PHILADELPHIA – The camera usually finds Alex Rodriguez(notes). This time, A-Rod found the camera, although it took the first use of replay in postseason history in the New York Yankees' 8-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 3 of the World Series to confirm what the umpires missed in real time.
With a runner on first base, the New York Yankees' slugger hit a fourth-inning drive just inside the right-field foul pole that struck a TV camera perched in the first row of seats above the 330-foot sign, the ball bouncing back onto the field. Rodriguez stopped at second base with an apparent double, but after manager Joe Girardi came out to challenge the call, the much-maligned umpires left the field to review the play on a TV behind the third-base dugout and returned to rule that Rodriguez's ball had cleared the wall for a home run.
"I wasn't 100 percent sure, but our coaches started yelling they thought it hit the camera,'' Girardi said. "My eyes aren't great, so it was hard for me to see.''
Umpiring crew chief Gerry Davis said that the umpires had already determined while inspecting Citizens Bank Park prior to the game that a ball hitting the camera would be a home run. "Because we cannot control what the cameraman does with the camera, one of the specific ground rules is when the ball hits the camera, home run," he said.
It was a bizarre way for Rodriguez to snap out of a World Series slump that had begun to tarnish what had been a spectacular postseason. He struck out six times in the first two games against the Philadelphia Phillies, but the blast against left-hander Cole Hamels(notes) triggered an offensive outburst by the Yankees that gave them a two games to one lead.
The homer was A-Rod's sixth of the postseason, tying him with former Yankee Bernie Williams(notes) (1996) for most in a single postseason. The Yankees trailed 3-0 at the time of A-Rod's blast, but they scored three more times off Hamels in the fifth to take a lead they would never relinquish.
"I think it was a big hit,'' Rodriguez said. "I think it woke up our offense a little bit. It was a little weird to have the first home run and the replay and the whole nine yards, but it felt really good.''
Right field umpire Jeff Nelson said he was unaware the ball hit the camera. "The ball hit something hard, solid, and it was – in my judgment – it was the top of the fence. And then when Joe came out, Joe just said, 'We think it hit a fan.' I said, 'It didn't hit a fan, it hit something solid. But we'll talk about it.' ''
The reversal of the on-field decision will undoubtedly strengthen the case of replay advocates who have recited a litany of umpire errors this postseason as evidence that baseball is foolish not to use available technology for reviewing calls.
Major League Baseball adopted its current system of replays, which only permits the review of home runs, on Aug. 28, 2008. Six days later, Rodriguez coincidentally was the first player to have a home run reviewed when he hit a ball that cleared the left-field foul pole in Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field and struck a catwalk in the dome. On that occasion, the umpires ruled it a fair ball, and the call was upheld upon review.
A-Rod dismissed the suggestion that this enhanced his reputation for attracting controversy.
"Well, it's only fitting, right?'' he said. "I don't know if that's controversy with the replay. There's no controversy, so they had a good chance to see it in New York or wherever the headmaster is. I'm just glad we got a good ruling.'' Rodriguez was misguided in his suggestion that someone in New York made the judgment based on the replay. The umpires on site determined the call.
There was no doubt, however, that the ruling set the tone for a Yankees' comeback. If the umpires had not determined the hit was a home run, the Yankees might not have scored in the inning. Saturday night's replay was the 59th this season, and the 21st time the call on the field has been overturned. That computes to 35.6 percent of the calls being changed.
Earlier this season, there was another home run remarkably similar to the Rodriguez blast Saturday. On July 17 in Oakland, Kendry Morales(notes) of the Los Angeles Angels hit a ball that struck a TV camera in left field and bounded back on the field. Umpires called it a home run and upheld that call upon review.
Even as his umpires have come under unprecedented fire this October, baseball commissioner Bud Selig said he is reluctant to expand the use of replay.
"The more baseball people I talk to, there is a lot of trepidation about it and I think their trepidation is fair," Selig said in New York Tuesday. "I don't want to overreact. You can make light of that but when you start to think you're going to have more intrusions, it's something that you have to be very careful about. Affecting the game on the field is not something I really want to do."
- Joe Girardi