A Baseball Integrity And Competence Ethics Train Wreck! [Corrected]

…and, I’m ashamed to say, I got pulled into it myself.

I miss one Red Sox game—I thought yesterday’s contest between the Sox and Astros in Houston was a night game, but it was played in the afternoon—and this was my punishment. Writing about Karine Jean-Pierre’s idiotic statement that the Supreme Court, charged with interpreting the Constitution, issued an “unconstitutional” ruling in Dobbs, I noted in a comment,

[T]hat’s not what unconstitutional means, as SCOTUS uses it, and how SCOTUS uses it is what matters. SCOTUS said that Roe was a misinterpretation of the Constitution, which is not the same as saying the decision was unconstitutional. Unconstitutional would mean that SCOTUS was exceeding Constitutional authority to make the decision.

And this is what makes her statement incompetent and pernicious. She’s not a lawyer, she doesn’t understand those distinctions, and she’s ensuring that much of the public now is confused too.

If an umpire makes a wrong call, out when a player was safe, one can argue that the call was wrong, was inept, was bad. One cannot say the umpire violated the rules, however, because the umpire is empowered to make those decisions.

Little did I know, because I had not seen the game, that it contained an umpire’s call that did violate the rules, and that an umpire is NOT empowered to make.

In the game I missed, All-Star slugger Yordan Alvarez led off Houston’s third inning by taking a ball from Red Sox pitcher Rich Hill. Strike one, looking, followed by Alvarez fouling off the next pitch for strike two. The home plate umpire, Jim Wolf, then called another strike, the third of the at bat. But he didn’t utter the crucial words “You’re out!” So Alvarez remained in the box, Hill threw a rare 1-3 pitch, and Alvarez grounded out.

An umpire may not permit a batter to keep batting after three strikes. That’s against the rules. Ridiculously, none of the other three umpires flagged the mistake, either because they weren’t paying attention either, or worse, they noticed but didn’t have the guts and sense of duty to point out the mistake to their colleague.

Next on the list of inexcusable incompetents are the Red Sox pitcher and catcher. They didn’t notice either. Nor did the Boston players on the field, or they didn’t care enough to mention it. Manager Alex Cora didn’t see notice the extra strike: inexcusable. Nor did his bench coach who is there specifically to save Cora when he neglects an obvious move. None of the Red Sox players in the dugout or the bullpen knew how many strikes had been called.

And, as far as I can determine, none of the four broadcast teams describing the game mentioned it.

All of this is inexcusable. True, the botch didn’t have any substantive consequences, but it might have. That the fiasco did no harm is just moral luck. The four umpires should be suspended. Hill and Pawlecki, the Sox catcher, should be fined by the Red Sox. Cora and the Red Sox coaches should be disciplined by the club as well.

Meanwhile, I still can’t figure out how so many people could be so incompetent at the same time, with something as simple as counting to three.

14 thoughts on “A Baseball Integrity And Competence Ethics Train Wreck! [Corrected]

    • I don’t think there is a hitter who played the game who, if given a chance to stay at bat after striking out, wouldn’t take it. It’s not his job to call himself out, any more than it is to tell the umpire who called a ball over the middle of the plate ball four, “No, ump, you missed it: that was a strike.”

  1. I wonder if everyone thought the high corner third strike was, in fact, a ball. It looks high and inside, so nobody thought much about it. Odd, though, that everyone missed it.

    I wonder how many times that has happened. What would have happened if the next pitch had been a homer or a game changer? Would they have changed the call post result? I am sure there is an obscure baseball rule but I have now idea what. Waiver? Too late? Oopsy? Too bad, so sad?

    jvb

    • I’m pretty sure a protest would have to be lodged before another batter came up. The home run could and would be nullified. If the game continued, however, it would be too late.

      • It would be time for a few hundred Boston fans – wearing Red Sox hats and carrying flags – to attempt to gain entrance to the field, the dugouts, and the press booth. Then they would mill around a bit, sing “Three Blind Mice” to the umpires, and protest that the game was invalid because it appeared the rules had been breached to favor Houston over Boston.

        You know…an “insurrection”…

  2. I don’t think a correction will come, but the box score on the official MLB site shows that Alvarez had zero strikeouts for the day, and so Hill got credit for one less strikeout than he actually had. Rule 6.05 says the batter is out when a third strike is caught by the catcher, so, Alvarez was out despite the fact the umpire did not call him out. For scoring, the pertinent rule (10.15) states that the official scorer shall score a strikeout whenever a batter “is put out by a third strike caught by the catcher”, and the official scorer is prohibited (10.01) from making any decision that conflicts with an umpire’s decision. So it would seem that the scorer is in the clear since the batter was not “put out” on that third strike.
    And, it appears that stare decisis in baseball really is stare once the official scorecard is turned in.

    • Maybe that first ‘strike’ was an out of the strike zone call so later on everyone just thought of it as a called ball. Dunno. It is strange that no one brought it up. I did a lot of pitching and some catching back in the day and I’m pretty sure I would have know the count for every pitch.

  3. The mistake made was so rare and bizarre, it makes sense no one caught it in the moment. Since the fourth strike caused no issue out of slightly distorting the statistics, the game just moved on. Had it been a purported hit, I doubt it would have been left unchallenged.

    Suspending the umpire I think would be appropriate. Everyone else was blindsided by his incompetence.

  4. Wow. Hard to believe even after watching it. The umpire clearly didn’t call him out since he used the same called strike arm motion for the third strike as he did for the first. Don’t know of any umpire who doesn’t have a special mannerism in calling batters out on strikes.

    But if he had singled, it is hard to see it being overturned, since no one seemed to find anything out of the ordinary with the pitcher throwing a pitch with a 1-3 count. I imagine once the next batter has taken a pitch, it would be a done deal.

    And to answer a previous question, this is nothing like someone taking first base when the catcher doesn’t catch a third strike. That is a situation that is specifically addressed by the rules in two ways — if the catcher doesn’t catch the third strike he has to retrieve the ball and put out the batter. Secondly, if a pitch is hit foul when there are two strikes, if the catcher catches the foul ‘tip’ the batter has struck out.

    Alternate explanation: Perhaps someone banged on a trash can at just the right moment, distracting every single person in the stadium.

  5. Just talked with my sister about this at bat. She listens to all the Astros games, and she said that the Astros radio announcers did notice this play — they were confused about him not being out after the third strike being called.

    At least someone noticed at the time. I still wonder what would have happened if he’d singled instead of grounding out. Certainly the Astros broadcasters had no obligation to report it to the umpires (any more than Alvarez did to call himself out.

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