Angel Hernandez and the home run that wasn't

Jason Miller

Umpiring is hard. Just ask anyone. And sometimes it must be really hard for Angel Hernandez, who just seems to find himself with the worst of umpiring-hard luck.

For example, last night in Cleveland, Oakland's Adam Rosales hit a long, long fly ball in the ninth inning. There were two outs and the A's were behind by one run, so it seemed like a pretty important fly ball. It was pretty hard to see exactly what happened, but the baseball bounced off something in deep left-center field, and Rosales wound up on second base with a for-the-moment double.

A's manager Bob Melvin, understandably, trotted from the dugout and asked the umpires to review their decision. See, there's this yellow line atop the wall in deep left-center field, and above the yellow line there's a railing to hold back the baseball fans. If the ball hits the railing above the yellow line -- even it bounces back onto the field -- it's a home run. That's what the umpires would call a grounds rule.

We're now in our sixth season of video review, and hundreds of disputed home runs have been checked. The umpires get together in a little booth, and review all the video their friends in New York can quickly provide. The system's been in place for nearly five years now, and it works pretty well. Sometimes the video's not conclusive, but usually it is. For example, Wednesday night it seemed highly conclusive.

Here's what the A's broadcast team said, upon viewing some slow-motion replay:

Wow, that's a home run there. Please watch this one. That is a great shot, guys.

Well, sure: the A's broadcast team is hardly objective about these things.

Here's what the Indians' broadcast team said, upon viewing some slow-motion replay:

And you'll see that ball ... That might be out of here ... Yeah, sure did. We're going to have a tie game.

Angel Hernandez signals ... second base! Here comes Bob Melvin!

Here, you can see all this for yourself. Maybe you'll see something that the broadcasters didn't see, but Angel Hernandez did:


Look, it's easy to pick on Hernandez, because he was the crew chief. But who knows what happened with those four blind mice in that little room? Maybe the lighting was terrible. Maybe Hernandez got outvoted by his colleagues. Maybe somebody had a really hot date after the game. There must be some explanation for the umpires not seeing what everyone else in the world saw, over and over again in slow-motion. You just hope it's a good one.

Alas, we might never know ...

Of course, none of this is going to improve Angel Hernandez's professional reputation. Then again, at this point there's probably nothing that could, short of voluntary retirement.

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