Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Buster Olney thinks the Indians should win their protest...

From ESPN Insider...

UPDATE: MLB Denied the Indians' request.

Protest should go Indians' way

History suggests that the Indians probably won't win their protest of Saturday's game, Jeff Zrebiec writes. The best-case scenario for the Indians would be if Major League Baseball ordered that the game be replayed from the moment that the umpires made their mistake, says Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro. Most protests have no reasonable chance for success, but if common sense prevails, the Indians will win this protest, because the precedent established by the umpires on Saturday would create such a dangerous gray area for how similar situations would be handled in the future. To review: The Orioles had runners at first and third and one out in the second inning. After Grady Sizemore made a diving catch of Ramon Hernandez's line drive, Nick Markakis tagged up and raced home. At the same time, Miguel Tejada was far off first base, and Sizemore threw to first and Tejada was doubled off -- but after Markakis crossed home plate. Markakis' run should have counted. But home-plate umpire Marvin Hudson waved off the run. And the Orioles said nothing, at that time, as the Indians noted in their letter of protest.

Two innings later, Baltimore bench coach Tom Trebelhorn walked out on the field to talk to Ed Montague about the decision -- and in the sixth inning, the umpires ordered that a run be added to the Orioles' score.

Now, if you believe in fallacy of the predetermined outcome, then this run wouldn't have made a difference. The Orioles wound up winning, 7-4, and not by one run. But baseball games are like road maps, each turn leading to the next. Anybody who has watched baseball knows that managers and players will make their decisions according to the game situation, and the score always frames the game situation. Spoke with a number of folks in Major League Baseball on Sunday, and none of them could remember an instance in which umpires retroactively gave a run to a team, the way the umpires did for the Orioles. So if Major League Baseball rejects the Cleveland protest and retroactive decisions become acceptable practice, what happens in the future?

Let's say that down the road the Orioles are playing the Angels, and Vladimir Guerrero pulls a ball down the left-field line, right near the foul pole -- and Montague, the umpire, rules it a foul ball. And then two innings later, Montague realizes that the ugly mark on the foul pole actually is due to Guerrero's line drive. Maybe he sees a replay while stopping by the men's room between innings. If his bottom line is only getting the call right, could he then, at that point, correct a mistake and give Guerrero a three-run homer? According to the precedent established on Saturday, it would seem he absolutely could do that.

What if an umpire inadvertently awards a walk to open an inning, on a 2-2 pitch, nobody says anything, and the team at bat goes on to score four runs -- and then the other umps realize, later, that the hitter shouldn't have been award first base. Can they go back and change the play?

And here's another horrifying thought: What if the exact same play that happened in Cleveland occurred next year, in a game that was ultimately decided by one run. Imagine if Montague realized his mistake during extra innings, or after the game was over? Should Montague then go back and add a run to the score, and make it a tie game? And if you were the team that lost by one run, wouldn't you absolutely expect to have your run added, since retroactive run-scoring would theoretically be the umpiring standard?

There are a billion scenarios like this, and probably a billion more that we haven't imagined, all created by the precedent of retroactive run scoring. To let this happen would open up a Pandora's box.

The Powers That Be may well decide to turn down the protest based on the three-run differential, but think about the precedent that would set. In all future protests, would the first consideration be the final score -- or the correct administration of the game's rules?