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Great Moments in Instant Replay: Yunel Escobar strikes out on a 4-2 count

Apr 23, 2014, 9:29 AM EDT

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 9.28.49 AM

With the disclaimer that I like instant replay and that I think its results so far are a net positive even if it’s hard to get used to the often clunky implementation, it did not experience its finest hour in last night’s Rays-Twins game.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Yunel Escobar came to the plate. At one point he checked his swing and the ball bounced off the catcher’s mitt. At first glance it appeared to be a foul ball — that’s what the scoreboard operator registered anyway — but it was a ball. A few seconds later Escobar took his fourth ball, and then confusion reigned. Watch it all unfold here.

Both dugouts and Escobar thought it was ball four. The home plate umpire wasn’t sure — this is not terribly uncommon, actually, and sometimes they double check their little handheld clickers with the scoreboard — so they went to instant replay to review. But even instant replay got the call wrong and the count was officially set to 3-2, even though Escobar should have already been on first base. On the 4-2 pitch, Escobar struck out.

Major League Baseball agreed, issuing a statement after the game:

”An error was made when replay officials and supervisors mistakenly thought one of the pitches was a foul ball when it was actually a ball,” MLB said in a statement.

It ended up not mattering in the game, but it’s not a defining moment for instant replay, that’s for sure.

  1. stoutfiles - Apr 23, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    “but it’s not a defining moment for instant replay, that’s for sure.”

    Actually, it proves how bad MLB umps can be sometimes, and how we need to keep working on alternatives to correct/avoid mistakes. The plate ump has very few jobs to do with three other umps on the field, he needs to call balls/strikes accurately and know the count. If he can’t do that then let’s work on a system that can.

    • sportsfan18 - Apr 23, 2014 at 10:55 AM

      Long time baseball fan… out of the hundreds of thousands of batters coming to the plate each season (330,000 at bats each year more or less), just HOW many times does this happen?

      If you look at the statistics of this happening, they are very low.

      Sadly, people going into hospitals for surgeries sometimes have the wrong procedure performed on them! HOW does that happen?

      Well, it’s because we are human.

      Any system needs to be looked at from the top down and looked at to see how many times it gets it right.

      Home plate umps get the count right for batters at an amazingly high rate. It isn’t like they are WRONG so much that another system could improve on them by leaps and bounds.

      Since they get it right so much the time, effort and money spent on devising and getting a new system tested and implemented would not be worth it as there would be too few times for them to improve on the home plate umps so the costs associated with coming up with this new system would be for nothing basically…

      • temporarilyexiled - Apr 23, 2014 at 11:06 AM

        I’m drawn back to the original point made…that the umpires make mistakes…because they’re human. None of us will ever be perfect. But I’m not on board with the argument that since we’re all human, there’s not much room for improvement. Baseball has been slower than cold molasses in making improvements. The umpires aren’t exactly the most wholesome humans out there. A little scrutiny might just improve the quality of humans who interpret the rules…in this…or any other sport. That they’re in a no-win situation, where the only time they’re noticed is when they screw up, oh well. It goes along with the job description. It doesn’t mean they get “a walk” on what they do.

    • Senor Cardgage - Apr 23, 2014 at 12:41 PM

      I’m not really sure how some other ball/strike system would solve last night’s problem. The question wasn’t pitch location, but whether the pitch had been fouled. Any method used to keep track of balls and strikes depends on operator input and is therefore subject to human error.

  2. Yossi Levy - Apr 23, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    So even instant replay does not solve all umpiring errors? Who could expect that?

    • sportsfan18 - Apr 23, 2014 at 10:57 AM

      The NFL… many of their replay calls are as mind numbing as this…

  3. aresachaela - Apr 23, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    I just witnessed something new!! How could not the umpires notice this? Guess we have to wait a little longer till this new system works out Ren.

    • renaado - Apr 23, 2014 at 10:57 AM

      The system is still pretty new, I have confidence that this will work out for em, just need to be patient.

  4. steve7921 - Apr 23, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    According to sources, Angel Hernandez was the replay official!

    • Senor Cardgage - Apr 23, 2014 at 12:34 PM

      I know you’re joking, but just in case someone takes you seriously, Angel was in Oakland last night.

  5. happytwinsfan - Apr 23, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    it may not have been a high point for the replay system, but i thought it was the high point of the game.

  6. crazyyankee - Apr 23, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    if you thought this was crazy, you should have seen the weird call against brett gardner the other game. a faked catch by the outfielder, an out call on the faked catch, and what should have been an inside the park home run was ruled a double after replay.

  7. bpoe13 - Apr 23, 2014 at 9:53 AM

    Yunel Escobar Walks…….

    Yunel Escobar called out on strikes

    • pixteca - Apr 23, 2014 at 12:13 PM

      that screenshot looks OLD.

  8. andreweac - Apr 23, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    Can I sue MLB if this cost me valuable fantasy baseball points?

  9. thundergunxpres - Apr 23, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    They need to just scrap replay for rest of season they messed it up too bad, see if they can fix it for next season

  10. amhendrick - Apr 23, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    It’s the best of both worlds, replay and the human element.

  11. drewsylvania - Apr 23, 2014 at 11:14 AM

    Kill it with fire.

  12. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Apr 23, 2014 at 12:00 PM

    Forcefields now!

  13. Senor Cardgage - Apr 23, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    • Ball low – 1-0
    • Fouled off – 1-1
    • Ball low and away – 2-1
    • Mystery pitch – count now either 2-2 or 3-1
    • Called strike – can’t be 2-3 (a strikeout), so it must be 3-2
    At this point the umpire signals 2-2
    • Ball high – should be a walk at 4-2; umpire has 3-2
    The umpires review the count and confirm 3-2
    • Called strike three

    Therefore no matter whether they thought the mystery pitch was a ball or a strike, Escobar’s time at the plate should have been over.

    By the way, those “little handheld clickers” are called indicators.

    • Senor Cardgage - Apr 23, 2014 at 1:10 PM

      The first part of my comment above got cut off. I said that there’s no way that MLB’s statement makes sense. Even if they “mistakenly thought one of the pitches was a foul ball,” it should have already been a walk or a strikeout at the point where they checked the replay.

      • raysfaninsrq - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:16 PM

        EXACTLY!! Even HQ got it wrong!!

    • larrytsg - Apr 23, 2014 at 4:49 PM

      I’ve been umpiring youth baseball for 4 seasons now, and there are times when I do forget to either reset the indicator or record a pitch when I get hit or scramble out of the way of a wild pitch.

      Oops, my bad! Of course, I don’t have a scoreboard to verify my count.

      • raysfaninsrq - Apr 23, 2014 at 6:15 PM

        You’re also not paid big bucks to keep the count, you’re a volunteer. You will make mistakes, and you’re not backed up by the “replay” officials. You’re forgiven… The umps (4 of them) plus the replay officials and even the MLP in the their post game statement screwed up what it is their profession not to screw up. They are not forgiven!!

  14. DelawarePhilliesFan - Apr 23, 2014 at 1:26 PM

    Still doesn’t top the phillies marlins game when the go ahead run was called out at home. Replay showed the catcher blocked the plate, and yet the umps took all of 5 seconds to uphold the out. MLB later had to concede that was wrong too.

    Phillies did win anyway

  15. raysfaninsrq - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    So many comments about how they’re human and that they make mistakes. No argument… However THEY’RE PROFESSIONALS and calling balls and strikes, or at least the act of keeping track of them is as rudimentary as gets when it comes to what they get paid to do. That said, they screwed this up not once, not twice, but three times. After the replay Escobar should have been either on first or out. Of course the former is the correct call, but if the ball that hit the glove was counted as a foul ball, that would have been the 2nd strike and the ump called another strike after… Strike three you’re out… and the you in “you’re out” are the umpires and the recall team in recall heaven. Six pitches either 4-2 (walk) or or 3-3 (out) after the replay. In the end the only thing that counts in the whole ridiculous farce is that it didn’t have any bearing on the final outcome of the game. Could you image the outcry if it had!?!

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