MLB: It's a judgment call, and it's final

Jason Miller

So last night, as you've no doubt seen already, an Angel Hernandez-led umpiring crew blew a call and and cost the Oakland Athletics a game-tying home run in the ninth inning of a game the A's lost. Blew it real bad.

Blew it so bad, in fact, that Major League Baseball's Joe Torre has been forced to personally attend the matter, and issue this official statement:

By rule, the decision to reverse a call by use of instant replay is at the sole discretion of the crew chief. In the opinion of Angel Hernandez, who was last night's crew chief, there was not clear and convincing evidence to overturn the decision on the field. It was a judgment call, and as such, it stands as final.

Home and away broadcast feeds are available for all uses of instant replay, and they were available to the crew last night. Given what we saw, we recognize that an improper call was made. Perfection is an impossible standard in any endeavor, but our goal is always to get the calls right. Earlier this morning, we began the process of speaking with the crew to thoroughly review all the circumstances surrounding last night's decision.

Well, at least they've admitted the umpires blew it. That's something, right? If small solace to the A's.

But it's not immediately obvious, to me anyway, why the call must stand as final. Except that it would be a terribly inconvenient hassle to offer some redress to the Athletics. But then, isn't there a mechanism in place for those rare occasions when a protest is upheld?

Yes, there is.

It's a slippery slope, though. When an umpire misses a call at first base and the league later acknowledges the call was wrong, should that also be fertile ground for a protest? Because that means dozens or maybe hundreds of games being protested each season. You do have to draw the line somewhere, and Major League Baseball has decided to draw the line somewhere north of protests ever succeeding.

Despite what you might have heard, this is tricky stuff. At some point you have to let someone's judgment stand. But maybe this is beyond that point. It's just a hard thing to figure. What if the home run had come in the first inning? Do you overturn the ruling, and essentially play an entirely new game, wiping away everything that happened after the disputed call? I don't know.

The best thing, as Torre points out, is to get the call right in the first place. But as long as there's so little accountability with the umpires -- you know, since it's almost impossible to fire one of them -- getting the call right will always be subject to the vagaries of relative incompetence.

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