Friday, August 6, 2010

Upon Further Review

Florida Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez called it "the worst call I've ever seen in my 30 years of professional baseball." If that's true, Rodriguez may have led a pretty sheltered existence.

I'm talking about the call third-base umpire Bob Davidson made in the 9th inning of a Phillies-Marlins game. The ground ball off Gaby Sanchez's bat appeared to be fair, and the base hit would have given the Marlins a 5-4 win.

But Davidson called the ball "foul" and stood his ground against a furious argument.

Before you jump on the bandwagon calling for video replay, take a look at the play. And remember the rule: on a ground ball, the ball must cross the bag in fair territory to be considered fair. Watch this play a few times, and note where the ball hits just before crossing third base. It looks like it's in foul territory. The fact that the ball hits in fair territory behind the bag is irrelevant (though it's clearly what enraged the Marlins).

Davidson is a veteran umpire who was in perfect position to make the call. It's possible he got it wrong. It's also possible that the view we get from the television cameras is misleading (or inconclusive) and that Davidson got it right. Anyone who's watched the replays and is sure it was a blown call may be guilty of a little extrapolation.

Until baseball adopts something like the Hawk-Eye system used to arbitrate line calls in tennis (and cricket), these calls will be tricky. Video replay won't always settle the arguments; it's a comforting thought to those on the wrong end of a close call but it's no panacea.

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