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.
If we haven’t said it before, it bears repeating: When it comes to pure muscle mass and power, no major league player rivals the sheer force of Giancarlo Stanton. His record-setting 504-foot home run in 2016 has yet to be bested in the Statcast era (though it narrowly beat out Jake Arrieta‘s 503-foot blast in 2015, because baseball is weird), he broke the Dodgers’ outfield fence on an attempted catch at the wall last Sunday, and he carries 25 home runs that have each exceeded 460 feet.
It should come as little surprise, then, that when Stanton muscled his 12th home run of the season against the Angels on Friday night, it not only hit the batter’s eye, but left a visible dent in the wall:
Stanton’s mammoth shot put the Marlins on the board in the first inning, setting the stage for a four-run effort that gave the club an early lead. The home run measured a cool 462 feet, the slugger’s longest of the season. He still has a little ways to go to catch up to the 2017 season leader, Jake Lamb, whose 481-foot home run against the Rockies currently leads the pack.
The next item on Stanton’s bucket list? If we’re lucky, maybe something a little like this:
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.