There was a play, Wednesday night in Game 5, that will be completely forgotten by Thursday morning because it soon seemed irrelevant. But there are a couple of lessons it might teach us, methinks.
It was the top of the eighth inning, and the Pirates were losing 3-1. With one out, pinch-hitter Jordy Mercer -- who should have been starting at shortstop, but whatever -- singled to right field. Next up, Starling Marte poked a weak line drive to second baseman Matt Carpenter, who snagged the spheroid and fired it toward first base.
The play there was exceptionally close, but first-base umpire Paul Nauert called Mercer out.
Double play! Minor threat squelched! Cue Twitter!
Good Lord Paul Nauert just made a horrible call.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 10, 2013
He was safe and nobody's surprised and why do we even bother.— Amanda Rykoff (@amandarykoff) October 10, 2013
Oh that's tough to watch. Mercer was safe on the throw to first.— SB Nation MLB (@SBNationMLB) October 10, 2013
Oh well, Pittsburgh. After 20 straight losing seasons, what's one blown umpire call?— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) October 10, 2013
And the TBS announcers are terrified to suggest that that blown call was anything other than a "close call."— Adam J. Morris (@lonestarball) October 10, 2013
"Drew an argument?" Can someone just say it was a missed call? It happens..acknowledge it. Wow..— Brian Kenny (@MrBrianKenny) October 10, 2013
And those were the smart people! You can imagine what the idiots were saying about Mr. Nauert. Of course, TBS didn't help matters by neglecting to run any sort of definitive replay before going to commercial. And three minutes in the Twitterverse is an eternity.
An eternity later, we did get that replay. And guess what! A funny thing happened on the way to killing the umpire ...
It's not easy to see there, and one might even argue that we still haven't seen anything conclusive. But it sure looked (and looks) like Mercer came up a few inches short with his slide, and so Nauert got the call right. Did he really see the play well enough to make the correct call? It looks like he might have been a little lucky. If only because it was probably too close for any human to get right every time, or much more than half the time. So no, my point isn't that Paul Nauert is a brilliant umpire.
I have two points.
The first is that we're terribly quick to judge.
The second is that adding more video review is going to mean questioning a lot of calls that were called correctly in the first place. Because the managers are going to challenge all the close ones ... and more than half the time, maybe well more than half the time, the challenges will be for naught. Because the umpires are pretty damned good at this.