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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Umpire Jeff Nelson expresses regret on botched call

Umpire Jeff Nelson expressed regret on Saturday for making an incorrect call a night earlier, saying it was a play he’d never seen in 25 years.

“That play, your focus goes to the bag, and you watch the foot touch the bag and listen for the ball hitting the mitt. In this case, I ruled the ball was caught by the first baseman, and the ball was actually caught by the pitcher,” Nelson told a pool reporter before Saturday’s game between the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers. “The pitcher kind of came out of nowhere on that play. I didn’t pick that up. Obviously, looking at the replays, I wish I had.”

...Seattle manager Eric Wedge went out to argue that Moreland’s foot had come off the bag, unaware that it was Grimm who caught the throw. Most of Seattle’s dugout had the same reaction and only later found out about Grimm’s grab.

“I haven’t seen a play like this in 25 years,” Nelson said. “Eric was very professional in how he came out. But there’s never any consolation in a thing like this, because it’s your job to get it right. We’re competitive, too, and we want to get things right. So I’d love to say it makes you feel better, but you’re angry just like everybody else that you ruled otherwise.”

Thanks to Fieldin Barnald.

Repoz Posted: May 26, 2013 at 07:46 AM | 33 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: umpires

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   1. bfan Posted: May 26, 2013 at 08:20 AM (#4452338)
How great would it have been if the pitcher who caught the ball quietly walked over to the umpire (Nelson) and showed him the ball, so the umpire could reverse the call, and get it right? I do not feel that this is some hypothetical slippery slope where players would then be expected to admit that the runner really beat the ball to the base, or something like that. This wasn't a bang-bang play; it was just wrong, because the umpire missed a plain fact that was evident to all.
   2. SoSH U at work Posted: May 26, 2013 at 08:33 AM (#4452339)
DP
   3. SoSH U at work Posted: May 26, 2013 at 08:35 AM (#4452340)
This wasn't a bang-bang play; it was just wrong, because the umpire missed a plain fact that was evident to all.


Actually, it wasn't evident to anyone, based on the reaction of the Seattle dugout (and the TV people, who didn't figure out the pitcher caught the ball until the fourth replay). OTOH, it was a lot more evident to people watching the replay of an otherwise routine DP.

As Nelson says, it doesn't make the terrible call any more excusable. But it's not like he was the only one in the ballpark who got fooled.
   4. bfan Posted: May 26, 2013 at 08:41 AM (#4452341)
Okay, not evident to all, but certainly to enough, and the point is, it was pretty clear for the pitcher to show the umpire how the call was wrong because he didn't see where the ball went, and it would have been a great gesture for the player to voluntarily fix the error.
   5. Rob_Wood Posted: May 26, 2013 at 09:57 AM (#4452356)

This incident reminds me of one at Candlestick many years ago. Routine ground ball, high throw to first, close play but ball beats runner to bag by a smidge. Ball ticks off top of first baseman's glove and rolls away towards dugout where catcher picks it up and tosses it back to pitcher. In the meantime, umpire who focused on ball and bag vigorously calls runner out. Of course, runner ignores him and stays on first base.

Pitcher begins pitching to next batter. Everyone in the ballpark knows what happened except for the first base umpire. He is so perplexed that after the second pitch to next batter, umpire strolls over to first base coach and asks him what happened. After first base coach tells him that first baseman did not catch the ball, the umpire goes back to his spot and vigorously makes an exaggerated safe sign. Everyone in the first base stands bursts out laughing and gives umpire a (mocking) standing ovation.
   6. something like a train wreck Posted: May 26, 2013 at 10:23 AM (#4452364)
I'm late to this conversation, but where were the other umps? It's easy to understand Nelson's mistake. It's hard to understand how the other umps didn't help out.
   7. BDC Posted: May 26, 2013 at 10:45 AM (#4452369)
where were the other umps?

The 2B umpire, who would have had the best view, had just made the forceout call at second, so he had his back (or at least his side) to first base. You can't see the other two umpires in the replays.
   8. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: May 26, 2013 at 10:51 AM (#4452374)
It was an astonishingly wrong call, but I didn't spot the wrongness the first time, either. When I saw the first baseman's outstretched foot come off the bag, I thought, "THIS is 'the worst call ever'?" I wondered whether it was the wrong clip until they showed the replay. The total non-reaction from the hitter, the first baseman, the pitcher, the manager, the crowd and the announcers wasn't any help.
   9. bookbook Posted: May 26, 2013 at 11:55 AM (#4452397)
Does it even count as a wrong call if it's against the Mariners?

   10. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: May 26, 2013 at 12:07 PM (#4452403)
It was only "astonishingly wrong" on the television and replay. It wasn't even very bad as a play made by a human umpire, trained to call plays at first base in the majors. As others have noted, you are trained to watch the bag and listen for the ball. If you're watching the bag and listening for the ball - that is, doing your job exactly as you're supposed to do it - you hear the ball hit glove and see the runner's foot is not to the bag, so you call the out. You never remotely think "was that the sound of the first baseman's glove, or the pitcher's glove?"

And immediately after the play, on the field, you're dealing with the manager arguing that the first baseman's foot came off the bag (not that the pitcher caught the ball) so you're not really paying much attention to the pitcher slow walking the 1B back to the mound to cover the fact that he blew up that play. And contrary to other comments here, the other umps have other elements of the game to watch and aren't necessarily following the play at first intently enough to see and overrule the 1B ump immediately.

There are a gazillion examples of bad umpiring in the world, and half of them involve Angel Hernandez. This isn't one of them. This is a freak play and a crafty pitcher stealing an out. It happens, but it's not the 1B ump's fault that it did. He actually did his job more or less exactly as he was trained to do it.

*the idea that a major league pitcher who just intercepted a double play ball but got away with it is going to casually give that out back, as if this were Little League and everyone gets to bat, is just silly.
   11. SteveF Posted: May 26, 2013 at 12:24 PM (#4452412)
It was only "astonishingly wrong" on the television and replay. It wasn't even very bad as a play made by a human umpire, trained to call plays at first base in the majors. As others have noted, you are trained to watch the bag and listen for the ball. If you're watching the bag and listening for the ball - that is, doing your job exactly as you're supposed to do it - you hear the ball hit glove and see the runner's foot is not to the bag, so you call the out. You never remotely think "was that the sound of the first baseman's glove, or the pitcher's glove?"


I think the case can be made that he should have been aware of the fact that there were two players in the vicinity and asked to see the ball. Just asking the first baseman to show him the ball would have allowed him to get the call correct. (Though I'm more inclined to agree with you, Sam.)

If you're correct Sam, there's really only two ways for this call to have been made correctly. The first is some form of instant replay, and even that's no guarantee if it's NFL style coaches challenge given Wedge's reaction. The second is a punishment so harsh for misleading an umpire (agreed to in a future CBA, of course), a player in Grimm's situation would have confessed.
   12. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: May 26, 2013 at 12:32 PM (#4452414)
If Wedge doesn't come out to argue, maybe Nelson continues to watch the play through (rather than being distracted by Wedge) and sees Grimm look to throw and threaten a throw (which only a player with the ball tends to do.) Or maybe he notices that the 1B never gives the ball "back" to Grimm on the way to the mound. Or maybe he doesn't. It's a really, really odd play, and I'd bet (blindly) that 50% of the time, it goes wrong the way it went wrong here. It's just a really difficult play to call properly from 1B. Maybe if home plate ump is paying more attention to the aftermath (again, probably distracted by Wedge coming out to argue) or if it's not a double play and 2B has a clearer secondary angle on the play itself (rather than making the call at his assigned bag.)
   13. John Northey Posted: May 26, 2013 at 01:57 PM (#4452442)
Easy to see why no one other than the pitcher, first baseman and shortstop would've known what happened. Without a view like that replay shows you'd never know the pitcher got it. The ethical thing for the players involved would've been to admit to what happened, even though it would've hurt their team.

No question this is where the idea I've pushed for - having a 5th umpire upstairs watching every play on replay and calling down if there is an issue - would've been the ideal solution.
   14. spike Posted: May 26, 2013 at 02:27 PM (#4452452)
I think the notion that umpires are incapable of making that call correctly is a far more damaging blow to the institution as it stands than a blown call on the part of a person. You can fix that to some degree.
   15. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: May 26, 2013 at 02:34 PM (#4452457)
That play is an argument for expanded replay review, certainly. It's the sort of thing that happens so rarely (and again, it likely gets noticed if Wedge isn't out of the dugout immediately arguing something else) that it doesn't impact seasons, but it's something video review would solve for regardless.
   16. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 26, 2013 at 02:48 PM (#4452470)
My biggest frustration on these plays (and particularly Angel Hernandez's farkups) is the refusal to gather the umps as a group and make sure the right call was made. If they gathered, and still think they made the right call, fine. But Angel makes an absolutely terrible call and refuses to even consider conferring with his TEAMMATES to make sure he got the right call.

I do like to see guys like Nelson (and the blown perfect game ump a couple years ago) express regret when they blow a call. It shows they actually care about doing a good job rather than being "right".
   17. SoSH U at work Posted: May 26, 2013 at 02:54 PM (#4452475)
My biggest frustration on these plays (and particularly Angel Hernandez's farkups) is the refusal to gather the umps as a group and make sure the right call was made. If they gathered, and still think they made the right call, fine. But Angel makes an absolutely terrible call and refuses to even consider conferring with his TEAMMATES to make sure he got the right call.


In this case, I'm not sure anyone did notice. I'd hope if one of the Mariners players had seen that the pitcher had caught it and that particular concern had been relayed to Nelson, that a conference would have been called to see if any of the other umps had noticed. But it doesn't seem as if anyone other than the pitcher first baseman and maybe the SS were aware of what happened.

But yes, it seemed the umps were open to more conferences about 10 years ago, but that trend fell by the side.
   18. ursus arctos Posted: May 26, 2013 at 03:00 PM (#4452479)
How about the third base coach?

What was he looking at?
   19. valuearbitrageur Posted: May 26, 2013 at 03:14 PM (#4452494)
If this is the worst call in history what about the Molinas pitch framing?

Sometimes when players are able to deceive the umps, it's just good baseball and doesn't require slowing the game further with replays. I had to leave a game in the 6th inning last night to get my daughter home fir bed cause it was already nearly 10 pm. Fix the game length first before obsessing over minor cals.
   20. Jim Wisinski Posted: May 26, 2013 at 04:48 PM (#4452601)
It was an extremely wrong call and I agree that Nelson ought to have made sure of who had the ball (but as has been pointed out the play is so rare and weird, how often are you ever going to be unsure of which player actually has the ball on a play like that?) but I can't get worked up over it. There are far worse calls made every week on plays that should be much easier to get correct, Nelson messing up a bizarre situation when he called the play like he's trained to do (watching the base, hearing the ball) is small potatoes.
   21. catomi01 Posted: May 26, 2013 at 05:08 PM (#4452627)
A couple of things from watching the gif in the link.
1 - what is the pitcher thinking grabbing the ball?
2 - it really does look like the 1B's foot leaves the bag - and then slides back after the "catch"
3 - the runner at 2nd seems to be looking right at the play as it unfolds - if anyone was going to spot this, it would have been him.
   22. Flynn Posted: May 26, 2013 at 06:11 PM (#4452676)
My biggest frustration on these plays (and particularly Angel Hernandez's farkups) is the refusal to gather the umps as a group and make sure the right call was made. If they gathered, and still think they made the right call, fine. But Angel makes an absolutely terrible call and refuses to even consider conferring with his TEAMMATES to make sure he got the right call.


Just another subtext to the 3-0 comeback by the Red Sox in 2004. It seems like it was the only period in baseball history where the umpires got together to check with each other that they made the right call. Mark Bellhorn got a three-run homer and A-Rod got called out due to that, and the Red Sox win a Game 6 they might have lost if the umps hadn't discussed calls.

Why are umpires not doing this now?
   23. Steve Treder Posted: May 26, 2013 at 06:30 PM (#4452687)
Why are umpires not doing this now?

It's a good question, and it would seem pretty much impossible that a good answer exists.
   24. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: May 26, 2013 at 07:47 PM (#4452723)
*the idea that a major league pitcher who just intercepted a double play ball but got away with it is going to casually give that out back, as if this were Little League and everyone gets to bat, is just silly.


I'm not sure I understand this attitude, which is very common. When a cashier gives you too much money back in change, do you keep it?
   25. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 26, 2013 at 08:05 PM (#4452729)
I realize that even an umpire conference may not have corrected the error, but as noted above, the 3rd base or home plate umpire may have noticed. Its the open-minded effort that I'd like to see.

I'm not sure I understand this attitude, which is very common. When a cashier gives you too much money back in change, do you keep it?

Its hard to compare the two. Every single game, players on both sides are getting ball or strike calls they know are incorrect. Should they start correcting all of those?
   26. Dan Evensen Posted: May 26, 2013 at 08:10 PM (#4452732)
All these articles about how umpiring is somehow worse now than it has ever been make me laugh.

I acquired a copy of the Florida Marlins' first game recently. The first out they recorded was a strikeout. Strike three was called -- about one foot off the plate and low. You never see ball/strike calls that blatantly poor these days.

I've also never heard of a botched umpire play that comes close to the 1980 NLCS Game 4, top of the 4th inning. See if you can find video of that bizarre incident.

There was also Bernie Carbo being thrown out at the plate in Game 1 of the 1970 World Series. The umpire wasn't even looking at the play.

Look -- umpires have made worse calls before, many of which had much stronger implications than the calls we've been seeing so far this year. It's always been part of the game. I'm concerned that we're not far from seeing extended instant replay introduced, which will only add to the already far too long average length of game.

Want to really improve umpiring? Fire Angel Hernandez.
   27. cardsfanboy Posted: May 26, 2013 at 09:08 PM (#4452758)
I acquired a copy of the Florida Marlins' first game recently. The first out they recorded was a strikeout. Strike three was called -- about one foot off the plate and low. You never see ball/strike calls that blatantly poor these days.


I think most people agree that the umps strikezone today is much better than it has been in a very, very long time.

I've also never heard of a botched umpire play that comes close to the 1980 NLCS Game 4, top of the 4th inning. See if you can find video of that bizarre incident.


It's not one play that people are complaining about it's a combination of lots of pretty obvious plays, added in with the attitude that the umpires themselves are putting out there and it becomes an issue. Factor in how easy it would be to have instant replay instituted, how cheap it would be, and how unobtrusive it could be done if implemented correctly, with today's technology, that is bothering a lot of people.

   28. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 26, 2013 at 09:56 PM (#4452772)
Dan's 100% right: The primary reason we think umpiring stinks now is that we all have access to video of each and every blown call. The umpires may have made even worse calls in a random Braves-Giants game in June 1974, and we'd never ever know about it.

Of course, the primary reason umpiring stinks now is Angel Hernandez.
   29. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: May 26, 2013 at 10:02 PM (#4452776)
the attitude that the umpires themselves are putting out there and it becomes an issue.


The attitudes are frustrating but I think the overall umpire attitudes were considerably worse in my opinion back before the 1999 purge. Those guys were atrocious.

I firmly believe that a simple carrot and stick approach of rewarding the good umps and punishing the bad umps will work. We don't need to start firing guys but paying the good ones better, grading them publicly and acknowledging them when they fail (both good and bad) would go a LONG way to improving things. We have the tools to grade these guys and we should be doing it.
   30. bobm Posted: May 26, 2013 at 10:59 PM (#4452815)
We have the tools to grade these guys and we should be doing it.

So what stops people from using pitch fx to grade umps on balls and strikes systematically? Fear of losing the data?
   31. cardsfanboy Posted: May 26, 2013 at 11:08 PM (#4452818)
The attitudes are frustrating but I think the overall umpire attitudes were considerably worse in my opinion back before the 1999 purge. Those guys were atrocious.


Don't disagree, but the fact that there are still attitudes is a problem. An umpire should be the least noticeable person on the field, even the ball boy should be noticed more than the umpire.

I firmly believe that a simple carrot and stick approach of rewarding the good umps and punishing the bad umps will work.


I also agree with this, I have been saying similar stuff in regards to how to treat the umps strike zone. I just don't know if the league would ever bother to come up with a method with any teeth to it.
   32. kthejoker Posted: May 27, 2013 at 01:20 AM (#4452841)
I would argue that all players have an ethical responsibility to correct mistakes of this kind. This isn't ball/strike framing or ball-trapping (where a player might not even be able to definitively say whether they caught the ball or not) subjective interpretation of the rules. That batter was objectively safe, and the players committed a sin of omission.

Much like the NBA's "no flopping" fines, I would tell any player who acts like the Rangers did in this situation that they can expect a 5 game suspension.
   33. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: May 27, 2013 at 01:50 AM (#4452849)
How great would it have been if the pitcher who caught the ball quietly walked over to the umpire (Nelson) and showed him the ball, so the umpire could reverse the call, and get it right? I do not feel that this is some hypothetical slippery slope where players would then be expected to admit that the runner really beat the ball to the base, or something like that.


Actually it would be great. There was a bad call in a Giants game the other day where the 3B totally fanned on a tag, runner was called out and he quite easily could've said he'd missed him.

In cricket, Australia had a keeper/batsman named Gilchrist who would walk if he nicked one back to the keeper even if the ump missed the call. He actually did this in a world cup final or semi once(and he was the opening batsman). Now this guy was good, like one of the best ever, so it was a huge deal when he would just walk without being called out.

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