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How “Perfect” Was Philip Humber’s Perfect Game? (Part Deux)

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I guess I wasn’t making myself clear enough in my earlier post regarding Fox Sports and the final pitch of Philip Humber’s perfect game — at least not clear enough for Craig Calcaterra on HardballTalk, NBCSports.com, anyway.

First, let me reiterate what I did NOT say. I did NOT say that Humber didn’t pitch a great game. I did NOT say that a checked swing isn’t a judgment call. OF COURSE, it’s a judgment call. EVERY pitch is a judgment call.

The standard that is supposed to be applied to a checked swing is whether the barrel of the bat breaks the plane of the plate. Common sense says if it goes past the plane of the plate it’s a swing, and, therefore a strike. Conversely, if it doesn’t, then it’s not a strike.

I did NOT say that the umpire, Brian Runge, was supposed to appeal to
the first base umpire; I said that is what usually happens on checked
swings because the first base ump is in a better position to see how far
the barrel of the bat went.

Above all, I did NOT say that Brendan Ryan held up – I said it LOOKED
to me like he held up, but that I wasn’t given proper evidence in the
form of an overhead cam replay or a first base cam replay to make a
proper judgment.

Now, here is Calcaterra a couple of hours ago:

“Eh,” Calcaterra says after quoting me, “I get that worked up about
some things but I just can’t here.” You’re missing the point, Craig,
concerning what I was worked up about. We’ll get to that in a moment.

“It was a close call,” he says, “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. “

No, we’re never gonna. But no matter how you twist it, there isn’t
any difference between the Runge call or the Joyce call. They were both
judgments. The difference is in how the media handled the two plays. The
Joyce/Galarraga play was run over and over so we could clearly see that
the call was blown. The Runge/Ryan play wasn’t.

The issue isn’t the umpire’s right to make a judgment call. The
issue is why aren’t we, the fans, allowed the proper evidence with which
to evaluate his call?

“Normally,” writes Calcaterra, “we don’t see batters have such a
reaction to a check swing call, even on a third strike” – like Ryan did,
turning to scream at Runge about the call. “That’s more 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.” Yeah, stuff kinda happens. Stuff also kinda gets
misinterpreted.

Calcaterra thinks that’s “Brendan Ryan’s reaction to the call may be
influencing Barra and others who are critical here.” I can’t speak for
others, but Ryan’s reaction has nothing to do with what I’m saying.
First — and I regard this a rather irrelevant point but I’ll throw it
in for what it’s worth – the reason Ryan argued the call in that
circumstance instead of just rolling his eyes at the ump is fairly
obvious: it was the last play of the game and therefore he couldn’t get
thrown out for arguing balls and strikes.

But let’s sweep all this aside. My point is that cameras are placed
at every conceivable game at a major league baseball game to give us,
the fans, the information we need to evaluate the correctness of an
umpire’s call. That didn’t happen on this play, and I don’t like that. I
would think real fans and critical sportswriters wouldn’t like it
either.

I’ve got no dog in this fight. I’m happy for Humber if he throws a
perfect game, and, frankly, was rooting for him in that situation. But
it looks an awful lot to me as if he made a lousy pitch – which would
have been absolutely heartbreaking – and Brian Runge bailed him out
with a bad call in a key situation for which he did not even wait for
the judgment of his colleague. I would like very much not to believe
that Runge made a bad call, but I can’t because no one has shown me the
replay that would vindicate Runge’s decision.

And it makes me very uneasy when so many in the sports media are
simply ready to jump on the bandwagon and declare anyone asking
questions about what happened as being spoilsports. It’s our JOB to ask
questions like this, even if Fox Sports doesn’t. In fact, ESPECIALLY if
Fox Sports doesn’t.

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