Can we please just let Phil Humber have his perfect game in peace?

65 Comments

UPDATE: Barra responds. Fair enough: he’s not upset about the call, he’s upset at the media’s reaction to it, Fox not showing the reruns, etc.

10:31 AM: Because my parents had the kids and me over for dinner — and because my parents are old people who like to have dinner at 4:30pm — I missed almost all of Phil Humber’s perfect game on Saturday. I did see the last two outs, though. And it’s obviously the last out which people care about the most.

Today Allen Barra writes about it, however, and he cares more than most, it seems:

I’m not suggesting that FoxNews, MLB, Humber’s team, the Chicago White Sox, or the home team, the Seattle Mariners, are in some kind of conspiracy … No, to hell with that, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting. Can anyone offer a rational reason why, in the most important pitch of the young season, and a play that was instantly controversial, Fox didn’t show us the pitch from the camera angle that would have given us the clearest view?

Can it be that they know that Ryan successfully checked his swing, that the pitch should have been called ball four, that Runge blew the call, and that therefore Humber’s perfect game is tainted? That’s what I think happened.

Eh. I get that worked up about some things, but I just can’t here.

When I saw it live I thought Brendan Ryan checked his swing. I didn’t get all up in arms about it because the TV angle was horrible and — as Barra notes — Fox decided not to show replays for some reason (I’ll go with incompetence over a conspiracy theory). But my gut feeling was that he checked his swing. Obviously the ump felt differently.

Still: it was a close call, a judgment call and — unlike the Jim Joyce/Armando Galarraga call or other famous blown calls — it was one that is quite often called the way it was called that day, even if it wasn’t ideal. For as much as we want ultra-precision in baseball, we’re never gonna get it on that play.

I’ll throw one more thing on the fire: Brendan Ryan’s reaction to the call may be influencing Barra and others who are critical here. He mildly freaked when the ump said he went around. While he apparently does that a lot — here he is doing the day before the perfect game — normally we don’t see batters have such a reaction to a check swing call, even on a third strike. It’s more of an eyes-roll thing. Some of us are upset, I think, because Ryan was upset and the play ended kinda messy, what with the ball going to the backstop and stuff. It happens.

Anyway, I don’t think there is going to be anything definitive here. This is the best that people who are adamant that Ryan swung can do. And, while clever, I don’t think it necessarily resolves anything. It still looks borderline to me. Probably because check swing calls are always all over the place.

The call happened. Sometimes that call goes the other way. It’s baseball, and even baseball can’t be perfect.  I have no problem saying, however, that Phil Humber was.

Clay Buchholz apologized to the Phillies for getting injured

Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports that starter Clay Buchholz is at Citizens Bank Park for Wednesday night’s game against the Marlins. The right-hander recently underwent surgery to repair a partial tear of his flexor pronator mass. The timetable for his recovery is three to five months, but most are expecting him to miss the rest of the season since the Phillies aren’t legitimate contenders.

According to Zolecki, Buchholz apologized to GM Matt Klentak “and others” — presumably other front office staff and/or his teammates — for getting injured. Buchholz hopes to return to pitch in September.

It’s saddening to me, and indicative of the general anti-labor culture in sports, that a player feels obligated to apologize for getting injured on the job. Injuries are nothing new for Buchholz, which might have factored into his decision to apologize. Red Sox fans got on his case quite a bit over the years for his propensity to land on the disabled list. But it wasn’t like Buchholz was taking unnecessary risks; he simply did his job, which entails doing a lot of unhealthy movement with his arm. Buchholz owes no one an apology.

Buchholz isn’t the only player to have apologized for getting injured. Outfielder Hideki Matsui apologized to the Yankees in 2006. Starter Masahiro Tanaka apologized in 2014. Twins reliever Glen Perkins apologized last year. Even Madison Bumgarner sort of apologized for suffering injuries riding a dirt bike on an off-day, saying “It’s definitely not the most responsible decision I’ve made.” Because god forbid an athlete has interests and hobbies outside of his vocation.

Players are brought up in a sports culture that allows exorbitantly wealthy owners to bilk the players — laborers — at every possible turn. They’re mostly underpaid and poorly taken care of in the minors. If and when they reach the major leagues, their salaries are intentionally depressed for six years and their service time is toyed with (just ask Kris Bryant). Buchholz endured that and then endured the criticism that comes with having been a hyped prospect who mostly failed to live up to expectations. He’s gone above and beyond what he needed to do to have a successful career as a professional baseball player, even if it wasn’t as much as fans or front office personnel would have liked.

Eric Thames leaves game with apparent injury

Dylan Buell/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Update (5:22 PM ET): Thames is dealing with left hamstring tightness. Manager Craig Counsell says it’s “not a big deal,” Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

*

Brewers first baseman Eric Thames left Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Reds in the top of the eighth inning with an apparent injury. Thames took his position to start the inning, but was replaced by Jesus Aguilar. Thames had flied out weakly to center field to end the previous inning, so perhaps something happened while he ran that out.

The Brewers should provide an update shortly on the exact nature of Thames’ early exit. Needless to say, losing Thames to the disabled list would be a huge blow to the 11-11 Brewers, as he entered Wednesday leading all of baseball in runs (25), home runs (11), slugging percentage (.929), and OPS (1.411). Thames was 1-for-3 with a single, a pair of walks, and two runs scored before leaving.