouldn't play if a certain ump/ref was doing the game, but Hernandez may be the first to have this happen to them...and I bet the rest of the umps back him.

Ted13
Ted13 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Blown calls are blown calls. Come on, umpires miss stuff that is right in front of them all the time. Not surprised it happens using replay, because I've seen the same from football refs too... and those calls are much more important to a 16 game season.

Jason46
Jason46 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 7 Like

Sounds to me like it's not a problem with the system, it's a problem with Hernandez.

Chip
Chip like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Jason46 I'd say it's a problem both with Hernandez and with the system.

Arguably, the MLB office should be able to overrule the umps if they clearly screw up (as was the case here).

Ray1950
Ray1950 like.author.displayName 1 Like

This is a perfect example of why "stats" are not the only things that matter.  As I said last week, a blown call by an umpire can alter the outcome of a game every bit as much as a player's wRAA, UBR or UZR. 

PBoggs
PBoggs like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

What bugs me the most about the call is that even after they acknowledged that they made a horrible mistake, they still won't reverse. It's almost like their decisions are God-like, etched in stone carved from Mt. Sinai, and as such irreversible. Arrogance when you are correct is justifiable, arrogance when you are clearly wrong is just plain stupidity.

Ted13
Ted13 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@PBoggs They don't have a system for handling errors and neither does the NFL. Maybe they could send the A's a letter that says "Sorry".

PBoggs
PBoggs

An apology would admit human frailty and everyone knows that Gods are not human.

m.guszak
m.guszak like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

I am not sure what the point of having rules and policies is when certain people don't see the need to abide by them. Players and managers must abide by rules and policies or they get fined or kicked out of games. But where is the accountability for umpires? They are allowed to turn the game on it's head and suffer no consequences. Hernandez makes a mockery out of the game every time he steps on the field, he is a pretentious idiot. Yet he continues to ruin games and fail at his job. I respect unions, believe me I do, but the umpire union needs to realize that they hurt themselves when they allow their profession to be discredited by the likes of Angel Hernandez. Accountability.

nyhoukcdal
nyhoukcdal like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 6 Like

Live, the call was clearly tough to make.  Consider the viewing angle and distance from the umps plus the sharp trajectory of the ball.  The hitter didn't even appear to question whether it was a HR.  BUT... the replay was quite clear given the point at which the ball's trajectory changed due to impact with the railing.  Hard to fathom how an entire ump crew failed to see that on replay.

Timothy3
Timothy3 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Angel Hernandez - EPIC FAIL

Major League Baseball (Joe Torre) - Even more EGREGIOUSLY, EPICALLY PATHETIC FAILURE to right a wrong

I do not cheer for the A's nor do I cheer against the Indians, but this is so inexcusable with the known world opposing this action by the 'crew chief' who answers to no one and MLB (Mr. Torre) to not reverse a 100% correctable call and play the game from that point forward that any fan of baseball in general should be ashamed to call this "America's Game."

Here's a 'what-if' - What if this game decides any number of playoff positioning or What if this non-homerun call affects Rosales' player contract negatively (money dependent upon performance stats throughout the year???), is MLB or Angel Hernandez going to be impacted in exactly the same way and with just as much severity as this "MAY" have on the A's or Mr. Rosales??.  I am anti- Angel Hernandez and Joe Torre until this wrong is righted and the game I enjoy watching has just taken a back seat to pretty much anything on television during that time slot.  One last thing, I will do my best to note the umpiring crew officiating the games I attend and will avoid any games that Mr. Hernandez will be involved in.  My own personal boycott for this egregious call and inaction by MLB to right it.  

FialaL
FialaL like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Yes, Angel Martinez is a pretty bad umpire but you shouldn't imply that he was complicit in making the wrong call. Like baseball fans like to say...it was just Angel being Angel.

I just felt bad for the manager. The umpires blow the call...and kick him out of the game. Why can't umpires be suspended like referees in college football can be?

luvfightingirish
luvfightingirish like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

Has anyone considered that the umpires purposely made this call as a form of protest to utilizing instant replay in the first place?

Angel Hernandez should be suspended indefinitely.

DougSimonton1
DougSimonton1 like.author.displayName 1 Like

This is why I lost interest in MLB LONG ago...

BradRentz
BradRentz like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Hernandez I think is one of the worst umpires in the league