The call probably played no part in the game's outcome, and thank goodness for that, because umpire Jim Wolf would have a lot more to answer for Thursday morning.
But still, yikes. In a play where everyone messed up except for the person who got punished, Wolf ruled that Cincinnati Reds infielder Zack Cozart bobbled an errant throw from Joey Votto that allowed Carlos Santana to be safe at second, and for the Cleveland Indians to pile on more runs in the seventh inning Wednesday night.
Watch it happen, live on tape, from Progressive Jake Field in Ohio:
Cozart did bobble the ball, subtly, but he had corralled it — and kept his foot on the bag — by the time Santana reached second. Three outs, right? But Wolf, who appeared to hesitate in deciding, gave the "safe" sign and then the "bobble" sign with his hands. Wolf's reactions weren't quick or emphatic, which made TV announcers wonder if he thought Cozart's foot had lost contact with the base. But that wasn't it. It was the "bobble." The resulting look on Cozart's face describes confused amazement. Reds manager Dusty Baker came out to argue, but since there's no mechanism in place to reverse such a call, it was all steam.
Cleveland had a five-run lead at the time, but would score three times in the inning and went on to win 8-1. So we're not talking about Jim Joyce messing up Armando Galarraga's perfect game, here. But come on.
And Wolf wasn't the only person who messed up. Votto, as the announcers pointed out, should have taken the easier play at first base after making the nice pickup with his mitt. Instead, he threw awkwardly to Cozart, who had to do a tap dance to save the throw and stay on the bag. Votto was charged with an error, and semi-rightly so. Also, notice how Santana slows down before he reaches second, apparently content to be thrown out so he can return to his position on defense in the top of the eighth. Wolf can see this. Why is he giving the benefit of the doubt to the Indians — and he probably had plenty of doubt — when they had given up on the play?
When I first saw it, I thought Wolf had ruled Cozart lost contact with the bag, which would have given me an opportunity to debut my Great Idea to help umpires: What if the bases lighted up and changed color when a fielder touched them? Like the sidewalk in Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" video.
You always knew when MJ's foot was touching a certain part of the sidewalk because it lighted up when he did. This feature, sort of an NHL "glow puck" for baseball, would allow umps to not have to watch two things at once. If the bag lights up, Wolf could have concentrated more on Cozart's glove and he might have seen him come up with the ball. Attention undivided. (North) America wins. What do you say, MLB?
Now to come up with an electronic solution to bobbled ball confusion ...