Monday, August 18, 2014

In the Neighborhood

You may have noticed that the Red Sox were victimized by an overturned call this weekend. I suppose “victimized” might be the wrong term, since the call was changed from being wrong to being right. So, they were victimized by being forced to actually live with the mistake they made. But, we’re getting a bit off topic here.

They were hurt by the fact that they reviewed the play when some thought it was a “neighborhood” play, and therefore couldn’t be reviewed. We could argue for the rest of the day as to whether that was, in fact, a neighborhood. But, what I would like to know is, why can’t you review the neighborhood play in the first place?

I imagine we all know what the neighborhood play is. Generally, it’s when an infielder flips the ball to the guy covering second to start a double play, but the guy at second doesn’t quite touch the base before releasing the ball to first. Sometimes, they’re not even close to touching the base. I’ve seen them flat out straddling the base, and still get the call. Why do they allow that to happen?

I can see it before replay was around. That’s a tough call for an umpire to be watching two things. Is the ball in the glove, and is the foot on the bag? That’s hard to see in one view, so I understand if he needed to cheat a bit on one of the calls. But with replay? The reason I heard yesterday was that it was a safety issue. That’s a good place for an infielder to get his ankle broken, so they don’t mind letting it slide a bit. My problem is, isn’t it being a safety issue kind of the point? I understand if the play’s not close. It happens a lot at first base. The fielder will take his foot off the base so it doesn’t get stepped on. Sometimes he takes it off a split second before the ball is actually in the glove. But, if the runner is out by a couple steps, it’s not a big deal. If it gets really obvious, the umpire might tell the fielder to hold it a little longer next time. But, that’s not what’s happening at the double play. The fielder is trying to beat a runner to the base, and quickly make the throw to beat the guy running to first. Taking the time to actually touch the base is a pretty important part of the equation. Why should he be allowed to skip out if he’s nervous? Do we call a complete pass in football when the receiver going over the middle doesn’t extend his arms out because he’s afraid of getting hit? That’s a safety thing too. Or, if an outfielder pulls up a bit to avoid crashing into the wall and doesn’t make a catch. He was just cheating a bit to avoid a safety issue. Should he be given the catch?

Or a pitcher using pine tar. People seem to be OK with it if it’s just to improve the grip. That’s a safety issue. After all, we don’t want people throwing a 90 MPH pitch they can’t control. Instead, shouldn’t we make the pitcher adjust to the rules? If he can’t control his pitch without pine tar, shouldn’t he have to choose a pitch he can control? If he can’t control it at 90, throw it at 85. It’s not our fault if that’s easier to hit. Just like the guy at second. If you don’t have time to get the ball, touch the base, and make a throw, I guess you can’t turn two in that situation. Why do we keep allowing rules to be bent in order to comply with what players are doing?

Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

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