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Can we please just let Phil Humber have his perfect game in peace?

Apr 23, 2012, 10:31 AM EDT

humber gray getty Getty Images

UPDATE: Barra responds. Fair enough: he’s not upset about the call, he’s upset at the media’s reaction to it, Fox not showing the reruns, etc.

10:31 AM: Because my parents had the kids and me over for dinner — and because my parents are old people who like to have dinner at 4:30pm — I missed almost all of Phil Humber‘s perfect game on Saturday. I did see the last two outs, though. And it’s obviously the last out which people care about the most.

Today Allen Barra writes about it, however, and he cares more than most, it seems:

I’m not suggesting that FoxNews, MLB, Humber’s team, the Chicago White Sox, or the home team, the Seattle Mariners, are in some kind of conspiracy … No, to hell with that, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting. Can anyone offer a rational reason why, in the most important pitch of the young season, and a play that was instantly controversial, Fox didn’t show us the pitch from the camera angle that would have given us the clearest view?

Can it be that they know that Ryan successfully checked his swing, that the pitch should have been called ball four, that Runge blew the call, and that therefore Humber’s perfect game is tainted? That’s what I think happened.

Eh. I get that worked up about some things, but I just can’t here.

When I saw it live I thought Brendan Ryan checked his swing. I didn’t get all up in arms about it because the TV angle was horrible and — as Barra notes — Fox decided not to show replays for some reason (I’ll go with incompetence over a conspiracy theory). But my gut feeling was that he checked his swing. Obviously the ump felt differently.

Still: it was a close call, a judgment call and — unlike the Jim Joyce/Armando Galarraga call or other famous blown calls — it was one that is quite often called the way it was called that day, even if it wasn’t ideal. For as much as we want ultra-precision in baseball, we’re never gonna get it on that play.

I’ll throw one more thing on the fire: Brendan Ryan’s reaction to the call may be influencing Barra and others who are critical here. He mildly freaked when the ump said he went around. While he apparently does that a lot — here he is doing the day before the perfect game — normally we don’t see batters have such a reaction to a check swing call, even on a third strike. It’s more of an eyes-roll thing. Some of us are upset, I think, because Ryan was upset and the play ended kinda messy, what with the ball going to the backstop and stuff. It happens.

Anyway, I don’t think there is going to be anything definitive here. This is the best that people who are adamant that Ryan swung can do. And, while clever, I don’t think it necessarily resolves anything. It still looks borderline to me. Probably because check swing calls are always all over the place.

The call happened. Sometimes that call goes the other way. It’s baseball, and even baseball can’t be perfect.  I have no problem saying, however, that Phil Humber was.

  1. burnsy - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    You throw your bat out at a ball that’s 6 feet out of the strike zone, you don’t get to complain.

    • skids003 - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:50 AM

      True. And Allen Barra and his buddies were probably some of the biggest criers about Jim Joyce NOT calling the out call. If it had have been ruled a swing he’d be bitching about in that situation you should call it a strike. The wonderful press.

  2. The Dangerous Mabry - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    He’s an ex-Met. Of course it was a perfect game.

    Stupid Nolan Ryan.

    • hardballlefty - Apr 23, 2012 at 2:41 PM

      We all know you MEANT BRENDAN Ryan but, shame on you for blaspheming the Express. Even as a Lefty, I know that’s just not right! But, D.M., you are forgiven. We know you were excited and did not know what you were typing.

      • The Dangerous Mabry - Apr 23, 2012 at 3:41 PM

        No, no, I’m referring to the so-called “Curse of Nolan Ryan”, which has prevented the Mets from throwing a no-hitter, and inspiring ex-Mets to throw them instead.

        For just one article referencing the phenomenon.

  3. Jonny 5 - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    A checked swing call is a real lame thing to hang his hat on to try and diminish the man’s perfecto. LAME! I could see if it was a close call throwing the man out at first or something like that.

  4. kalamazooapples - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    You’re right on, Craig. I agree with you, but this is America. Controversy is what we do.

  5. jeffw - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    In that situation, the ump is going to error on the side of the pitcher. Having said that, I think it was a good call and anyone whining any different should shut up and focus on unicorns and being the 3rd grade little girl they are supposed to be being…

  6. kopy - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    The thing about a checked swing is that it’s up to the umpire’s discretion. The MLB rule book is very vague on what constitutes a swing, and the whole “breaking the plane” thing is just some general word-of-mouth agreement. If the ump says that Ryan swung, that’s the end of it.

  7. hasbeen5 - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:51 AM

    Didn’t see it live, but seeing the full speed replay, I thought he checked too. However, if that call happened in the 3rd inning nobody would care.

    Like Craig said, that call is all over the map just about every day. If I’m an M’s fan, I’d be more concerned about fixing the offense than with trying to diminish a helluva feat.

  8. beefytrout - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:59 AM

  9. m22pank - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    How about instead of crying about a check swing, he hustles down to first on a strike three call that goes to the backstop and breaks up the perfecto by getting on base…

    • koufaxmitzvah - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:11 AM

      Exactly. A real Major League ballplayer should realize that as the 27th of 27 straight outs he is not going to be given a break.

    • jimbo1949 - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:11 AM


    • baccards - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:15 AM

      Has anyone timed the catchers reaction with the throw to first – I know he slowed down when he saw Ryan throwing his temper tantrum, but is there a case for Ryan hustling to first to beat a throw?

      • natstowngreg - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:05 PM

        Absolutely. The ball was in play, and Ryan’s responsibility was to hustle to first. Stopping to whine at the umpire was unprofessional.

  10. jlovenotjlo - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:09 AM

    That sight is gold, thank you.

    Did he swing? Yep

    • jlovenotjlo - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:19 AM

      While there is no doubt that it was close, if the umpire decided to call it a check swing and issue Brendan Ryan a walk, the uproar and backlash would pale in comparison to what we’ve heard so far. It would have also totally sucked. He made the 100% correct call given the situation of it being a close call.

      • wondroushippo - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:26 AM

        You are exactly right. Give me the controversy of this guy and Jeff Sullivan complaining about the angle on an admittedly sketchy check swing call versus the uproar if it was called ball four.

        I think having Brendan Ryan hit in an important situation is a bigger problem for Mariners fans to address than the check swing call.

  11. bigleagues - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    I hesitate at making the following statement because i don’t have an immediate example to offer, but I know there have been several occasions in the past where I’ve mentally noted that FOX and ESPN have failed to replay potentially controversial plays.

    I think we cannot lose sight of the fact that FOX, TBS and ESPN are in the business of creating tension and drama on top of the play on the field. If a replay of a blown or missed call is gonna detract from the game narrative – or interfere with a pre-produced package insert (i.e. manager interview), a virtually useless Ken Rosenthal segment, etc . . . then the producer may elect to pass on playing it.

    That’s where bloggers come in.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:41 AM

      Or, to play Devil’s Advocate, they, ESPN/FOX/TBS/ETC, are putting on a product to entertain their audience. How would that audience feel if they were denied access to the end of the game celebration* because they cut away to show some replays? Think of how many shots have emerged and we still don’t have a definitive angle? Would 5 min of replay be enough? 10 min? 30? Now the game is over, players have left the field and the audience has been watching replays and not the joys of Humbers perfecto.

      *and before anyone complains that no one cares about this, realize that CBS has been showing it’s one shining moment hi-light clips for the NCAA tourney champs for how many years? How many people watch the post game celebrations for the WS/SB?

      • bigleagues - Apr 23, 2012 at 3:22 PM

        Excellent follow-up.

  12. amoses74 - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    how about you SWING THE BAT instead of taking pitches when the guy is closing out a perfect game. I think the batter was a pathetic baby. I would have rung him up for not trying!

    • natstowngreg - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:01 PM

      Never. Ryan’s purpose was not to help Humber get a perfect game. Ryan’s purpose was to get on base to keep his team’s hopes alive. If that meant walking, so be it.

  13. brewcrewfan54 - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:28 AM

    9 times out of 10 a check swing is ruled a strike. As an MLB player Ryan should know that and be hustling down the line. Besides, everyone knows in that situation, right or wrong, the strike zone generally gets bigger. No conspiracies here just baseball being played the same way its always been.

    • rooney24 - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:37 PM

      Not that I disagree with your overall point, but where are you getting the 9 out of 10 number? I think it is much closer to 50-50 on players checking their swing in time.

    • tcostant - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:52 PM

      No way, 9 out of 10 times the HOME base ump doesn’t make that call; he appreals to the BASE ump. The Home Plate ump just can’t make that call and usually doesn’t.

    • brewcrewfan54 - Apr 23, 2012 at 2:15 PM

      I just used the 9 out of 10 to mean that when a player checks his swing he usually goes around. Its not based on any actual stat I looked up. Just going by what I’ve seen when watching games. And while it may not be that high a number in actuality there’s no way in hell its near 50%.

      • tcostant - Apr 23, 2012 at 2:45 PM

        Brew – And how many times out of 10 would the home base ump make the call without asking a base ump?

      • brewcrewfan54 - Apr 23, 2012 at 3:17 PM

        The plate ump calls it less often but they still make that call plenty without callong for an appeal.

  14. ezthinking - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    Even though it looks like he swung, (nice view beefytrout) even moving the bat off his shoulder for a pitch 3 feet outside and then not running it terrible. If he though he walked, then start for first. Instead he stood around and bitched like a 9 year old.

  15. spudchukar - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:37 AM

    Brendan Ryan’s lifetime OBP is .314, and that is before he was behind in the count, so it isn’t as if the results were apt to change, even if the pitch were called a ball.

    • rooney24 - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:38 PM

      I am pretty sure it was a 3 ball count, so it would have changed the results if it were called a ball.

      • spudchukar - Apr 23, 2012 at 2:37 PM

        Thanks for the correction, I was too lazy to check the count, been meaning to watch the last few innings, so I know how things went down. Thanks.

  16. nyetjones - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:10 PM

    Don’t know if this has come up yet here, but then there’s been some speculation that because Fox was training cameras on the dugout for player’s reactions, they just plain didn’t have that camera trained on Ryan’s swing. I.e., they just don’t have the footage, period. I’m not sure if that’s true – I would assume they would just have those cameras always ready for shots down the line or what have you – but it does bring up the interesting point that if replay ever gets established, they’re going to have to do something that will standardized television production behaviors so they’ll be sure to have the appropriate angles available.

  17. antlerclaws - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    My conspiracy theory–I thought Ryan was doing Humber a solid by swinging anyway. There is no way anyone outside Vlad Guerrero would have swung at that pitch. Ryan knew the perfect game was on the line, and to ruin it with Ball 4 with 2 outs in the 9th would have been lame, so my theory is he was going to swing no matter what. He put on a good show by throwing his helmet and arguing with the umpire, so now no one can accuse him of not giving 100%, but I think he did his part to help Humber. He will never admit it and it’s unproveable, but that’s sure what it looked like to me, and the people I was watching with.

    • brewcrewfan54 - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:26 PM

      Idon’t think this is out of the realm of possibility but I don’t think the swing and miss was intentional at all. I think the lack of hustle to first base could certainly have been though.

  18. pandebailey - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    I think Ryan was more upset at himself because he knew he offered at a terrible pitch – but Humber was fooling batters just like that all day.

    Also, umps have a history of widening the plate at the end of no hitters and perfect games – watch Don Larsen’s last pitch to Dale Long in 1956 – it was a foot outside and maybe high and called strike three. No ump wants to make a mistake and ruin a special game like that…..batters have to know that going to the plate.

    • natstowngreg - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:06 PM

      It was Dale Mitchell, but your point is well taken.

      • zzwild - Apr 23, 2012 at 2:14 PM

        Good call … I had to laugh … I, also, have often confused those two for as long as I can remember! LOL

  19. tuftsb - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    a tighter shot of the gif file

  20. mkd - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:40 PM

    I would like to say all of the following:

    1) I am a Mariners fan
    2) I’m shocked it took this long for them to get No-Hit/Perfect Game’d. We’ve had this coming for a long time.
    3) On the 27th out of a Perfect Game all breaks go to the pitcher.
    4) Ryan had no business even thinking about swinging at that pitch.
    5) Ryan should have hustled up the line instead of complaining.
    6) Way to go Phil Humber! Perfect Games are neat!
    7) Think about every other highlight reel of every other no-hitter you can think of. They dwell on that final pitch. They love it. They show it over and over and over again. They want to catch it from every angle so they can show it over and over and over again from every angle. So why didn’t they do that this time? I would guess that yes, the pitch was wide, Ryan checked his swing and the Fox producers didn’t want to mess with the story. If nothing else it’s damn peculiar. Why not show the shot to prove Ryan went around and put this (non)controversy to bed?
    8) Way to go Phil Humber! Perfect Games are neat!

    • mkd - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:43 PM

      I put “8” followed by “)” and got a stupid yellow face with sun glasses. I did not do that. That stupid little face in no way reflects my values.

    • jdd428 - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:56 PM

      Caveat to point 2) – unless you’re Armando Galarraga.

  21. chitownmatt - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    If Ryan had put his head down and hauled @ss to first instead of turning to argue the strike, he probably would have made it to first….

    A perfect game was almost ruined on a dropped strike three in the bottom of the 9th, now that would have been something to write about. :)

    • schlom - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:46 PM

      I don’t think he would have made if he started running right away, the ball didn’t get far enough away for that to happen.

  22. jdd428 - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:01 PM

    First, I am a White Sox fan. When I saw the pitch live, I thought it was ball four – but I was focusing more on the pitch and not the swing. My immediate reaction was that he didn’t swing and the first replay I saw did nothing to change my mind. But after seeing the replay a couple times it seems pretty clear to me that Ryan offered at the pitch and the call was correct.

  23. pandebailey - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    FYI – the rules of baseball don’t mention “checked swing”, “breaking wrists”, “crossing the plain” – players and fans made all that up. The rule only says “a strike is a legal pitch which is ‘struck at’ and missed”.

    The most common (and fairest) measure used today is “did he ‘offer’ at the pitch?”, meaning “could the batter have hit the ball with his swing?” You can’t give a batter a free try at hitting a pitch, no matter how feeble the swing. The attempted bunt is the clearest example – bunting has no breaking of wrists or crossing the plate or plain – the question is simple “Was his bat in the hitting zone when the pitch arrived?”

  24. tcostant - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    Bottom line is no way the HOME PLATE ump should, he must appreal it to the FIRST/THIRD base ump. Just a bad job bu the home plate ump, because no way he could have seen that correct. He must go to the base unp for trhat call.

    • pandebailey - Apr 23, 2012 at 2:12 PM

      Disagree – it’s the home plate ump’s call if he can make it. He asks first base for help only if he doesn’t make a strike call (you don’t appeal strikes) AND feels he needs help. A outside pitch like that is the easiest for home ump to call – its clearly a ball so all he has to focus on is the extended bat and swing. And he had it right….

  25. casey5jones - Apr 23, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    Every single baseball game ever televised would have shown the replay. However, because MLB wants their feel-good story (whether it be a pitcher throwing a perfect game or a former Met throwing a perfect game, take your pick), they let this one slide.

    I wonder if Craig would feel the same way if it were the Braves. :-) But I do agree a bit, these calls get blown all the time.

    At the end of the day, to me, it was still a perfect game…. Just like Galarraga’s.

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