Sunday, September 4, 2011

I Doth Protest: Trying To Sort Today's Debacle Between The Phillies And The Marlins

In a season where Wilson Valdez played 18 innings in the infield, pitched the 19th, and became the winning pitcher after starting in the field for the first time since Babe Ruth, incredibly, that is no longer the strangest Phillies game of the season. That honor now belongs to today's Phillies-Marlins game which ended on a walkoff walk. Though it was not the 3rd walkoff walk of the 2011 season that made it bizarre and strange, but rather the 6th inning where Hunter Pence hit a deep fly ball to right that was initially called a double before being reviewed and (rightly) determining that there was fan interference on the play. Now whether or not Bryan Petersen would have actually made that catch is certainly suspect at best. It looked like his glove was closing as the ball was the falling down and it would ultimately bounce away from him, however, that is not for sure. What is known is a fan definitively reached over the wall and made sure Petersen had no chance of making what may have been one of the great plays of the day. That is certain.

Now if only it were that simple. Where the controversy occurs is how the umpires went about today's festivities.

That the exact written rules for instant replay are not available online do not make things easier in judging if Joe West acted properly or not. This is what we know. Instant replay is used for reviewing home runs. This was ruled a double turned to an out based on fan interference. A home run does not factor into that at all, although if the umps wanted to review to see if it was home run, then they can make the call that they made today.

Joe West said Charlie Manuel requested a review. Charlie Manuel said he did not request a review. The rules say a manager does not need to make a request for there to be a review. Judging from the video that it never appears Charlie Manuel approaches the umpires asking for a review certainly does not lend credit to Joe West's case. Jack McKeon, on the other hand, does appear engaged with the officials. It is highly doubtful he would be requesting the umpires see if that play should result in two runs for the other team.

Joe West would go on to say, "We’ve got a decision as to whether the spectator inference happened over the fence or before the fence."

The question here is about the process, not about the results of that process. It certainly appears that at the very best there was a stretching of the rules to get where they got to, and if not, then a lot of lying on the part of Joe West after the game. Whether or not they got the call right, I believe they did, but at the same time, it is a stretch to say that the Bryan Petersen making that catch is a given. According to Rule 3.16, "If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out." It is unknown if the catch would have been made, but that fan reached over the wall and clearly prevented denied him that chance. But were the umps allowed to review it?

That's the question MLB will be asking when they rule whether or not to uphold the Phillies' official protest of the game. So much has been said, and the instant replay rules are not readily available online preventing me from definitively for sure, but given Joe West's comments, it certainly appears suspect. It's been 25 years since a protest has last been upheld. Regardless of it MLB should uphold the protest, it certainly would be shocking if they did based alone on their dealing with the umpires and historical precedence.

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