Altuve steals 2nd with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th! Was safe the correct call? pic.twitter.com/tXIfZFR9ez
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 29, 2022
I used to wonder how baseball umpires could be so decisive about calling baserunners safe or out on chaotic tag plays when the defender attempts to apply the glove with the ball in it to runner’s sliding body before he touches the base. I figured they must just be better at seeing what looked like a flailing mess than I am.
Eventually we got high speed / high resolution video and I found out: on really close plays, umpires couldn’t really tell if a runner’s foot or hand evaded the tag in time. In fact, even after watching super slo-mo replays, I am often still befuddled … as are the umpire’s overseers at the video center in New York tasked with watching appealed decisions from every angle and deciding whether to overrule the man on the spot.
What umpires actually do is make a decision based on the overall gestalt of the play: e.g., yeah, the throw got there in time and on the money, so, even though I can’t prove on this precise play that the runner didn’t elude the tag, most of the time he wouldn’t, so he’s OUT.
And now that I’ve seen the time-consuming alternative, I think the old way of doing it was good enough.
They should get rid of video reviews of baseball tag plays on the basepaths. They stop the action for several minutes and often don’t leave us able to make a definitive judgment of whether the runner was safe or out.
For example, in this play in the first game of the Houston Astros – Philadelphia Phillies World Series, the umpire decisively called little Jose Altuve safe at second base. The Phillies appealed. After quite a number of different camera angles, we were left with an interesting philosophical argument about when precisely is the thrown ball in the glove — when the ball enters the perimeter of the glove or when it wedges itself securely in the pocket. In this play, it looks like the time it takes for the ball to wedge itself in the glove is about equal to the time it takes Altuve’s foot to go the last inch or so to the bag. But I can’t tell definitively from any angle when his foot first touches the base.
On this play, the umpire called Altuve safe with confidence-instilling self-certainty. After several minutes of review, the umpire’s call was upheld on the grounds that the tie goes to the runner and there’s no proof that the umpire’s original call of at least a tie should be overruled.
Let’s let the umpires go back to doing their jobs and get on with the game.