As we discussed on Thursday, it's possible that all bets can be called off when you're a hometown fan and possible history being made by a visiting player is on the line.
But do the same principles apply to the league's umpires? Does being on the doorstep of a major milestone allow a little more leeway in what's called and what isn't? Those are the questions being asked in the wake of Randy Johnson's 300th win in Washington on Thursday evening, as home plate umpire Tim Timmons made a controversial strike call in the bottom of the eighth inning that preserved Johnson as the pitcher of record.
To recap the situation: The Nationals had the bases loaded with two outs and were threatening to erase the Giants' 2-1 lead with slugger Adam Dunn(notes) at the plate. San Francisco reliever Brian Wilson(notes) pitched the count full and then delivered a very low pitch that had everyone holding their breath.
Dunn broke to first after seeing the ball hit Bengie Molina's(notes) mitt, assuming that Wilson had walked in Wil Nieves(notes) from third, tying the score and forcing Johnson to try for 300 again next week.
But to the delight of the Nationals Park crowd, Timmons, a nine-year umpiring veteran, called Dunn out to end the inning instead. (You can see the location of the pitch in the above diagram from Morning Juice or watch the video on MLB.com to get a better idea of the call.)
Dunn was irate after the ruling — "Good pitch" he later said with sarcasm — and he wasn't the only one. Rob Dibble, the Nats' color guy, protested the strike loudly, saying that "you can't just call strikes because a guy is going for his 300th victory." (Find Dibble's full transcript here):
"Do you want that?," Dibble said. "Do you want that 300th win if it's just given to you by the home plate umpire? There's a guy (Adam Dunn on screen) who leads the National League in walks — one of the best batter's eye in the game. Below his knees and he's 6-foot-6."
From my viewpoint, that's definitely a ball on any other day and probably even earlier in the game. But given the situation, it was also close enough for even a patient batter like Dunn to take a swing and Timmons to call it a strike. Though it was Wilson who delivered the pitch, Johnson had earned enough respect over 22 seasons to get that call. In this instance, I don't have a problem with the umpire taking a liberal interpretation of the strike zone.
I know that many of you probably don't feel the same way, so let's open the comments and post a quick BLS poll to see which call you would have made if you were sporting the blue in D.C. on Thursday. (Like the old ads used to instruct ... YOU make the call!)