When will Major League Baseball expand the use of video replay to assist its umpires? What happened to the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park on Monday afternoon offers yet another reason why the league ought to do just that.
Umpires incorrectly ruled fan interference on a ball Alex Avila(notes) of the Detroit Tigers hit down the left-field line, and awarded home to baserunner Jhonny Peralta(notes) when they should have made him go back to third base.
Peralta's tie-breaking run, coming with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, was the deciding margin in the Tigers' 6-5 victory.
An argument with umpires led to the ejection of Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who said everything the umps did and said about the play made no sense to him.
Here's the umpire's story:
"We ruled spectator interference and we ruled the runner would have scored without it," said crew chief Gary Darling, who was umpiring third base.
Darling said the interference came from a fan in an orange shirt. Replays showed a fan in an orange shirt standing next to a child in a small area of seats that angles out toward the field near the left-field line. The ball appeared to bounce up and hit the fan while he was simply standing there.
That was after a couple other fans along the fence reached over toward the ball, although it wasn't clear if it touched any of them.
First of all, what are Tigers fans, in their home park, doing reaching for a ball hit by one of their own guys? Keep your grubby hands inside the ballpark at all times — especially if it might cost your team the game if you don't. Dunderheads.
Second, it's not fan interference if the ball jumps into the stands — it's just a ground-rule double. But, ruling it fan interference conveniently allowed the umpires to use their own judgment as to whether Peralta would have scored. Umps usually just give the batting team two bases, but this time they went activist. Why they presumed that Peralta would have scored anyway, nobody can possibly explain. He had not passed third base by the time the play was stopped, and he doesn't exactly run like Austin Jackson(notes).
Regardless, Peralta should have been sent back to third base. And that's how the umps would have ruled, if video replay weren't only used for disputable home run calls. Or, at least they would have less of an excuse for blowing the call.
It wasn't quite another Armando Galarraga(notes)-Jim Joyce scenario, which also happened at Comerica, but you couldn't help but think again of that day. And of how expanded replay might have helped get an important call right.