Texas Rangers fielder Nelson Cruz (lower) tries to catch a Yankees Robinson Cano hit into the stands which was ruled a home run in the second inning during Game 4 of their Major League League Baseball ALCS playoff series in New York

Was Robinson Cano’s homer a case of fan interference?

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I’m going to admit up front that I’m flummoxed. I’ve gone back and forth on this thing two or three times now.

In real time, Robinson Cano’s homer to right in the second appeared to be a case of fan interference, with those awesome, awesome fans in the front row slapping Nelson Cruz’s glove. When it happened I stood up in my living room, outraged, and took Jeffrey Maier’s name in vain.

Then I saw the replays. At least the TBS replays. All of them made it seem like it wasn’t interference. It appeared — looking squarely at the wall from the infield — that Cruz reached beyond the wall. And when you do that you’re doing so at your own risk pursuat to the rules of baseball.  Yeah, part of me wishes that fans would stay away from a fielder even when he’s doing that, but I wish a lot of things that aren’t likely or, oftentimes, even reasonable. Fine, I thought. Homer.

But then I saw this picture:

Sure looks like fans smacking Cruz’s glove on the field of play to me. Wouldn’t you agree? And it’s not like it’s really incidental. That white looking stuff behind the yellow of the wall is a couple feet of concrete that, theoretically anyway, separates fans from the field of play. Regardless of where the ball would have come down — it appeared on that concrete — our friends in the front row there had to make an extra special effort to hit Cruz’s glove right there. If someone has better video or photographic evidence I would like to see it, but barring that I’m now inclined to say that the call was wrong, Cruz was interfered with and Cano’s homer shouldn’t have stood.

Of course the elephant in the room here is why this play wasn’t reviewed in the first place. Right field umpire Jim Reynolds was pretty far from this play. How could he see it clearly? Even if you think I’m wrong and this wasn’t a case of fan interference, Reynolds’ call to that effect was just a guess. Just a couple of batters later he got the call wrong on Lance Berkman’s non-homer. Thankfully replay was utilized to overturn that one.  Why was it not utilized to review Cano’s blast? Reynolds was far from the action on both occasions.

The official answer is that some calls are boundary calls and some are judgment calls and blah, blah blah. I won’t have it. There are two kinds of calls. Correct calls and blown calls. And there is no excuse for baseball not allow and encourage the umpires to utilize the technology that is easily at their disposal to get the calls right. It may not have made a difference in the outcome of last night’s game. But someday soon it will.  And when it does, all hell is going to break loose.

Great Moments in Not Understanding The Rules

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Bill Livingston of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is a Hall of Fame voter. In the past he has voted for players who used PEDs, but he’s never been totally happy with it, seeing the whole PED mess as a dilemma for voters.

On the one hand he doesn’t like voting for users and doesn’t like harming those who were clean by shifting votes away from them, but on the other hand, he doesn’t want to pretend history didn’t happen and that baseball hasn’t been filled with cheaters forever. What to do?

This year he decided to abstain altogether. A fair and noble act if one is as conflicted as Livingston happens to be. Except . . . he didn’t actually abstain:

Major league baseball will confer bronzed immortality on a few players Wednesday when the results of the national baseball writers’ balloting for the Hall of Fame will be announced.

I had a 2017 ballot. I returned it signed, but blank, with an explanatory note.

A blank ballot, signed and submitted, is not an abstention. It’s counted as a vote for no one. Each “no” vote increases the denominator in the calculation of whether or not a candidate has received 75% of the vote and has gained induction. An abstention, however, would not. So, in effect, Livingston has voted against all of the players on the ballot, both PED-tainted and clean, even though it appears that that was not his intention.

This is the second time in three years a Cleveland writer has had . . . issues with his Hall of Fame ballot. In the 2014-15 voting period, Paul Hoynes simply lost his ballot. Now Livingston misunderstood how to abstain.

I worry quite often that Ohio is gonna mess up a major election. I guess I’m just worrying about the wrong election.

Hall of Fame voters are making news, not exercising democratic rights

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Last month the Baseball Writers Association of America voted to make all Hall of Fame ballots public beginning with next year’s vote for the 2018 induction class. In the past 24 hours or so, as this year’s Hall of Fame voting period comes to a close, a lot of folks have been talking about that. Most notably in Jayson Stark’s piece over at ESPN regarding next year’s brave new public world.

Stark is pro-transparency on the ballots, as are the vast majority of BBWAA members who voted on the public ballot measure (it passed 80-9). Not everyone Stark quotes in his article is on board with it, though:

“I’ve already seen a lot of people change their votes from one year to the next,” said one of the strongest dissenters to this decision, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “People have changed their votes based on public opinion.”

Two other sources in the story, Scott Miller of Bleacher Report and a voter who asked to remain anonymous equated their Hall of Fame vote with democracy and invoked the sanctity of the secret ballot. “The No. 1 reason I was against this rule is that in this country, it’s a democracy, and everyone has a vote on different things. And I hate to see a blanket rule that forces everyone to go in one direction,” Miller said. Here’s what the anonymous guy said:

“To me, a secret ballot is a fundamental of democracy. You should be able to vote your conscience without having to explain your vote. But once it’s public, you’re open to public pressure. And that’s not what we want in a democracy. We’re not elected representatives. We’re chosen to be part of a voting group.”

This is ridiculous of course. Voting for the Hall of Fame is not exercising democratic rights. It is making news and making history. Hall of Fame voters are making decisions which will fundamentally alter baseball history and which matter greatly to a large number of baseball fans. They are not advancing their own or society’s interests at the ballot box the way citizens do on election day. Despite the fact that the form of their action here is, technically speaking, a ballot, they are making news in the same way a GM makes a news with a trade, the commissioner makes news with a rule change or a team makes news by winning a World Series.

Would any of these voters — who are credentialed members of the media, by the way, and like to style themselves as truth-seeking members of the Fourth Estate — accept silence from the people who make the news on the beat they cover? Would they be content if the newsmakers whose acts they chronicle demanded anonymity the way they themselves do now? Of course they wouldn’t. And if they got the same silent treatment they’d prefer to give, they’d write one of those petulant little columns they love about players who “duck the press” after a game.

Suck it up, journalists. Act the way you expect the newsmakers you cover to act and own your decisions. Don’t pretend for a moment that you’re not the subject of, and not the reporter of, the story when Hall of Fame season comes around.