Dale Scott And The Incorrect Mechanic

LOS ANGELES, CA: Home plate umpire Dale Scott looks on as Manager Bud Black of the San Diego Padres speaks his mind after a triple play in the ninth inning during the MLB game between the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Both teams wore the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. The Dodgers defeated the Padres 5-4. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

As you probably know, Sunday afternoon, home-plate umpire Dale Scott made a controversial call that allowed the Dodgers to turn a triple play against the Padres. It's all been explained now, though, so move on.

This is not a feature about Dale Scott taking his car to a mechanic, and then receiving bad advice that ends up costing him thousands of dollars. I don't think that happened, and even if that did happen, nobody would ever write about it, except maybe Dale Scott in personal email. If I intercepted that email, I still wouldn't publish it online; not even TMZ would scrape that hard for material.

This is a feature about Dale Scott's call Sunday afternoon in the ninth inning of a game between the Padres and the Dodgers. You know the one I'm talking about. And if you don't know the one I'm talking about, you can watch it right here, on the Internet!


Triple play. Padres don't score. Minutes later, Dodgers do score and Dodgers do win. Controversial. One of the big stories on Monday was about some controversial umpiring in Boston, so I figured I'd open Tuesday by talking about some controversial umpiring in Los Angeles.

Let's get a bunch of stuff out of the way first. Ultimately, the call was right. The bunt wound up fair, and all of the players were out. Were it not for Scott's confusing signal, the Dodgers might still have turned a double play. Were it not for Scott's confusing signal, there's no guarantee the Padres would've won and the Dodgers would've lost. It's unlikely this one game will make all the difference when it comes to the two teams' respective playoff lives.

And, of course, this is just a weird call. I'm not even necessarily comfortable calling it a blown call, although it kind of was. Every team is victimized by questionable umpiring at some point, so we needn't dwell on one specific instance. But then, we needn't dwell on any of this. What makes a questionable call less worth dwelling on than, say, a big winning streak or a no-hitter? It's all just baseball. It doesn't make sense to dwell on any of this. And so we dwell on a lot of this because we live for our distractions. We're going to dwell on Scott's call because why not?

It was messed up. That's what you didn't need to hear, because you already knew it. Just look at the Padres' reactions. Scott led them to believe that the ball was dead, and then he signaled that the ball was live. As an umpire, you're pretty much never supposed to do that. Like at all.

Once it was over, though, what's done is done. The umpires can't go back and reverse their decision. Over at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron suggested that the game be resumed from that very spot, but of course that's an interesting idea that Major League Baseball would probably never make real. Realistically, all that was left for the Padres in the aftermath was some sort of apology. Something to indicate that the umpire had made a mistake.

MLB's Peter Woodfork released a statement on Monday:

After review and discussion with the umpire, we have determined that the call itself of a fair ball was correct. However, while making the call, there was an incorrect mechanic, which appeared to confuse San Diego's base runners. At no time did the umpire verbally kill the play on the field. After reviewing the entire situation following the game, the umpire realizes his hands were in an exaggerated upward appearance similar to a call that would indicate a dead ball. While we all agree that it was a fair ball that did not hit the batter, the umpire recognizes that the proper mechanic was not executed as he tried to avoid the catcher.

It's ... something, but it's unsatisfying. The statement is correct: the eventual call was right. The eventual call is not what's under dispute. It's what happened before that call, and while Scott might not have verbally called the play dead, do you think the runners are paying attention to Scott's words, or Scott's actions? Scott indicated with his hands that the ball was dead. The runners were a good distance away from him.

I don't like that bit about an "incorrect mechanic". I don't like that bit about an "exaggerated upward appearance similar to a call that would indicate a dead ball". Woodfork suggests that Scott's arms were up because he was trying to get out of the catcher's way. Let's watch:

Scottguzman

At first, okay, maybe. Maybe. But then do you see the double-pump? This is what I'm talking about:

Scottguzman2

Scottguzman3

That is a clear dead-ball signal. I don't think that dead-ball signal could be any clearer. The Padres' lead runner is already retreating to second base -- presumably because Scott immediately threw up his hands -- but that doesn't matter. As soon as Scott waved his hands the second time, that's it. That isn't a signal similar to the dead-ball signal. That is the dead-ball signal.

As it happens, earlier in the same game, Dee Gordon fouled off an attempted bunt. Dale Scott's reaction:

Scottgordon

Hands up. Foul ball, dead ball. The signal looks the same because it's the same. Here are some less helpful screenshots:

Scottgordon_medium

Scottguzman_medium

There's not a lot that can be done about this now. There wasn't a lot that could've been done about this at the time of Woodfork's statement. But the statement, to me, was insufficiently apologetic. The statement says that Scott made an improper motion that could've been interpreted as the dead-ball motion. Scott made the dead-ball motion. There's a difference there, and Scott deserves more blame than he's getting.

The irony of all this is ... actually, scratch that, I don't think I know how to use "irony" right. What's funny about all this is that we're getting on an umpire's case after he eventually got a difficult call right. But it isn't about that eventual call -- it's about the call right before that. More generally, this is about umpire accountability. Dale Scott screwed up when he indicated a dead ball, but as soon as he indicated a dead ball, it should've been a dead ball. It wasn't, the Dodgers benefited, and if Scott's being disciplined, we haven't heard anything about it. We just got a statement that didn't state the right thing. I feel bad for the Padres. For this reason and so many other reasons, I feel bad for the Padres.

***


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