Contact and controversy in the ninth inning of last night’s Dodgers-Giants game

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As we mentioned in the recaps this morning, there was contact and controversy in the ninth inning of last night’s Dodgers-Giants game. To set the scene: tie game, Gregor Blanco on second base. Brandon Belt at the plate. Take it away, Vin Scully:

A couple of things are going on here. One is the contact between third base coach Roberto Kelly, the other is the umpire’s attention, or arguable lack thereof, to the play. But let’s start with the rule that governs all of this:

7.09
It is interference by a batter or a runner when — . . .

(g) In the judgment of the umpire, the base coach at third base, or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists him in returning to or leaving third base or first base.

I think we can all agree there was contact here. Blanco was not held by Kelly, but he was touched. The real question here was whether that contact “physically assisted” Blanco in returning to third base. I’ve watched this play a whole bunch of times and, despite my gut instinct in the recaps this morning, I tend to believe that the rules was not violated.

Blanco was slowing down when Kelly and he came into contact. He was not going so fast and was not so out of control that Kelly’s contact with him “physically assisted” him in getting back to the bag. If Kelly was three feet further back, Blanco still would’ve stopped and started back to the bag in the same place and would’ve been safe.

Maybe this is different if Kelly’s contact with Blanco truly helped Blanco apply the brakes. Maybe it’s different if, even with this contact as it was, the ball was close to third base and it might’ve been a close call as to whether Blanco would’ve been tagged out on his minor overrun. But neither of those things applied. Given that this is not a bright line, automatic “no contact” rule but, rather, a judgment call, I think Blanco was properly safe.

Not that this was perfect, of course. Because a judgment call requires the exercise of some informed judgment on the part of the umpire. And I’m not sure how third base umpire Fieldin Culbreth was exercising judgment in this case. Yes, the source of this screencap has an understandable bias, but it doesn’t change where Culbreth was looking:

To be fair, a fraction of a second before this pic, Culbreth was watching the bag (it’s clear on the video). But he was merely looking down at it to see if Blanco touched it before heading home, not watching the entire play unfold. Why he looked away and out to left field is a mystery. By the time he did that it was already clearly a single, so he did not need to signal for an out. He really had no cause other than mere curiosity and spectatorship to be looking out to left. His attention should’ve been at the bag where he may have needed to make an out call, up the line where he may have been needed to assist on a play at the plate or, in this case, at the bag to exercise some judgment with respect to interference.

So, the non-call of interference was right. But it was right despite the umpire’s view and judgment, not because of it. This, I am sure, makes no one really happy. Well, except for Giants fans because their team won the game.

 

It’s the tenth anniversary of the biggest rout in baseball history

Associated Press
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Ten years ago today the Rangers and the Orioles squared off at Camden Yards. The Orioles built a 3-0 lead after three innings and then all hell broke loose.

The Rangers scored thirty (30!) unanswered runs via a five-spot in the fourth, a nine-spot in the sixth, a ten-spot in the eighth and a six-spot in the ninth. That was . . . a lot of spots.

Two Rangers players — Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ramon Vazquez — hit two homers and drove in seven runs a piece. The best part: they were the eighth and ninth hitters in the lineup. There was plenty of offense to go around, however as David Murphy went 5-for-7 and scored five times. Travis Metcalf hit a pinch-hit grand slam. Marlon Byrd drove in four. It was a bloodbath, with Texas rattling out 29 hits and walking eight times.

On the Orioles side of things, Daniel Cabrera took the loss, giving up six runs on nine hits in five innings. That’s not a terribly unusual line for a bad day at the office for a pitcher — someone will probably get beat up like that in the next week or so — but the Orioles’ relievers really added to the party. Brian Burres was the first victim, allowing eight runs on eight hits in only two-thirds of an inning. Rob Bell gave up seven in an inning and a third. Paul Shuey wore the rest of it, allowing nine runs on seven hits over the final two.

The best part of the insanely busy box score, however, was not from any of the Orioles pitchers or any of the Rangers hitters. Nope, it was from a Rangers relief pitcher named Wes Littleton. You probably don’t remember him, as he only pitched in 80 games and never appeared in the big leagues after 2008. But on this day — the day of the biggest blowout in baseball history — Wes Littleton notched a save. From Baseball-Reference.com:

Three innings and 43 pitches is a lot of work for a reliever and, per the rules, it’s a save, regardless of the margin when he entered the game. Still, this was not exactly a game that was ever in jeopardy.

When it went down, way back on August 22, 2007, it inspired me to write a post at my old, defunct independent baseball blog, Shysterball, arguing about how to change the save rule. Read it if you want, but know that (1) no one has ever paid attention to such proposals in baseball, even if such proposals are frequently offered; and (2) the hypothetical examples I use to illustrate the point involve an effective Joba Chamberlain and Joe Torre’s said use of him, which tells you just how long ago this really was.

Oh, one final bit: this massacre — the kind of game that the Orioles likely wanted to leave, go back home and go to sleep afterward — was only the first game of a doubleheader. Yep, they had to strap it on and play again, with the game starting at 9PM Eastern time. Baltimore lost that one too, 9-7, concluding what must have been one of the longest days any of the players involved had ever had at the office, both figuratively and literally.

Hall of Fame baseball announcer Rafael ‘Felo’ Ramirez dies

Associated Press
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MIAMI (AP) Rafael “Felo” Ramirez, a Hall of Fame baseball radio broadcaster who was the signature voice for millions of Spanish-speaking sports fans over three decades, has died. He was 94.

The Miami Marlins announced Ramirez’ death Tuesday.

Ramirez, who died Monday night, began his broadcasting career in Cuba in 1945 before calling 31 All-Star games and World Series in Spanish. He was the Marlins Spanish-language announcer since their inaugural season in 1993 and was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2001.

He was known for an expressive, yet low-key style and his signature strike call of “Essstrike.”

Several Spanish-language broadcasters, including Amury Pi-Gonzanez of the Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants, have admitted to emulating his style.