July 19, 2010

Ump Blows Game-Deciding Home Plate Call: A blown call by home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi in the bottom of the ninth inning cost the San Francisco Giants the winning run against the New York Mets. Replays show Travis Ishikawa beat Henry Blanco's tag. "Cuzzi was fired as a minor league ump," writes 8th Inning Weirdness. "How did he make it to The Show?"

posted by rcade to baseball at 04:48 PM - 27 comments

Cuzzi was the same guy who blew the call down the left-field line on Joe Mauer in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Yankees. He called it foul when it was fair by about a foot.

It sure seems like replay would solve these problems. I defend Bud on a lot of things, but in this case, he's got to get with the times.

posted by TheQatarian at 04:26 PM on July 19

The umpire should be suspended and given an eye exam. No need for replay.

posted by JohnEBGood at 04:56 PM on July 19

I turned on the game about 5 minutes before that happened. Before that blown call, he was yelling at K-Rod and the Mets bench about K-Rod's attitude on a (missed) strike that he made. He threw off his mask and gestured to K-Rod and to the Mets bench. I thought he was throwing someone out, but instead everyone stayed in the game and it just look like he had some bizarre hissy-fit.

I have no interest in who wins the game (as I'm an American league fan), but I couldn't believe how badly he blew the home plate tag call.

I still don't want instant replay on anything but fair/foul in/out home run calls, but my defense of that position has been severely weakened.

posted by grum@work at 05:19 PM on July 19

I was reminded where I had heard of Cuzzi's name before in another article:

2003: In his 2nd to last game of the season, Roy Halladay was pitching for a Cy Young and a team record 22nd win. When Halladay threw a pitch inside to Rocco Baldelli, Phil decided it was intentional, and threw Halladay out of the game, a shocking move based on the circumstances. No one, including Baldelli, thought Halladay was trying to hit him.

posted by grum@work at 05:20 PM on July 19

The fact that Cuzzi still umpires games is appalling.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 06:12 PM on July 19

Umps miss calls. Egregious though some of them may be (and this one was pretty obvious), it happens. We're not talking about 20% of the time, we're talking once, maybe twice a game - sometimes more, sometimes less - out of, what, 100? More?

So I reiterate my belief that each team should be awarded one or two challenges per game - not on balls & strikes but on reviewable calls regarding plays at a base (or home plate), fair or foul, bobbled or caught, and home run or no. A max of four instant replays per game would not slow the game (and if anything would build some added intensity, excitement and moments for exuberance from time to time) and would not disrespect the authority of the umps. It would merely correct an error in judgement here or there that no one would fault. And if a particular ump is proven wrong more often than the next CBA deems reasonable, then reasonable penalties may be imposed, thereby policing and potentially elevating the quality of umps in the long run.

posted by MW12 at 07:26 PM on July 19

A max of four instant replays per game would not slow the game

It might actually speed up some games, when you consider the theatrics some managers (I'm looking at you, Ozzie Guillen/Lou Pinella) put on when something doesn't go their way.

posted by tahoemoj at 09:07 PM on July 19

It might actually speed up some games, when you consider the theatrics some managers (I'm looking at you, Ozzie Guillen/Lou Pinella) put on when something doesn't go their way.

No chance. Even with instant replays, you'll still have managers putting on a show.

And ANY instant replays will slow the game down.
If you assign it to the managers to "throw a flag", they'll check with their team, who will be watching the TV replay in their luxury/press box. They'll pass the word down to the manager, who will make a show of things by "throwing the flag". Then the umps will have to converge to decide if the play is reviewable (since you can't review everything).

The umps will agree that the play is reviewable, and then go to the "review official". He'll spend 2 minutes going over the replay (at least). Then he'll send down the official declaration. The umps will announce it, and the "losing" manager will complain.

Oh, and we haven't even talked about the insanity of trying to reverse things after a replay review changes them.

Where do the other base runners go?
If a play was the opposite of the call, what if there were further consequences after the fact?

Example:
Base runner on 2nd, nobody out.
Batter hits a sinking, tailing line drive. The runner on 2nd assumes that the outfielder can't catch it, so he's running for 3rd. The outfielder looks like he makes an amazing diving catch, snagging the ball just before it hits the turf (or so it seems), and tumbles on the ground. The umpire calls it a catch, and the batter is out.
The base runner (now on 3rd) immediately turns around and makes his way back to 2nd base. The outfielder makes a hard throw and the base runner just makes it back. However, he over slides the bag, and the shortstop tags him off the base. Maybe. It looks like his foot was on the bag, but the 2nd base ump called him out. (Not a good day for this ump.)

The batting team manager hears from his press box cronies that the outfielder trapped the ball. He throws his (only) flag. The umpires decide to review the play, but ask the manager which play to review: the catch, or the tag. The manager says "review the catch".

The review shows him trapping the ball, so the umpires rule the batter is safe.

Where does the runner go?
Is he out? The tag play (after sliding past the bag) is a different play.
Is he safe at 2nd? Because of the umps mistake, he shouldn't be penalized, right?
Is he safe at 3rd? That's as far as he got before all this happened. But his return to 2nd base is a voluntary decision, after all.

posted by grum@work at 12:59 AM on July 20

The delay could be resolved by an umpire in the booth itself who was reviewing all the plays as they happened. This could be happening now with HR replays, in that instead of the crew descending under the stands, they could just look for the signal of a guy who immediately DVR'ed all available angles as soon as the ball was hit, so by the time they decided to review it they'd have a decision ready. Hell, the umpire union should support this: that's one extra paid umpire every game.

As for the "unraveling the past" type of calls: that's kind of an edge case grum, although fair since edge cases are where you can really settle the process. Baseball already has discretion with the umpires when they overturn a call and in the case you describe it'd be like ruling a HR a ground-rule double, or even the infield fly rule after a fashion. Like the GRD, the umpires give the offense no more than what is reasonable to allow, which in many cases prevents the runner from making it home when he'd otherwise have been likely safe.

I'd suggest the flag be for the entirety of the pitch (the beauty of baseball is that the plays are atomic: everything is based of a single pitch and what happened after that until play was dead), and the umpires including the one in the booth could make a determination of "The ball was not actually caught, but the runner's retreat was due to an improper call, thus nullifying the play at 2nd that wouldn't have happened. The runner might have gone for home as well had we ruled it differently, but the runner is safely granted third with no out on the play, and the batter taking first on the hit." Had the outfielder immediately thrown the ball and the runner was caught going to third, he's still out but the batter is still on 1st. Like I said, the replay should be on the entirety of the play from the pitch onward, and the umpires should just assume they'd review all elements (tags, catches, throws, etc) to determine what "really" happened. Similarly, if it was ruled a trap and the runner advances to third, the umpires might upon review call it a fly out and return the runner to 2nd without offering the double-up since if they'd ruled it a fly out the runner wouldn't have tried to advance (which is similar to the infield fly rule, like I mentioned earlier).

In other words, it's not as hard as you think since the umpires will have the time to decide what makes the most sense; in the case you outlined I'd say having a little time to ponder it you give the runner third and the batter first and no outs were recorded. Not perfectly ideal in the sense that you can truly rewind and see how the play unfolds if the call is different, but I'd argue still better than umpire's destroying a perfect game, or blowing a result in the win-loss column. Managers get 2-4 per game if they even need them (and I'd say even a ball/strike call is fair season: the manager can use one of his challenges on a ball/strike call, although it'd be like the NFL and require a very clear shot to overrule the initial call but I saw a game just last week where the blown strike 3 call on a 3-2, bases loaded count in the bottom of the 9th changed the result of the game), and since play is dead when they throw their "flag" the umpires can take a few minutes to review the whole of the play, consider the factors, and come to a decision.

I guess a corollary to help game times if this is instituted is the umpire having more latitude or encouragement to immediately toss the Piniella types, as entertaining as it normally is, for grandstanding.

posted by hincandenza at 04:21 AM on July 20

I guess a corollary to help game times if this is instituted is the umpire having more latitude or encouragement to immediately toss the Piniella types, as entertaining as it normally is, for grandstanding.

Exactly. Throw the flag or your gone. And if you do throw the flag then everyone lives with the consequences - no one comes out of either dugout to complain or they are automatically ejected.

posted by MW12 at 06:48 AM on July 20

And ANY instant replays will slow the game down.

It doesn't slow the game when the umps are reviewing whether a ball hit is a homerun or not. But regardless, it should be all about making the right call.

posted by BornIcon at 07:39 AM on July 20

It doesn't slow the game when the umps are reviewing whether a ball hit is a homerun or not.

Um. What?

If the pitcher has to wait for the umpires to get together and then consult a replay, it slows the game down.

posted by grum@work at 08:32 AM on July 20

I think he means compared to when the four of them just come together and pretend to have a discussion about it before randomly assigning a value of fair/ foul.

posted by yerfatma at 09:02 AM on July 20

Even if four instant replays over the course of the game add 12-15 minutes, the intensity of those moments when the crowd waits in suspense for a call to be reversed or upheld would a) be worth it; and b) have a ripple effect on the overall excitement of the game.

The only time I can see people growing weary of an instant replay is in the case of a blowout, when a reversal would have no impact on the outcome of the game.

posted by MW12 at 09:16 AM on July 20

For instant replays challenges to remain exciting, managers would need to be more judicious in using them than coaches are in the NFL. Going to Jags games last year, I found that most of the replays were so inconsequential that it felt like yet another TV timeout.

posted by rcade at 10:05 AM on July 20

Even if four instant replays over the course of the game add 12-15 minutes, the intensity of those moments when the crowd waits in suspense for a call to be reversed or upheld would a) be worth it; and b) have a ripple effect on the overall excitement of the game.

That's probably the opposite reaction that most people in the stands have for instant replays in hockey and football. The fans don't get to find out what the discussion is about, and they just end up standing around waiting for a result.

Considering all the complaints about how long baseball games are already, I can't imagine people being happy with another 12-15 minutes being added on.

posted by grum@work at 12:07 PM on July 20

I can't imagine people being happy with another 12-15 minutes being added on

That depends on which side of the call your team is.

posted by BoKnows at 12:10 PM on July 20

I can only speak for myself, but I don't get the problem with the length of baseball games. I go to games to spend time with the family, and relax (if yelling at umps and players is relaxing...). If your life is so rigidly scheduled that the length of a baseball game stresses you out that much, maybe you need those extra 12-15 minutes tacked on to escape it.

Or, is the problem not with fans, but with the networks? God forbid ESPN has to preempt their WSOP coverage because a baseball game ran longer than expected...

posted by MeatSaber at 02:38 PM on July 20

I can't imagine people being happy with another 12-15 minutes being added on

I'm sure that if replay was used for when Andres Galarraga pitched his imperfect game, people wouldn't had minded much with the extra 12-15 minutes.

I can only speak for myself, but I don't get the problem with the length of baseball games.

That makes two of us. I have no problem with the length of a baseball game.

posted by BornIcon at 03:01 PM on July 20

Baseball should be played on the field; mistakes and all. Screw the cameras.

posted by graymatters at 03:28 PM on July 20

Keep replay out of the game. If an umpire hustles to the best of his ability, gets into the proper position to make a call, there is a very close play, and the umpire gets it wrong, he will not be overly criticized by the teams or players involved. The nature of the game is such that sometimes things happen just too quickly for the human eye (and ear in some cases) to accurately measure, and players understand this.

On the other hand, if an umpire is lazy and does not hustle into position, he will soon have a history of incorrect calls. Add to this an attitude that is confrontational rather than cooperative, and you have an official who does not deserve to be working at the major league level. Instead of replay, give the Commissioner of Baseball the power to better regulate and discipline umpires. The union won't go along, but they should. There are more good umpires than there are bad ones, and if pay incentives for good work were offered, you might find some interest by umpires in weeding out the bad ones.

For discipline, I would recommend temporary re-assignment to the minor leagues for the purpose of working to improve one's work. If after such a "rehab" assignment, there is no improvement, repeat the move for a longer period. The ultimate solution for an umpire who will not or cannot improve would be termination.

posted by Howard_T at 05:01 PM on July 20

Blew the call? He massacred it. He crucified that call. He spat on the dismembered corpse of that call. In the face.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:41 PM on July 20

I never understand when people start talking like baseball is somehow different from, and better than, every other sport - and how the technological advancements that have been adopted by everyone else don't have a place in baseball.

I think when an umpire misses a call which directly affects the outcome of a game - or the place in history for a particular player - the message MLB sends is not "that's the nature of the game." Rather, in my opinion what they are saying is "the umpire is bigger than the game" - because in reality, the umpire is supposed to be not a part of the game: he's the guy in the background responsible for preserving the integrity of the game. And when he directly, adversely affects said integrity by changing the correct result, however inadvertently, his wrong should be made right.

posted by MW12 at 07:07 AM on July 21

I never understand when people start talking like baseball is somehow different from, and better than, every other sport - and how the technological advancements that have been adopted by everyone else don't have a place in baseball.

They're called 'purists'.

I grew up playing baseball all of my life but baseball is no different than any other sport and requires some sort of replay if a call is blown. I'm not a huge soccer fan but enjoyed watching the World Cup but that's also another sport where replay should be implemented.

Damn the 'purists'!

posted by BornIcon at 12:03 PM on July 21

I never understand when people start talking like baseball is somehow different from, and better than, every other sport - and how the technological advancements that have been adopted by everyone else don't have a place in baseball.

Eh, I haven't heard anyone claim that baseball is different/better than any other sport. The problem with a generic statement that baseball should adopt video replay is that it ignores the complexity of that decision, which is actually highlighted by your comparison to other sports. Football has replay - but does the replay review calls such as holding or pass interference? Basketball and hockey have replays, but primarily to determine whether a score made it "in" in time. You don't see those sports using replay to determine whether a player actually traveled, whether someone actually committed a foul/penalty, or whether icing should have been waived off. They don't even pretend to look at those things.

Therefore, I'd contend that baseball is the same as other sports - there are too many subjective situations where replay is impractical. If your complaint is solely with people that don't even want replays used to determine legitimate home runs or fair/foul calls, I suppose that's one thing. But, other plays are much more judgmental. For example, a runner attempts to steal 2nd, the throw comes in high and to the 1st-base side of the bag. The SS/2B does a good job getting the tag down but it hits the runner at the ribcage. It can be extremely difficult to absolutely determine whether the runner's toe or anything else 3-5 feet away from the tag touched the bag before the tag landed, even with video. Similarly, a throw home comes up the 1st-base side of the plate. The catcher dives to reach a hook-sliding runner, and the ump calls an out, saying that the tag hit the runner's shin on the way by. Video replay doesn't show the runner's shin changing direction or anything, but how does that disprove that a tag was made?

I would argue that not only would replay not necessarily help in those situations (which you might excuse away with the "irrefutable evidence" notion), but that it could actually harm the game due to delays and by even opening to door to be able to reverse a call where the initial call was very possibly correct (ump = "I don't care what the replay shows, I'm tellin' ya, I'm the only one that had the view inside the glove that showed he bobbled the ball while stretching to make that play at 1st").

posted by littleLebowski at 12:50 PM on July 21

There will always be excuses, and examples that defy the rules. To me the logical conclusion is to draft a proposal and have all parties review it, rip it apart, examine it, test it using existing game footage, and figure out a criteria that makes sense for the betterment of the game. Anything less than that, and any arguments to the contrary, are more disrespectful to the game than not (IMO).

posted by MW12 at 03:33 PM on July 21

I never understand when people start talking like baseball is somehow different from, and better than, every other sport

Baseball is not different from every other sport (at least team sports); but in every sport there are going to be some mistakes and there are going to be some questionable calls and there are going to be some disputed calls even if the call on the field is correct. Not every mistake or every situation is subject to review or should be subject to review. As far as I can tell, the NFL is the biggest user of instant replay, and even it does not allow instant replay for everything even though it really is more of a TV sport than a field sport now.

posted by graymatters at 04:46 PM on July 21

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