In becoming the youngest person in American League history and the sixth player ever from the Los Angeles Angels to hit for the cycle, Mike Trout required skill, preparation and timing to converge Tuesday night.
A favorable call by an umpire didn't hurt, either.
Trout hit a home run in the eighth inning to cap a historic night for himself, but it was his second at-bat against the Seattle Mariners — which resulted with an infield single — that got Trout's cycle started in the third inning. Only, a close look at one of the replay angles shows that Trout didn't beat lumbering pitcher Aaron Harang to the first-base bag after a grounder to Justin Smoak:
Looking at the play in real time as it happened, from a camera angle along the first-base line, Trout's left shoe appeared to narrowly beat Harang to the base. And that's what umpire Vic Carapazza (what a great umpire name!) called — "safe."
(This was as close as I could get on the screen cap.)
But if a replay is watched in slow motion, from a different angle on the third-base side, Harang's right foot somehow gets to the bag first. Carapazza's call was wrong.
Dan Levy of Bleacher Report made this assertion on Twitter, and asked anyone following to forward an account of the game that included a mention of Trout getting the benefit of a bad call. Checking out stories filed by beat reporters from both teams, I haven't seen anything yet. Levy also wrote about it for his site.
It's true that history would have changed were Trout called out; he wouldn't have hit for the cycle, obviously, and perhaps Harang's pitching line wouldn't have been as brutal. But Levy progresses to another point, this one about umpiring:
I ask bc replay shows he was out & I can't find any mention of it. If this was the last out of a perfect game, we'd demand the ump be killed
— Dan Levy (@DanLevyThinks) May 22, 2013
Considering the reaction to umpire Jim Joyce infamously blowing a perfect game by Armando Galarraga in the ninth inning in a 2010 game, how would everyone have reacted to Carapazza if Trout's single for the cycle came in his final at-bat?
Assuming that Carapazzi called Trout safe again — and it's not a sure thing, given how close it was — the Mariners might have argued a little bit. The replays might have conflicted but, ultimately, more of a focus on how the ump's wrong call helped Trout make history would have occurred. No doubt. But the uproar wouldn't have been nearly as big as what happened with Joyce and Galarraga. In other words, no book deal for Trout and Carapazza.
For one, a perfect game is a bigger deal than a cycle, even though both have occurred in history with relatively the same frequency. A perfect game is flawless, and nearly self-explanatory. A cycle is a neat accomplishment, but it's also overly contrived. A batter needs a single, double, triple and homer (in any order) to do it. What kind of cockamamie card game is that? If Trout had four hits, and three of them were home runs and the other were a triple, it would have been a better night than he had against the M's.
Another reason for a muted uproar: The outrage over Galarraga's lost perfecto came not only because the call was wrong, but also because it prevented "history" from being made. Joyce took away the perfect game. There's little or no outrage over the ump's mistake in the Trout game — nor would there be if it had happened late — because the mistake helped Trout accomplish something.
Thus, the War for Robot Umpires is going to need another martyr.