Weird baseball reached a whole new level on Friday night in Seattle.
To be completely honest with you, I'd like to say what happened was worthy of consideration for the worst call we'll see all season. As you know, that would be saying a lot when you consider the botched home run call in Cleveland (that Angel Hernandez himself admitted was blown), among other inexplicable rulings and misapplications. But I think the call itself might be offset by just how plain strange the entire play was.
Here's the set up: Rangers lead the Mariners 2-1 in the second inning. Seattle has runners at first and second with nobody out when rookie Jesus Sucre raps one on the ground to Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland. Moreland then throws to Elvis Andrus to get the middle runner. There's one out. Andrus returns fire in the direction of the first base bag where Moreland and pitcher Justin Grimm are converging to receive the throw.
Typically, when two defenders arrive at a base simultaneously the result is somewhere between comical and disastrous. In this case, though, we end up in a whole different category thanks to first base umpire Jeff Nelson.
Moreland was actually back at the base and in position to receive the throw. However, Grimm, who was not on the bag and never did get to the bag, stuck his glove in front to intercept it. At this point, Sucre is a good step and a half short of the base, making it an easy out call if Moreland catches it. But again, the ball is picked off by Grimm, so Sucre beats it out easily.
At least that's what most of us either saw or thought we saw. Nelson, though, missed that most important detail and instead ruled Sucre OUT. He then missed Grimm fiddling with the ball in his glove immediately after the call — or thought some type of optical illusion had taken place before him — so he continued back into position without so much as considering changing his call.
Needless to say, the result drew an immediate argument from Seattle manager Eric Wedge. But here's the funny thing. I assumed throughout the rest of the game that Wedge had known of Grimm's interception and based his argument around that. According to his comments after the game — courtesy of MLB.com's Doug Miller — it turns out Wedge had just as little clue as Nelson did.
"Everybody's just focused on the bag," Wedge said. "I thought he came off the bag. That's what I was out there arguing. And then I come to find out later, with the replay, that he didn't even catch the ball. ... It would have been a much bigger argument if I had known that at the time, no doubt about it."
I thought for sure we were in for more discussion about replay and umpire accountability, but instead Nelson comes off as somewhat sympathetic when the arguing manager admits he didn't fully understand what his argument should have been. It all makes more sense now, too, because when the umpires huddled briefly there was no movement to overturn it.
All they were asked to determine is whether or not Moreland's foot had come off the bag on the play. It didn't, so even if they wanted to overturn the call, they couldn't based on what they were asked to reconsider. Maybe those rules need to be tweaked. Maybe they don't. But regardless of rules, the human element and all of those considerations, this was simply a bizarre play that we might not see duplicated for a long time.
Oh, and yes, there's a decent chance it cost Seattle one run, and maybe more. Brendan Ryan followed with an RBI double that could have been the opening to a huge inning. Instead, Seattle settles for one, and then eventually falls 9-5.
- Sports & Recreation
- Mitch Moreland