"Y'er Out" or . . . Not
Rob McMillin of 6-4-2 asked me if I saw the call in the Angels-White Sox game on Wednesday night, and here is what I told him...
The umpire clearly called "strike three" by signaling with his right arm in an outstretched manner. He also clenched his fist, which normally means "y'er out." What we don't know is if he said anything. I get the impression that he didn't. Not that he has to, but if he said "y'er out" in addition to the hand signals, then the batter is out. Plain and simple.
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As a former umpire, my opinion is as follows: if he didn't say "y'er out," then it is much more ambiguous as to whether the ump thought he was out. I would like to see a replay of the game so I could re-evaluate how he called strikes and strike-three outs the rest of the game. That would be very telling.
Catcher Josh Paul made a huge mistake by rolling the ball back to the mound if he didn't hear the ump say "y'er out." Instead, he should have either:
turned around and showed the ump the ball and gotten confirmation if it was ruled an out or not ...
tagged out A.J. Pierzynksi right then and there, just to be sure ...
thrown the ball to first to complete the 2-3 putout.
Pierzynski gets kudos for his heads-up play. It was the first time all series that a Chicago White Sox baserunner did something right.
In a postgame interview, Doug Eddings, the home plate umpire, said "I'm watching Josh Paul, I'm seeing what he's going to do. Sometimes you go off the reaction of the player."
Well, if he Eddings was going off the "reaction of the player," he should have called Pierzynksi out. Paul didn't hesitate one bit. He caught the ball and immediately rolled it back to the mound. That shouldn't, in and of itself, mean the batter is out, but it makes no sense for the umpire to determine that the pitch hit the dirt if he was basing his call off Paul's reaction.
Solution to the problem: Major League Baseball needs to develop uniform and distinct signals for "strike" and "out" calls that would be required of all umpires. There should be no ambiguity like there was Wednesday night. Substance should always win out over style. We don't go to the ballgame to watch an umpire make a call.
Umpires, in such situations, also need to commit to a call right then and there. Either call the batter out by giving the out sign and yelling "y'er out" or signal bobble/no catch and yell "no catch, no catch."
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I was also asked by Rob and another writer why manager Mike Scoscia didn't protest. The short answer is that such a call is one of judgment and, therefore, not something that can be protested.
From Major League Baseball Official Rules:
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(a) Any umpire's decision which involves judgment, such as, but not limited to, whether a batted ball is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike or a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out, is final. No player, manager, coach or substitute shall object to any such judgment decisions.
Let me be clear here: The call or non-call wasn't the reason the Angels lost. But it was the reason why they didn't have a chance to win.