Monday, July 29, 2013

Horrible call stops 'Cats rally cold

Coach Bob Miller's teaching moment after "the call"
In the 8th inning I had this post written. It was all about missed opportunities, and the baseball butterfly effect that occurs when a team commits an error and can't recover. But shelf that for a moment...

One of the worst calls I've ever seen in a game. Ever. After clawing back against ace Knights closer Brandon Choate - something that hasn't been done since the first game of the season - the game was taken out of the player's hands by first base ump Fabian Poulin. Chris Lewis legged out an infield single that was thrown wide of first by shortstop Michael Lucarelli. The throw pulled 1B Kevin Kline's foot off the bag - well off the bag, as Alex Real crossed the plate with the tying run. And then Poulin's arm went up. Lewis was out. No. Freakin. Way.

The rest of the crew stood stone still, home plate ump Joseph Penna seemed stunned at the call and unsure what to do next, except walk off the field. The Corvalis players stood behind the railing of the dugout waiting for an overturned call, or an appeal, then realizing one wasn't coming, they sheepishly came out of the dugout to congratulate Choate. As what was left of the 1000+ fan base realized what had happened, to a person they voiced their displeasure with colourful language and finger gestures.

But it was over.

As a HarbourCat fan, the call was a travesty of justice. Watching the home squad come back in the 9th, against seemingly insurmountable pitching. Watching the team have a pre-inning huddle led by coach Bob Miller that made a difference - a huge difference in the focus and determination of the team. Seeing the Alex & Alex show fight off tough pitches to mussel singles into the outfield to keep the rally alive. All that snuffed out by a bad call.

As a baseball fan - while you have to understand that bang-bang plays happen in the field and nobody is perfect - you expect so much more. With the game on the line and a close play at first, you expect the umpire to be in the right position, not blocking himself out by standing still. You expect that calls that horrific never get called at any time, let alone when the game is on the line.

As a fan of baseball in Victoria, you realize that what you just saw lowers the product on the field. What the Cats try so hard to market as a top-quality league full of rising talent is tainted, if only for a moment. And at the worst possible moment, leaving a bad taste in everyone's mouth.

I'll save the rest for a future post. The Cats need to get a better handle on pitcher management. Middle relief has been non existent the entire season, with starters going well into the late innings. Now that arms are getting tired and the summer is dragging on, there's a hole that needs to be filled with nobody to plug it.

But that's for another day. Right now, I feel the need to brush my teeth...


  1. The innin should have been over before the bad call. The batter before Real struck out but got a walk when the umps didn't seem his swing thru the strike zone. That was a worse call. But there is a word for blaming a loss on the umps... Sour Grapes. They just are a better team... And they were in all 3 games.

  2. So some morning-after perspective. I agree you can't blame the umps on a loss, and that's not the intention of the post. The game went sideways with the error at short that should have given Record a 1-2-3 inning, instead of burning through arms and giving up 4 runs.

    The point is, the umps need to take responsibility for what they are there to do. On that call, the first base ump has every right to ask the home plate ump (or the third base ump I believe) to assist with the call - the same way the home plate ump can appeal a swing-strike call to first or third. He was out of position to make the call, that's the only way he could have missed it, and the home plate ump was walking toward first base and could have easily assisted with the call if he was asked. That's the rub - the home plate ump cannot overrule, but can be given the call to make if the base coach asks him. My point, is that if you have 1000 fans, two teams, and two other umpires staring at you knowing you just blew a call, why not ask for help instead of just walking away?

    One thing I forgot to mention in the post though, is that Bob Miller did a great job of pulling the boys together in a huddle immediately after the play, and teaching them how to handle the situation. He was pissed-off obviously, but he showed incredible restraint and professionalism talking his team off the ledge.

    So while I may have sour grapes and I'm whining about the call, I didn't see that on the field at all. A great job by Miller.

  3. Bubba: I had an opportunity for other reasons to speak via e-mail with Brad Woof today, the third base ump and asked for his perspective on the play. Here is what he said:

    "The final out of the game definitely received some controversy from the fans. No one approached the umpire making the call or the other 2 of us umpires on the field. Basically the play was a throw to first base and the first baseman stretched to get it. It appeared the first baseman received the ball just as he stretched to his max with his foot still on the bag but then came off the bag immediately after due to the stretch. As a result the batter runner was ruled out since the first baseman had contact with the bag when he received the ball and he maintained control of the ball and had voluntary release of the ball even though he came off the bag. The first baseman was only required to have contact with the bag for a split second with the ball which it appeared he did."

    As he said, no one approached the first base ump, which I take to mean that Miller or any other HC coach did not go out to appeal the call? (I did not see anyone do this). The only time an umpire will ask for help, is if the coach correctly asks/appeals for him to do this, and then he can choose to do so or not. If no one asks him to do so, he is under no obligation to do so.

    Not sure if that makes the result any better, but there you go!

  4. Thanks Christian! First time I've seen an ump explain a call on the field, I'm glad he had more than a "no comment". You have to respect the call of course, and you are correct - there was no appeal at all from the 'Cats on the play - which is probably the bigger surprise. Don't you think they would want to, given the entire ballpark's reaction? Oh well, water very much under the bridge!