Those who want to see Major League Baseball move to an automated strike zone might want to be careful what they wish for.
MLB has been testing the automatic strike zone during Arizona Fall League action, and Keith Law of The Athletic was able to observe one of the games. That game, between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, was called after seven and a half innings after both teams ran out of pitchers. The two teams issued a combined 22 walks, and those seven and a half innings took three hours.
There were other issues at play as well, to be fair. The game was also played with a strict pitch clock and a ban on defensive shifts. The pitch clock was also a significant issue, and it led to top prospect Spencer Torkelson being called out after facing two strikes in another game.
The big story is the automated strike zone, which Law reports simply isn’t good enough right now. One major reason for that is that the actual strike zone is much smaller than the one frequently called by human umpires, particularly on the inside and outside parts of the plate. That led to a lot of pitches just off the plate — potential strikes in a current MLB game — being consistently called balls.
Calls for robot umps are frequent on social media whenever an inconsistent strike zone pops up in an MLB game, which is admittedly fairly often. We’ve seen some very questionable calls in the playoffs this season, and there will no doubt be more. That said, as frustrating as those calls are, they may be preferable to what the automated umps are capable of right now.
Umpire Gabe Morales got the Wikipedia treatment after his blown call ended the San Francisco Giants’ season.
The Giants lost 2-1 to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of their NLDS on Thursday night at Oracle Park in San Francisco. They struggled offensively against the Dodgers in the game, but got a runner on in the 9th against Max Scherzer thanks to a Justin Turner fielding error.
Then with two outs in the inning, Scherzer had Wilmer Flores 0-2. Flores appeared to check his swing on the 0-2 pitch low and away. The Dodgers appealed to the first base umpire, Morales, who said Flores swung (video here). That call gave the Dodgers the strikeout and ended the game.
Giants fans were furious over the call. Morales’ Wikipedia profile immediately received some unfriendly edits.
The first edit called Morales an “LA Fanboy.”
The second edit listed him as being on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ payroll.
That sort of treatment is pretty typical after a big play like that. What an awful way for the Giants’ season to end, though Dodgers fans noted a bit of karma.
Photo: Jun 18, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; MLB umpire Gabe Morales reacts during the Arizona Diamondbacks game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Cedric Mullins had a rough night at the plate on Thursday against the Boston Red Sox. Umpire Manny Gonzalez didn’t exactly help him out.
Mullins, who is having a 30/30 season for the Baltimore Orioles, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He punched out three times against Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta, including once in the bottom of the third with two runners on.
Mullins was called out by Gonzalez on a breaking ball up in the zone that crossed around Mullins’ shoulders.
That is rough.
Even though Mullins was on the wrong end of that call, teammate Ryan Mountcastle followed with a three-run home run to give his team the lead. The Orioles won 6-2.
Mullins is 1 for his last 12 with seven strikeouts. He was a first-time All-Star this season following a hot first half that has largely continued in the second half.
Umpire Junior Valentine was hit in the face by an errant throw on Monday, and he showed some toughness afterwards.
Valentine was serving as the first base umpire in Monday’s New York Mets-St. Louis Cardinals game. In the bottom of the second, Kevin Pillar hit a ball up the middle. Shortstop Edmundo Sosa made the stop and spun around for the throw, but the throw went up the line and hit Valentine in the head.
Valentine stayed in the game despite getting clocked by the throw, although he did get bloody.
After the game, crew chief Jerry Meals said Valentine was doing well and did not have any broken bones.
What a champ.
A scary scene unfolded during Monday’s game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox, as home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez was forced to leave after taking a foul tip to the head.
Rays outfielder Jordan Luplow got a piece of a Chris Sale pitch in the bottom of the first, and the ball caught Gonzalez right in the face mask. It is not uncommon for that to happen during a game, but there was concern for Gonzalez after he stumbled and looked unsteady on his feet. Trainers immediately ran out to tend to him.
You can see the video below:
Gonzalez appeared to be alert and responsive while speaking with medical personnel, which is a positive sign. He was, however, forced to leave the game. Laz Diaz took his place behind home plate.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have seen an umpire leave a game due to a foul tip to the head. Hopefully Gonzalez makes a speedy recovery.
The umpires in Wednesday’s game between the Los Angeles Angels and San Francisco Giants took a victory away from the Angels with an overturned call.
The Angels and Giants were tied at two in the bottom of the 12th inning. They had runners on the corners with one out when Luis Rengifo hit a grounder to first.
First baseman Darin Ruf threw home to try and cut down Juan Lagares’ attempt to score the winning run. It was a very close play at the plate, and the original call was safe.
A safe call gave the Angels a 3-2 win in 12. However, there was a video review of the call and the umpires called Rengifo out.
The play was so close at the plate, and it was so difficult to tell when the tag was applied. That’s why it is surprising the umpires saw enough evidence to overturn the original call on the field.
The umpires in Saturday’s St. Louis Cardinals-Chicago Cubs game somehow missed a call pretty badly in the ninth inning.
The Cardinals were leading 2-1 and looking to close things out in the top of the ninth. Nico Hoerner was batting for the Cubs with two outs and the bases empty. He tapped a ball up the third base line, and the Cardinals decided to let it roll.
Third baseman Nolan Arenado picked up the ball just as it crossed the foul line. However, home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi called it fair.
That was a bad miss.
The Cardinals picked the ball up when it was foul, which should have made it a 1-2 count on Hoerner.
Nick Martini followed with the final out of the game, so the final score was not impacted. But that’s still a bad miss by Phil Cuzzi and crew.
The Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday fell victim to one of the most absurd and inexplicable umpiring decisions you’re likely to see.
With runners at the corners and one out in the second inning of Wednesday’s game, Miami Marlins second baseman Isan Diaz hit a weak ground ball up the first base line. It was fielded by Brewers pitcher Zack Godley, who easily fielded it and flipped it to first to record the out.
However, first base umpire Marty Foster saw it differently. He called obstruction on Godley, awarding Diaz first base.
This one doesn’t make any sense. By rule, the baserunner is supposed to remain inside the running lane, which is completely in foul territory, or risk being called out. This isn’t enforced most of the time, as it often doesn’t matter, but Diaz runs in fair territory all the way to first. If anything, he seems to veer toward Godley as the pitcher is attempting to field the ball. Godley, in contrast, never even leaves the infield grass during the process of making the defensive play. There simply isn’t any scenario where this is obstruction by the rulebook definition. If anything, Diaz is the one committing the infraction by running outside of the baseline.
There have been some really baffling calls in MLB so far this year. Hopefully this doesn’t become any more of a trend than it already is.
MLB umpire Kerwin Danley went down after being hit in the head with a foul tip on Tuesday night, but fortunately it does not sound like he was seriously injured.
Danley was the home plate umpire in San Francisco for the Giants’ 7-5 loss to the Colorado Rockies. With two outs in the top of the sixth inning, Rockies outfielder Sam Hilliard foul tipped a pitch into Danley’s mask. Danley went down and received attention from medical personnel, though he appeared to remain alert.
Danley left the game, but the Giants said afterword that he was doing well aside from having a slight headache.
That is certainly good news, as Danley has taken a beating behind the plate in the past. All umpires get hit at some point, but he once had a terrifying incident where he was hit with a broken bat and had to be taken off the field in a stretcher. You can see that video here.
Fortunately, it sounds like Danley should be back to work in short order.
Major League Baseball umpire Brian O’Nora was arrested in a prostitution sting over the weekend.
O’Nora was one of 14 alleged “Johns” who were arrested in Ohio after they solicited prostitutes online, according to a police report obtained by TMZ. He was arrested on Saturday night by the Liberty Township Police Department, which was working with a task force specializing in human trafficking.
“John stings deter those seeking to purchase sex — reducing the demand for human trafficking — and serve as a reminder that these crimes are more prevalent and closer to home than you may think,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said on Monday.
O’Nora and the other 13 individuals involved were charged with misdemeanor soliciting and misdemeanor possessing criminal tools.
MLB has not yet commented on the arrest. O’Nora has been an umpire in the league since 2000. He worked a World Series in 2012 and has been assigned to three All-Star Games, one of which was in 2019.
The sting operation sounds similar to what we saw happen with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft last year, though he ultimately won his case.