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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

BREAKING IT DOWN
I posted this in another forum, but after reviewing the videotape, here is my take on Doug Eddings being wrong:

Eddings, on strikes three that hit the ground earlier in the game, always waited to pump his fist until after the batter was tagged, in some sense "completing" the strike.

In fact, this happened to Aaron Rowand, the batter immediately prior to Pierzynski. Strike three was in the dirt; Eddings extended his right arm to mark that no contact was made, Paul tagged Rowand, and then Eddings makes the fist motion. The exact same scenario played out with the final out of the White Sox 8th, the first out of the White Sox 6th, and the last out of the Angel 6th.

The fist pump is indeed the motion that Eddings makes for all strike calls. But it also true that there are zero instances of him pumping the fist before the tag on a swinging strike in the dirt.

Here's an instructive example: when Brendan Donnelly struck out Dye to end the fifth, Dye swung and missed at a ball nowhere near the dirt. Eddings extended his right arm to indicate no contact, and then made the fist. Everyone walked off the field with no problem.

Top of the sixth: Bengie Molina at the plate. Swing and a miss on a ball in the dirt. Eddings puts out the right arm. AJ tags Molina -- and then Eddings pumps the fist. It's clear that the fist, in this context, means that he's out.

Bottom of the sixth: Konerko strikes out on a ball in the dirt. It was a check swing. Eddings points at the bat to indicate he swung, but didn't make the forceful out call until Konerko was tagged.

Bottom of the eighth: Konerko strikes out on a ball in the dirt. Eddings points at Konerko's bat to indicate he swung (he had tried to check, but it was a clear swing). He does not make the fist pump until Konerko is tagged.

I already discussed Rowand in the bottom of the ninth.

On AJ's strikeout, Paul rolls the ball behind Escobar ... who did not go for the ball. He's looking toward home ... but no clip shows whether or not he saw the fist pump. BUT ... as Pierzynski is running to first, Escobar makes a motion to Eddings that seems to indicate that he did see it. There's a great shot of this on the Fox broadcast after Escobar's first pickoff throw to first, that is aimed right up the first base line. (UPDATE: Jim Caple quotes Escobar as saying, "I was right there, how many feet away. I didn't see if the ball hit the dirt, but I saw the umpire point and call him out. That's all I needed to see." If you view the play from the center field camera on the live view, which is roughly 2 hours 55 minutes into the MLB.tv broadcast, you can see that Escobar never takes his eyes off of the home plate area after the pitch, so there is credence to his claim that he saw Eddings make the out call.)

Orlando Cabrera, Adam Kennedy, and Darin Erstad immediately protest, miming the fist pump that Eddings made. Basically, everyone in earshot who was watching the umpire had a chance to tell Escobar to go pick up the ball, and they didn't, because Eddings behaved in the exact same manner as he had after every strike three had been completed.

Eddings third-strike-in-the-dirt MO was clear; pump the fist when the tag is made. As he pumped the fist, Escobar, Cabrera, Kennedy, and Figgins all believed the out was recorded. If he truly believed the ball was in the dirt, he should not have pumped his fist, as his hand to the side motion had already demonstrated that no contact was made on the pitch.

The rulebook is not clear on Eddings' obligations in the case of a third strike hitting the ground. But it is clear that his actions on this play were exactly like those on strikeouts where the ball did not hit the ground, and that the four players with the opportunity to either pick up the ball or yell for someone else to relied on his actions.

This doesn't even take into account his possible mis-call to say the ball even hit the ground, as no one on the field thought it did, including Pierzynski, who clearly takes a step toward the third-base dugout before realizing that Eddings had not verbalized the call.

...

[LA Seitz, on the same forum] quotes from the Rulebook, 9.05, that umpires are supposed to:
Wait until the play is completed before making any arm motion.
This is incredibly germane. On every strike three in the dirt, Eddings waited until the play was over before making the strike call. On every noncontroversial swinging third strike, he did the same thing. In this case, he made the call in the same way. It's a big screw-up, and in the neighborhood of Denkinger and Garcia. It didn't lose the game for the Angels, but the game was not decided by the teams.

UPDATE: A commenter named Michael, at 1:59 AM, makes a post on this thread at Baseball Musings pointing to a play in the April 8 game Eddings umpired between the Angels and the Royals. Erstad strikes out swinging, Buck drops it, and Eddings extends his right arm to indicate no contact was made. At no point does Eddings clench his fist to indicate "strike," which he claimed to be his normal strike call in the post-game press conference. Buck threw to first to retire Erstad.

I think there are a fair amount of smoking guns here, all of which indicate that Eddings was calling Pierzynski out. This is a humongous snafu, and though it's not right to say the Angels lost because of the call, it's obvious that they were wronged. It might be asking too much for MLB to make the teams stay in Chicago and commence play with the 10th inning tomorrow, but there's a pretty strong and unavoidable taint on this game.

Comments:
White Sox fan (not trying to be an ass, but....)

I don't know any Angels fans, but were the same thing to happen to the Sox, we'd be yelling for the head of the catcher, not the ump. Say what you will, Eddings called 'Strike Three' not, 'You're Out!' (Why would Pierzynski run otherwise?) Although I don't think anyone can say for sure whether or not Josh Paul caught that pitch (the video is simply inconclusive), any catcher at any level in baseball knows that when there's a close strike three you apply the tag.

Umps make bad calls all the time (such as when Eddings called Konerko out when he clearly checked his swing). For all anyone knows Konerko might've rocketed the next pitch out and this doesn't even happen.

Don't make the umpire the story in this situation. The real story here is two catchers: one who is clearly a third-rate third-string catcher who shouldn't be in the playoffs, and another who made one of the best heads-up plays in baseball.

I'm not coming on here to be a jerk or anything, but I'd like to see some Angels fans' opinions on this.

Doesn't Josh Paul owe you alot? Don't you want his head?
 
Doesn't Josh Paul owe you alot? Don't you want his head?

No. He didn't do anything wrong. He caught the third strike. The inning was over.

I know you need to tell yourself it was inconclusive to make yourself feel better, but you're wrong. Watch the center field shot. The ball simply never hit the ground.
 
Umps make bad calls all the time (such as when Eddings called Konerko out when he clearly checked his swing).

Actually, Konerko clearly swung. Now, I believe Eddings made a mistake in not appealing, as it was close, but he clearly went.
 
As an ex pitcher, I'm very surprised no one took a look at the ball to see if it had any dirt or scuff marks on it. Further more, had the ball ACTUALLY hit the ground before Paul caught it,
we the viewers would had been able to see at least a fragment of dirt fly into the air. Then the umpiring crew watches the
S L O W - M O R E P L A Y after the game and continues to
claim the ball hit the ground first while A.J. stakes the very
same claim. What a bunch of bad ACTORS.
 
What I think is most disturbing about this whole thing is that baseball is a really old, well-developed sport. It's been over 100 years. It seems beyond silly that something so fundamental as whether or not an out has been recorded should be open to interpretation. How is this possible? Close calls, questionable calls, those are part of the game (I think calling Cano out for running out of the basepaths on Monday was pushing it)and it tends to balance out in the long run. But after 100 years should the only people who know for sure if an out was called, at least verbally, be the batter, the ump and the catcher? While the rest of us are going off hand motions which apparantly mean 2 different things?

It was a bad call, and that is part of the game, but it trumps bad calls by being a badly-communicated and deliberately misleading call.

And don't be calling Josh a third-rate third-string catcher. He's a first-rate third-string catcher! And you can bet that for the rest of his days he'll be telling young catchers that he manages and coaches to tag out everyone for the heck of it, never ever assume.
 
Yeah, to my mind, the real problem in this case is not whether the call was correct, but in his not communicating what his call was effectively and expeditiously. After all, if he had yelled out "No catch!" or something similar it would have been a simple matter for Paul to make the tag or throw to first.
 
Here's a crazy thought, but no one else seems to be talking about it: How in the hell did Eddings "see" the ball hit the dirt? If you consider the angle of his view from behind the catcher, there is absolutely no way in the world he could actually tell if the ball hit or not. I can't tell and I've seen a slo-mo replay from IN FRONT of the catcher a dozen times--how could Eddings know? Should a catcher just tag every single batter who swings and misses at strike three?

And, BTW, White Sox fan, you were being a HUGE ass.
 
If Paul caught a strike-three above his head, and then A.J. Pierzinski took off to first, would you be pissed if Paul just tossed the ball onto the grass?
 
I'm a White Sox fan, and even I thought he was being a huge ass...
 
Josh Paul should have tagged Pierzsynski. It's that simple.

The splitter was low enough for the webbing of Paul's glove to be on top of the dirt. He's not a rookie fresh from triple-A. He's a 30-year-old professional backup catcher. He needs to have the situational awareness to place a tag on the hitter in a game of this magnitude.

Anytime you have a borderline pitch in the dirt, it's the catcher's job to tag him. I don't care if it's remotely debateable that the pitch is in the dirt. It's a catching fundlemental, and Scioscia knows this, but choose to make an issue of a confused umpire rather than admit his bench player made a little league mistake.

If you don't catch strike three on the fly, you don't record the putout. This is basic. I don't care what the umpire says. It's not the umpire's fault. It's Paul's fault. The pitch was a good splitter. You KNOW it's going to be low. Shouldn't you the catcher take the responsibility to tag the hitter to ensure your team goes to extra innings?

His glove was low enough to make the hitter second guess, and give credit to Pierzynski, whose baseball instincts were far superior to Paul's. It was Pierzynski who took advantage of Paul's mistake. It was the umpire who was befuddled by a savvy ballplayer. The umpire is not the issue. This all started with Paul's decision not to place a tag on a borderline pitch.
 
Even Soscia says applying tags on low pitches even if you caught them cleanly is customary. The ump screwed up, but Paul screwed up worse.
 
As an ex pitcher, I'm very surprised no one took a look at the ball to see if it had any dirt or scuff marks on it.

I've been saying this all along. These guys inspect 30 balls a game that hit the dirt before taking them out of play. And the ALL get taken out of play when they hit the dirt. I can't understand why no one picked up the ball and said "show me the scuff mark".
 
This all started with Paul's decision not to place a tag on a borderline pitch.

Josh is a guy who digs a lot of balls out of the dirt. In the Josh Paul drinking game, you drink when he *catches* the ball because the norm is that he doesn't. [you also chug if he actually throws out a runner trying to steal, because this is another rarity]

But "borderline" doesn't identify itself, it isn't universal. It's a personal designation. Josh had his own definition of borderline, a definition based on his experiences and beliefs about how the game works. If he'd believed it to be borderline, he'd have tagged the guy. I've seen him do it. It's simple cognitive science. If the thing isn't recognized as being part of the category of "borderline", then there is no reason to implement the "borderline" protocol. From where Josh was sitting, this pitch was no more borderline than a waist-high strike, and he was not given a verbal cue that the umpire thought it to be borderline. Any procedure that is such a part of your life like that (catching pitches) and you develop hueristics, you don't actively think your way through them, the part of your brain that is trained to do them takes over some of the processing.

It's comparable to each person's decision over whether to enter an intersection on a yellow light or stop. Because we do it a lot, each of us develops this sort of sense about when we can go, and when we need to stop. Some of us switch to "stop" mode way sooner than others. If you find yourself having to think about whether to stop or not, you probably get agitated. But if you start getting tickets for going through lights, or get into an accident, then your methodology for dealing with yellow lights would start to shift.

Every single catcher has now shifted their definition of "borderline" to be way more expansive. Josh will probably just start to tag everyone. No one wants to get this expensive of a ticket.
 
Good description, Maya.

Look, I think Paul was in error to flip the ball away before hearing a call. But the fact remains that Kelvim Escobar was right there, and could have picked up the ball, and didn't because he was looking right at Eddings when he made his call. Cabrera, Kennedy, and Erstad were also looking right at him and saw him make the call.

Eddings basically had a brain freeze. He was indecisive, and did not communicate his intended call to the players. Even he has admitted this last part. The man screwed up.
 
The pitch was borderline enough for Paul to have to put his glove on the dirt. He's gotta make that tag, no matter what he defines as borderline.

The other thing that always bothers he is how Scioscia will never say one of his players screwed up. It's always someone else's fault. As we've seen, the umpire made enough of a correct call, even if he didn't clearly do it. Paul is the one who has to be certain than the play is dead by applying the tag. The umpire doesn't have to say anything. It's not like admitting "Yeah our guy should have made the tag" is like ripping a guy. There's a difference between ripping a guy and saying he didn't do his job. Ripping is personal. Admitting a player made mistake is professional. Bobby Cox does it when appropriate. No one thinks he's a poor manager.
 
I just bought a funny Doug Eddings T-shirt on ebay- check it out! Search Doug Eddings- Im going to wear it proudly!
 
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