Being a Major League Baseball umpire is difficult work. Every fan of the sport should know this. They collectively are, in my humble opinion, the best officials in American professional sports. I even made a point to give Jim Joyce credit during the 2013 World Series. Sometimes, though, an umpire completely screws up a call.
That happened in Cleveland on Friday night in the top of the first inning. The Indians were at bat against Andrew Cashner of the Marlins. Carlos Santana was on first base and moving with a 3-2 pitch to Jason Kipnis. The call in question is going to be whether or not Jason Kipnis went around when he attempted to check his swing.
Here you go:
In case you need the still shot of how far Kipnis went:
Still in doubt? First of all, use your eyes. Secondly, go back to the video and don’t take them off Kipnis after he offers. See his reaction? He’s mad at himself for swinging. Not seen in the video is he had already started walking back to the dugout, assuming he struck out.
The Indians’ social media person — who is, by the way, one of the best in the business — would end up basically admitting this was a bad call after the inning.
The Indians would end up scoring three runs in the inning and winning the game, 6-2.
Another aspect to the play? Given that it was a walk, we never got a chance to see if Santana was safe or out. Had Kipnis struck out, it could have been two outs with no one on. I feel like he was safe, but we didn’t get to see if he was clipped on a tag via slow motion. We also didn’t get to see Joe West’s initial call, which carries weight if there ended up being a replay situation.
And the Indians ended up scoring three runs after that.
We’re talking about a game between two contenders, not that it should matter on a call this obvious. The point is, this is a meaningful September game and that was an utterly atrocious call. One could claim that the Indians outscored the Marlins, 3-2, the rest of the way, but that’s not necessarily what would have happened if the call had been correct. The complexion of the game changes and the Indians’ offense is sequenced differently. Maybe Cashner pitches better. Maybe the Indians end up blowing them out. It could go either way.
We just don’t know.
Isn’t that a problem?
After the game, Mattingly had plenty to say on the matter — even though he realized he probably shouldn’t say anything.
The biggest takeaways:
- Mattingly believes the third-base umpire — Andy Fletcher — wasn’t watching Kipnis’ swing. It’s hard to argue. Not sure a big-leaguer could miss that if he was watching.
- Mattingly said Fletcher kept trying to hurry the game up later. That’s a bad look. It’s his job to call the game.
- The umpires can’t get together on a check-swing issue. This baffles me. They are so worried about showing each other up instead of just getting the call correct. This is one area where the NFL specifically has it right. If there’s a flag down and they are all discussing, it’s possible someone else had a better angle. And sometimes they’ll pick flags up. Why couldn’t the first-base umpire or even the home-plate umpire have called a meeting to discuss? There would have been no microphones. One would hope if Fletcher really wasn’t watching (again, how could he have been), he’d admit it to his colleagues and they would fix the call. Surely the first-base umpire saw that Kipnis went.
In the end, the likelihood is that this specific call ends up being insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but maybe it’s a chance to think about how to better umpire. No, I’m not talking about making games longer by looking at five minutes more of replay. I’m talking about all umpires paying attention at all times and if they think maybe something was wrong, get your crew together to discuss.
As it stands, Joe West’s crew utterly botched a call on Friday. Because this is most certainly a swing:
Terrible. Just downright terrible.
Source: CBS Sports / WATCH: Indians get massive break on the worst non-swing call of the year