8:41 PM CDT, May 9, 2013
Here's something you might not know about the infamous Angel Hernandez game: The A's had a great chance to win the game even after Hernandez and his fellow umpires twice blew the call on what would have been a game-tying home run.
Chris Perez, the Indians' closer, was so rattled by the confusing scene that played out around him that he hit the next batter, Eric Sogard, and walked the one after him, John Jaso, loading the bases. But when the game was truly on the line, Perez got Seth Smith to ground out to preserve the 4-3 victory on Wednesday night in Cleveland.
Are we supposed to throw that out because the game would have been tied had Adam Rosales' two-out homer counted instead of being ruled to have hit off the fence?
That's what a lot of critics would have had MLB do — make it 4-4 in the ninth, as if Rosales' ball had been called a home run — and pick the game up from there Thursday. Really? We're going to start changing history because instant replay doesn't always work?
And MLB is supposed to overhaul the replay system because Hernandez, who was serving as acting crew chief with Dana DeMuth taking time off, was in a hurry and didn't do his job?
That's just as silly.
MLB's current replay system is limited in scope but sufficient in design. If anything, Hernandez's boneheaded ruling that Rosales' ball didn't clear the wall reveals the folly of trying to take the humanity out of a human endeavor.
There's no perfect system, as everyone who ever has had a computer hard drive crash should know.
Joe Torre, who is Commissioner Bud Selig's top on-field assistant, got it right in his statement on Thursday. He confirmed that Hernandez and the other umpires got it wrong but said that it was a judgment call — making it different from the rules interpretation in the George Brett pine tar game — and thus not subject to after-the-fact reversal.
He also hit the nail on the head in the broader context. "Perfection is an impossible standard in any endeavor, but our goal is always to get the calls right,'' Torre said.
The last time we saw Torre talking about a controversial call, his viewpoint was wrong. He defended umpire Sam Holbrook after his blown infield-fly-rule call contributed greatly to the Braves' elimination in the wild-card playoff against the Cardinals in October. It was clearly shown the next day that the ball carried too far for the rule to apply, just as myriad replays made it obvious that Rosales' ball carried over the wall.
ESPN's Jayson Stark makes a great point about the timing of Hernandez's call.
"We'd like to assume that Hernandez and his crew took the time to watch (all the replays available to them),'' Stark writes. "Who knows if they did? If you watch (a) real-time feed from the Oakland broadcast of (the) game, you'll see that it takes 1 minute, 57 seconds for the A's broadcasters to see a replay that convinces them that this was definitely a home run.''
Selig's big worry about replay is that it will further slow a game that already moves too slow for some people. He wants umpires to move quickly when a call is being reviewed.
Randy Marsh, an umpire's supervisor, was dispatched to Cleveland on Thursday to figure out how Hernandez got it wrong. MLB sources say the report hasn't come in, but it seems clear that the umpires' haste was a factor.
While everyone wants umpires to get every call right — and even most umpires are in favor of expanded replay in the playoffs, if not the regular season — this is a reminder that review systems will never be foolproof, as there's still a human element involved.
There will be a lot of talk about this call all season, as the A's are likely to be in playoff contention, with every victory precious. But don't forget that the homer would only have tied the game in the top of the ninth, with the odds still favoring the Indians to win.
The one guy who never will get over the incident is Hernandez, and that's right. Just as players are defined by what they do on the field, so are umpires. He'll always be the guy who twice blew that home run call in Cleveland.
He should have had to come to an interview room and answer questions, as too many were left publicly unanswered. Should he be fired?
Come on. He blew it and he knows it. Take him out of the postseason mix but don't take away his job. Oh, and send him to o.Co Coliseum for a series in the next few weeks. Listening to the fans there would be punishment enough.
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