When it's all said and done, this is going to be remembered as the worst moment in the history of umpiring in the video replay era. Or else, if there's anything worse coming down the pike, heaven help us all.
Umpires at Tropicana Field lost track of the count in the fifth inning Tuesday night with Yunel Escobar of the Tampa Bay Rays at bat, and when they checked video replay they still got it wrong. Right-hander Samuel Deduno of the Minnesota Twins was credited with a strikeout when Escobar should have drawn a walk. The gaffe did not affect the outcome of the game, won 7-3 by the Rays, but it ought to cast a shadow on everything that MLB is doing with replay.
Major League Baseball wasted no time in acknowledging the grievous mistake made by whomever was watching back at replay headquarters in New York when umpires asked for help.
''An error was made when replay officials and supervisors mistakenly thought one of the pitches was a foul ball when it was actually a ball,'' MLB said in a statement.
That probably would be the 2-1 pitch that Escobar checked his swing on, and that bounced off the mitt of Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki to the backstop. The stadium's scoreboard operator apparently assumed that Escobar fouled off the ball and, at full speed from a straight-away angle, it looked like he might have. But here's where it gets kooky: After his checked swing, Escobar checked with home plate umpire Paul Schreiber for the count, and Schreiber referred to the ball-strike counter that all major league umps carry in their hand. He went with what the scoreboard apparently said — 2-2. Wrong.
Here's a bit of speculation on what else was happening:
• Schreiber himself didn't know if Escobar had fouled off the pitch in question, and became immediately confused about the count. He didn't ask for help at the point of Escobar's inquiry because it would have been embarrassing to do so.
• Escobar, who is from Cuba and whose first language is not English, knew something was amiss but didn't have enough confidence to verbalize to Schreiber that he had missed a pitch somewhere. So the at-bat continued, even after Deduno issued "ball four," right before he struck out Escobar on "strike two."
Ron Gardenhire of the Twins and Joe Maddon of the Rays had some funny things to say about it all, first via the Associated Press:
Both managers thought Escobar had drawn a walk.
''I don't know. Strike five, Strike six,'' Gardenhire said. ''I know there was a ball four somewhere in there. We all had ball four, but I was really happy with that, 3-2 is way better.''
And Maddon, via the Tampa Bay Times:
"The (umpires) looked at video, so I'm thinking I must be seeing things, or imagining," Maddon said, before joking, "We just came off a day off, had a couple Guinnesses (on Monday), I don't know, it might have messed me up."
No, Joe. You're fine. It's just some of the boys in the replay room haven't got it together right now. This is another good example of why the video umpire needs to be at the game and not in an electronic sanctuary somewhere.
Big BLS H/N: CBS Eye on Baseball
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