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

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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.

There will be a pitch clock for spring training

Associated Press
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Major League Baseball just announced that there will be a pitch clock for spring training. It will be a 20-second pitch clock, phased in like so:

  • In the first Spring Training games, the 20-second timer will operate without enforcement so as to make players and umpires familiar with the new system;
  • Early next week, umpires will issue reminders to pitchers and hitters who violate the rule, but no ball-strike penalties will be assessed. Between innings, umpires are expected to inform the club’s field staff (manager, pitching coach or hitting coach) of any violations; and
  • Later in Spring Training, and depending on the status of the negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players Association, umpires will be instructed to begin assessing ball-strike penalties for violations.

As is the case in the minors, the batter will have to be in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher with at least five seconds remaining on the timer; and the pitcher needs only to begin his windup before the 20-second timer expires, as opposed to having thrown the pitch. The timer will not be used on the first pitch of any at-bat. Rather, it begins running prior to the second pitch once the pitcher receives the ball from the catcher.

The league has not decided if the pitch clock will be used in the regular season yet. It can do so unilaterally, without union approval, for one year if it chooses to since it first introduced the idea last year.

There will likely be a lot of complaining about this, but as someone who has been to several minor league games with the clock in place, it’s pretty seamless and not noticeable. Minor leaguers had few if any complaints about its implementation.