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OK, Justin Ruggiano was definitely safe

Jun 14, 2011, 9:12 AM EDT

Double Face Palm

In ATH this morning I voiced some qualified sentiment that perchance Magglio Ordonez‘s gunning down of Justin Ruggiano at the plate in the Tigers-Rays game was a blown call, deferring to the fact that I couldn’t see a really good replay.

Courtesy of reader ChurchOfThePerpetuallyOutraged, who pointed us to a pic from Jonah Keri’s Twitter feed from last night, I think we can take all of the qualifiers off that assessment.

And I link the pic instead of posting it here because it has dirty words on it, but if you can get past your queasiness over that, you will have Exhibit 1,249 for the prosecution in the case for instant replay.

UPDATE: A cleaned up version of the pic, plus more pics and analysis can be had over at DRaysBay.

  1. jasoncollette - Jun 14, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    Sorry about the profanity in the picture — I let my emotions get the better of me and that quote from some baseball movie (Long Gone, I believe) immediately came to mind. I figured it was cleaner than the term that got Crash Davis thrown out of a game.

  2. cur68 - Jun 14, 2011 at 9:21 AM

    Hey man, be fair. The Ump was totally in a bad position. We have the benefit of hindsight, slow motion cameras and replay. He just has luck and an instant in which to decide the catcher missed the tag by over a foot while Ruggiano’s foot was through the middle of the plate. Seriously though; who is that blind bugger? It happened right in front of him and wasn’t even close.

    None of this would even have been an issue if Ruggiano had played the game the right way and mowed down the catcher who failed to block the plate, totally left him a lane and tried the stupid ‘sweep tag’ play. By not creaming the catcher Ruggiano was rewarded for his wimpy play by being called out. What’s the umpire supposed to do? Use his eyes or something?

  3. NickT - Jun 14, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    I disagree. I think he was out. At the very least, there is not enough evidence to overturn the call if there was instant replay.

    The analysis is looking at the wrong foot. The ump looks to be saying “He got the back foot,” meaning Ruggiano’s right foot. The right foot gets caught on Avila’s foot and Avila likely hit it with the swipe tag before Ruggiano was able to drop his left foot on the plate. Watch the replay from the third-base angle at 1:28 on this link:

    From how far back Avila is reaching, I’d say he almost definitely hit the right foot. At the very least, it would be too close to overturn.

    • NickT - Jun 14, 2011 at 10:14 AM

      Here’s a screencap of the (possible) tag:

      http://ergozoom.tumblr.com/post/6521133683/im-pretty-sure-avila-got-his-glove-on-the-right

      • cur68 - Jun 14, 2011 at 10:20 AM

        You could be right Nick. He might have got that back foot after all… it’s close, though. Very close. I do believe there is not enough evidence to over rule (using the NFL replay metric).

      • paperlions - Jun 14, 2011 at 11:54 AM

        The problem is that there is no way for the ump to see if he tagged that foot…unless he has X-ray vision and can see through Ruggiano’s hip.

        The fact that the catcher kept trying to apply a tag, suggests that he didn’t make contact or at least that he thought he didn’t. Clever fielders act like they made the tag even if they missed by a foot.

      • NickT - Jun 14, 2011 at 12:17 PM

        Paperlions–
        You’re right, the ump may not have had a clear view, but that doesn’t mean he made the wrong call. Even from the ump’s view it’s clear that Ruggiano’s foot gets caught on Avila’s foot, and Avila can clearly stretch far enough to make the tag, so that info has to come into play for the ump. There is no one position for any ump to see every angle, so they regularly need to make assumptions based on the information they have.

        As for Avila continuing to attempt to make the tag, he said after the game that he thought he caught Ruggiano on the swipe, but he wasn’t sure so he went for another tag. That seems reasonable to me.

      • NickT - Jun 14, 2011 at 1:48 PM

        Here’s a screencap from the first-base angle:

        http://ergozoom.tumblr.com/post/6525801653/another-view-of-avilas-swipe-tag-notice-the

        I think Avila’s glove is up against Ruggiano’s cleats before Ruggiano gets to the plate.

    • RickyB - Jun 14, 2011 at 10:28 AM

      This is exactly what I was wondering when I first saw the play — did he get the back foot? There is no clear shot of whether or not he actually touched the heel of his right foot, and to say he was definitely out is not taking all the evidence into account.

    • jasoncollette - Jun 14, 2011 at 10:33 AM

      Nice – that’s not when the umpire made the call. Other angles show the first swipe tag was clearly missed. Here’s the animated gif of the play

      If he did get the first tag on, then why was that call not made then? If you read the ump’s lips, he says “his foot went up in the air” which clearly shows that the umpire never saw Ruggiano’s foot touch home plate.

      • NickT - Jun 14, 2011 at 12:27 PM

        I have not seen an angle that shows the swipe tag was “clearly missed.” That animated gif does not show a gap between the glove and the foot; there is plenty of time for contact to be made.

        As for when the call was made, umpires always wait a beat on a close play at the plate, if for no other reason than to check if the catcher held on to the ball. That was not out of the ordinary on this play.

        The ump may have said “his foot went up in the air” like you say, but I can’t see it–at what point in the video is that?

        Regardless, even if the ump made the call for the wrong reason, the call still wasn’t wrong enough to overturn via replay (if replay was available).

      • jasoncollette - Jun 14, 2011 at 2:14 PM

        NickT – in the MLB video link you provided – jump to the 21 second mark and watch the next 10 seconds

      • NickT - Jun 14, 2011 at 2:44 PM

        jasoncollette–
        Thanks for the note. I agree he said something along the lines of “his foot went up in the air,” but I don’t think he’s saying that for the reason you think.

        Here’s my pure speculation: Maddon starts the argument with “he never tagged him” and the ump responds with “yes he did” (about ten times, actually). Maddon then says the foot was already on the plate before the swipe tag, and the ump responds with, “his foot went up in the air.” Problem solved! ;)

        But, as I’ve said before, it doesn’t really matter what the ump was thinking. My point is that it is not possible to tell from the replay that he was definitely safe, so this play should never be overturned by instant replay.

        (Note: I am an advocate of instant replay in certain forms, but I think it has to be irrefutable evidence to overturn a call on the field. There is not irrefutable evidence in this case.)

    • FC - Jun 14, 2011 at 11:01 AM

      You guys are totally missing the point. By the time Avila is swinging to tag him, Ruggiano was ALL OVER THE HOME PLATE. I don’t care if Avila did or did not tag him in the right foot, Ruggiano WAS ALREADY SAFE AT THE PLATE. Stop looking at the sweeping arm and start looking at when Ruggiano painted the plate with his A$$!

      • FC - Jun 14, 2011 at 11:08 AM

        And let’s say Ruggiano didn’t really slide into home plate, he slid around and missed it (I don’t believe that for a second). The Upire makes the call AFTER Avila makes the tag on his LEFT leg, you know, the one that WAS ALREADY ON HOME PLATE, that Ruggiano put in there for extra insurance?

        So to me the Umpire did not believe Avila tagged him in the first swipe. That’s just an excuse he’s making up when Maddon is calling him on his BS.

      • NickT - Jun 14, 2011 at 12:08 PM

        This is obviously wrong from all angles. Ruggiano first touches the plate when reaching back with his left leg, well after the swipe tag attempt.

      • FC - Jun 14, 2011 at 2:37 PM

        @Nick, there are two tag attempts, the swipe which missed completely, and the actual tag AFTER Ruggiano’s left leg was on the plate. The Umpire calls Ruggiano out AFTER the second tag, NOT after the swipe. So it’s BS that Ruggiano was called out after the attempted swipe-tag on his right leg. The Ump would have called it immediately. The Umpire goofed and tried to cover by saying it was the right leg. But he called the out as soon as Avila made the tag on the left leg AFTER the swipe. What the sequence on the replay. The umpire isn’t calling him out on the swipe-tag, he’s doing it after the second tag. It’s clear on the replay the Umpire lost track that Ruggiano’s left leg was actually on home plate and the man was too proud to recognize his mistake and reverse the call.

      • NickT - Jun 14, 2011 at 2:52 PM

        I agree there are two tag attempts, but I think Avila got Ruggiano with the first attempt (see the [url=http://ergozoom.tumblr.com/post/6525801653/another-view-of-avilas-swipe-tag-notice-the]link[/url] I posted above).

        I’ve watched a lot of games, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ump make the call on a play at the plate until the play is finished, so I don’t agree that the ump should have made the call right after the swipe.

      • NickT - Jun 14, 2011 at 3:30 PM

        Whoops, I guess that’s not the way to post a link here…

  4. Chris Fiorentino - Jun 14, 2011 at 11:41 AM

    Was this the bottom of the 9th of a tie game in Tampa Bay? No? Then how the hell did it “decide the outcome of the game”? Stop whining Rays fans. These bad calls happen all year and they all even out. In this case, it was the 7th inning, so there were still 6 more out for your team to win the game and they did not.

    • FC - Jun 14, 2011 at 11:53 AM

      True, but it can be a momentum killer, for all you know, Ruggiano makes it home and the next batter hit’s a bases clearing double and busts the game open. The point is it should be the Player’s SKILL that determines the outcomes of plays not botched calls. I don’t care if you cite tradition or whatever, we already had that perfect game goof last year which WAS the bottom of the 9th AND the last out.

      Also we’re already introducing instant replay for Home Runs, and since it has been instituted it has made a world of difference in many games. It’s one thing for a chopper to hop unexpectedly on another direction, or that grounder that hit the corner of third base and deflected for a hit. Those are intangibles. You can’t control those, but you CAN control the umpires and the quality of their calls. It’s one thing to lose to intangibles it’s quite another to lose the game to someone who made a bad call and doesn’t fix it.

    • Detroit Michael - Jun 14, 2011 at 12:10 PM

      It decided the game because the Rays would not have ended the first 9 innings in a 1-1 tie otherwise and would not have lost the game in extra innings otherwise. One can never completely unwind the situation if the wrong call had not occurred, but even a Tiger fan like me can see that the wrong call was crucial.

    • basiltharat - Jun 14, 2011 at 12:22 PM

      It’s hard to argue that the Rays deserved to win when their offense got manhandled by Phil Coke. No question, no argument, one bad call should not have made that much difference.

      Still, c’mon pal; why the condescension? If you can tell me you’ve never complained about a bad call — one that cost your team a run — you’re a better man than I, Gunga Din. Cuz that was bad. Really bad. Watch the replay and ask yourself, How much more safe could he be? And the answer is none. None more safe.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jun 14, 2011 at 12:59 PM

        Oh believe me…I complain. I complain all the time about blown calls. However, what I don’t do is post lame pictures that don’t even tell the whole story and I NEVER EVER say that a blown call cost my team a game unless it is the final play of said game. Period. Too many variables happen after a blown call that would not have occurred had the call not occurred. For instance, maybe Detroit pinch hits if they are down 2-1 or they play hit and run or do something differently in a tie game that they would not have done down 2-1. To whine and say a blown call “cost us a game” is absolutely 100% ludicrous unless it was the final out of the game…i.e. that blown call in the perfect game last year cost the pitcher a perfect game. No other way to even justify it. Had they lost, you could say that call cost them the game. In this case, with a bad call in the 7th…eh…stop whining that it cost you the game.

  5. wkinsomnia - Jun 14, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    Let’s be completely honest here…had Avila MADE the tag, there would be NO reason for him to follow Ruggiano after the fact and RE-TAG him again. As an Umpire, even if he were unsure of the swipe tag being made, Avila making a ‘second effort’ on Ruggiano should have been more then enough to show he had missed with his first effort. Therefor making Ruggiano Safe at Home.

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