It’s the MLB playoffs. I love baseball. Love love love love it. And in may ways, I’m a purist. I am not entirely sure how I feel about instant replay. I’m not the biggest fan of interleague play — which I’m going to have to get over, since it will happen every day next season (and until the leagues even out again. Hello two more expansion teams?) But I like the wildcard.
And yes, I like the second wildcard. I like the fact that the winning the division matters now. I like the fact that teams have to try. I like that we didn’t have a clue what the playoff picture was until the final game of the season this year. (But I think the higher seed opening on the road is dumb. I do not foresee that lasting, though the other innovations of this season probably will.)
But I write this post to discuss more bad officiating. Only to defend the umpires. The Infield Fly call of the other night. (For those who did not follow the events, follow that link.)
As many have pointed out — including Curt Schilling in the link above — this call was probably not why the Braves lost. It may have completely changed the complexion of the game, but I doubt it.
But now I shall defend the umpire. I do think the call was wrong. I do think an outfield umpire should NEVER make an infield fly call. But we cannot blame the left field umpire. We need to remember that umpires usually are in 4-man crews. Only for the postseason are there outfield umpires. This umpire, Sam Holbrook, is not used to seeing what a popup looks like from the outfield. He spent 162 games (actually, I don’t know how many games umpires actually work in a season…but it’s definitely over 100…) playing 3/4 of them from an infield position and 1/4 of them behind home plate calling balls and strikes. I imagine his non-thought process (I say “non-thought” because I imagine it’s instinct after 11.5 years of MLB service…) was “This is an easy popup in front of me. That must be an infield fly,” because it ALWAYS is an infield fly when there’s an easy popup in front of the 3rd base umpire. He forgot he wasn’t at 3rd base on Friday night.
Did Sam Holbrook make the wrong call? Probably. Did it cost the Braves the game? Probably not. Still a much better call than, y’know, this one.