Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Heidi Game

It's always shitastical when you lose a series to a last-place team, but....there's no but here. Except that we stay in first by a half-game since the Yanks were rained out today.

It seemed like everyone from the umps to NESN (fine, only those two) were conspiring against our enjoyment today. Let's start with a play where both of them let us down. At left, you'll see Jed Lowrie about to catch the ball at second and make the turn on a double play. The runner is so far from the bag he's off screen. So please give me one reason why an umpire would call the guy safe in this situation. You can't because he's out. But the ump said safe. My guess as to why: Jed got the ball and very quickly slid to his left to avoid the runner and make the throw. I think the ump saw this and thought he left the base area too early, much like the way a first baseman will come off the bag to try and sell a call. However, that was not the case. As you see in the picture, he's catching the ball while still at the bag.

Here's where NESN comes into play: Remy thought out, too. Said he thought there was no question. As the first replay airs, he suddenly becomes obsessed with whether or not Jed actually made contact with the bag. He left it at that: did he touch it, or not? This former second baseman didn't even mention the neighborhood rule. The phantom tag. Every baseball player and fan knows that a player turning the double play at second base doesn't have to be ON the base to get credit for the forceout. Just be right near it when you catch the ball, then get the hell out of the way of the barreling runner, and you've done your job. They eve went back to two more replays later, and Remy was still in deep focus on whether or not he actually touched, in a situation where just being close is good enough. The ump shouldn't even be watching for that! You think he's watching Jed's foot sliiiide across right near the bag and thinking, That better touch, I got my eye on that foot! No! He's seeing what you see in the pic, and he knows that right there is good enough for an out, as long as he doesn't either drop the ball or move away from the base before he gets the ball. So in Remy's mind, he's safe because the foot juuuuust missed second as he brushed across the dirt inches from the base (which IS an out, at every level of baseball--this isn't something I'd try to argue against if it was the other team in the field), and in the ump's mind, he's safe because Jed pulled out early, but in reality, neither of those things happened. (Maybe you could make a case that the ump felt that since the runner was so far away, he needed hot spikes-on-base action to give credit for the out, I don't know.)

NESN is also killing me with these new angles they'll show on pitches. I've said it a million times: If you wanna give us crazy and different views of things, that's wonderful--do it on replays! Only. Why are you suddenly showing me a live pitch from behind the catcher, zoomed in. One time we saw Youk swing from this angle. You could barely tell that he hit it. And where he hit it was anyone's guess. Since it was a 3-2 pitch and he was still batting, we knew he'd hit the ball, and that it went foul. But we never saw the secondary camera shot that should show the ball after it's hit, and Don didn't even say what happened at all. We completely missed what happened on a batted ball. No video, no description. How does that happen? Later, they showed that angle again. And again, it turned out to be the money pitch. Guy hits it. Ball goes up. We have no idea. At least with the regular shot, you get a sense of where the ball's going right when it's it. Once when Pedroia was up, they showed a live pitch from off to the side! And once again, it's the pitch he puts in play. Turns out it's a deep fly out. But we never got to have that sense of "Oh, this could be a dong." Just "he hit the ball." Sadly, these aren't mistakes by NESN. They're clearly making an attempt to try new things. I just can't understand why we all have to miss the game while it's happening because of it. Is that what people were begging for? Joe from Walpole tweets: "more othr stuff, les game shit." Kristi Z. wrote on our facebook wall "baesball's for fags, more conseshun stand reports plz." Be smart, NESN. Lots of people went to Justin Beiber concerts last year. Doesn't mean lots of people have a clue. You know you're supposed to be showing a baseball game to baseball fans. Do that first.

Then there was the time when they cut to a pre-taped Heidi Watney segment where she talks about the train in left field. While we're still getting that audio, they cut back for a pitch, on which there's a stolen base attempt. Guy slides into second, and the ball gets away. Guy starts to run to third as the fielders chase the---CUT BACK TO HEIDI'S TRAIN REPORT. Yes, they cut away mid-play. Action was happening. There's action in baseball, what, 10% of the time? When you actually get some, please show it. But nope, we got Heidi instead. We were finally taken back to the game only to find out the Raiders had scored two quick touchdowns and won 43-32! Will these networks ever learn?

And by the way, regarding the still frame: Jed's RIGHT foot actually gets CLOSER to the bag as he sweeps it past, after this frame. What you see there is good enough, he's got the bag surrounded. But actually did better than that, and they still said safe. I also think maybe the ump could have been fooled, thinking he came off early because there was all that space, no runner around...for scale.
Good post, I have played second base too (not in the big leagues, though!) and I was a bit angry at the umpires through this whole series. Also on the Mike Carp play where he was off the bag and they called Pedey out. I have a blog about the Sox as well at Maybe you could check it out sometime?

Will these networks ever learn?

Doubtful. They're really awful. The angle from behind the catcher is the absolute worst. Years ago, the Expos and Blue Jays used to appear on CBC television with Labatt Brewery as a major sponsor. I started calling the view from behind the catcher the "Labatt angle", because I never saw it on U.S. television networks. Such a shame to hear NESN is actually trying it. It sucks.

The "neighbourhood play" is something that has stuck in my craw for years. I wouldn't argue it either, even if it were a call against my team, because it's so prevalent. But I would be impressed if one year, prior to the start of the season, both leagues announced that there would be no more neighbourhood plays for anyone. It would be a straight up "you're on the bag or off it, and if you're on, it's an out, if not, safe" situation. No discretion by individual umpires, no sudden mid-season, unannounced adoption by one league but not the other. Fair warning given and all that. But until that happens, yes, agree it's part of the game.

The other announcement I'd love to hear is that interleague play is toast, because that's why we have the World Series. But that's another topic.
As for the neighborhood rule, I think it's one of these things that's necessary to keep the game fair, like the infield fly rule. It would be like if somebody walked over hot coals and didn't get credit because they didn't step on the right coals. You kinda have to allow for the guy to make the play while also being able to survive it. Granted, it does leave a gray area, where it can be interpreted differently by different umps. This is why using replay any time it's needed would be a good thing.
Thanks for doing this. If NESN wants, it can try some new things after it learns how to broadcast an entire game in something resembling a "normal" fashion. The network has a long way to go to get to that exalted level of competence.

I always understood that the neighborhood play evolved to avoid serious collisions at second base on double plays. We've all seen out calls where it seems like the 2B or SS is barely on the infield dirt, let alone near the bag. In this case, I don't think Lowrie touched the bag, but he was only a few inches away from it. In 999 out of 1,000 plays, he's called out and everyone agrees it's an obvious call

Will this ump apply this standard to every play at second he sees? I doubt it. Maybe he simply hates Jed.

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