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  • Umpire’s Error Jeopardizes Minnesota Twins' Chance at Sweep in Los Angeles

    After a drama-filled game on Tuesday evening in which the Minnesota Twins rallied to beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 10 innings, the teams were back at it Wednesday afternoon with the Twins having a rare opportunity to sweep a road series. The game was an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel, but it was a blown call by an umpire that ultimately stole the show in the Twins’ 1-0 defeat.



    The Twins had runners on first and second base with Justin Morneau at bat and nobody out. Angels’ closer Ernesto Frieri had been struggling mightily with his command and the Twins were poised to scratch across a few runs and steal another game on the road; all of that changed in the blink of an eye due to a crucial “judgment” error by the umpire. Morneau hit a soft, broken-bat pop-up that was heading towards Frieri, who had plenty of time to make what appeared to be a routine play, when he suddenly let the ball drop in front of him before throwing to first for the out.

    ~~~Originally published on RantSports.com~~~

    Now why would Frieri let the ball drop you may ask? Well, it’s pretty simple: if Frieri lets the ball drop, he can then pick it up and turn a double play because the runner at first—if he is a smart base runner—will freeze on such a slow and low-level pop-up and will head back to first. By letting the ball drop and throwing to first base, Frieri ensured he would get Morneau out and also catch the runner at first—Doug Bernier—in a run-down for the second out. You may be asking: where did the umpire make the error? The answer is that Frieri should never have had the opportunity to let the ball drop in front of him. The umpire should have ruled the play an infield fly, which would have held the Twins to one out, and the runners would have returned to their respective bases.

    Too often, fans and media members believe that an infield field fly can only be called if there is a pop-up that has occurred in the confines of the infield, to one of the four official infielders, with runners on first and second base and less than two outs; but that understanding is mistaken. According to the MLB Official Rules, by definition, “An infield fly is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule.”

    In addition to considering the pitcher an infielder, the key phrase to pay attention to in the infield fly definition is “caught by an infielder with ordinary effort.” The fact that Frieri had time to see the ball in the air, decide to let it fall and be able to make a double-play should be evidence enough that something wasn’t right. With ordinary effort—or below ordinary effort for that matter—Frieri could have easily caught the low-hanging pop-up; thus, the umpire should have called an infield fly because it was a play that the infielder could have made with ordinary effort.

    This missed call may seem insignificant due to the fact that the Twins are so far out of contention, but the fact remains that this type of blunder could cost a team a decisive game down the stretch and thus, it needs to be called correctly. Of course, it needs to be correctly called in any event. Contrarians will argue that the play was a “judgment call” by the umpire. Well, it was, and his judgment that it was not an infield fly was wrong. The additional judgment by Frieri to let the ball drop should have been rendered irrelevant if the ump had made the right judgment.

    Brian Wille is a
    Minnesota Twins writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @BeeWill15 or “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

    To view more articles by Brian Wille, click here
    This article was originally published in blog: Umpire’s Error Jeopardizes Minnesota Twins' Chance at Sweep in Los Angeles started by bwille
    Comments 31 Comments
    1. Old Twins Cap's Avatar
      Old Twins Cap -
      I haven't seen the play on TV, but, I did look at the Twins lineup. Even if the umpire makes the right call there, you have runners at 1st and 2nd, one out, and absolutely no possibility of scoring a run with the Twins lineup. Sad but true.
    1. Tibs's Avatar
      Tibs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Old Twins Cap View Post
      I haven't seen the play on TV, but, I did look at the Twins lineup. Even if the umpire makes the right call there, you have runners at 1st and 2nd, one out, and absolutely no possibility of scoring a run with the Twins lineup. Sad but true.
      Yeah only having three batters really hurts the Twins. Ghost runners don't count as runs in the MLB, making it hard for the Twins to score consistently if Morneau isn't getting extra base hits.
    1. BCTwins's Avatar
      BCTwins -
      Quote Originally Posted by Old Twins Cap View Post
      I haven't seen the play on TV, but, I did look at the Twins lineup. Even if the umpire makes the right call there, you have runners at 1st and 2nd, one out, and absolutely no possibility of scoring a run with the Twins lineup. Sad but true.
      I think that the chances would have been good for the Twins to push the tying run across, at least. The next batter, Doumit, walked, which would have meant bases loaded with one out. Hermann then needs to hit a sac fly for the game to be tied.

      Of course, Hermann struck out...
    1. orangevening's Avatar
      orangevening -
      Quote Originally Posted by Old Twins Cap View Post
      I haven't seen the play on TV, but, I did look at the Twins lineup. Even if the umpire makes the right call there, you have runners at 1st and 2nd, one out, and absolutely no possibility of scoring a run with the Twins lineup. Sad but true.
      Come on. Who thought a back up catcher would hit a grand slam or a light hitting SS would hit a 2 run HR the night before? There pitcher was struggling mighty, it was very feasible they would score a run or two.
    1. Tibs's Avatar
      Tibs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Old Twins Cap View Post
      I haven't seen the play on TV, but, I did look at the Twins lineup. Even if the umpire makes the right call there, you have runners at 1st and 2nd, one out, and absolutely no possibility of scoring a run with the Twins lineup. Sad but true.
      Yeah, only having three players in the lineup is really hurting the Twins. Since ghost runners don't count in the MLB, it makes it hard for the Twins to score consistently when Morneau isn't getting extra base hits.
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      This type of call is what I HATE to see called wrong. More than a fair/foul, play at the plate/first, or strikes and balls. Not calling the infield fly is the umpire's misunderstanding of the rule and not a call based on what they saw.
    1. SpitefulRabbit617's Avatar
      SpitefulRabbit617 -
      I bet in this upcoming 4 game series there will be 2 blown calls that go our way.... as long as it isnt the New York Mafia reffing our games and calling doubles foul.
    1. Steve Penz's Avatar
      Steve Penz -
      Quote Originally Posted by Old Twins Cap View Post
      I haven't seen the play on TV, but, I did look at the Twins lineup. Even if the umpire makes the right call there, you have runners at 1st and 2nd, one out, and absolutely no possibility of scoring a run with the Twins lineup. Sad but true.

      I don't see the point to this. Blah, blah....90 loss season. Blah, blah, weak line up. Blah, blah, blah. I get it. It is a tough time. Why lead with such pessimism? Hey, in case anybody was not aware, the Twins have not been very good lately. The point is the team was robbed of an extra out with a person in scoring position that could have lead to a sweep instead of simply winning a series. Winning yesterday's game would not have catapulted the Twins into winning the Central but it could have been a win. All games and outs are important and there is always a chance. I refuse to get pulled into this negative mindset and I hope the Twins feel the same way. If they were to think that way then they may never escape the cellar.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      The Umps blew the call... No question about it... But the call was a distraction for a problem that something can be done about.

      Why was Morneau with a 1-0 Count swinging at a ball? Frieri just walked and hit a guy... He started Morneau with a ball. Why is Morning swinging at an inside fastball that would have made the count 2-0?

      I understand that #3 hitter is a different mindset but so is the #4 spot. You are not going to crush the ball swinging at something out of the zone.

      You got a struggling pitcher... Don't help him!!!

      A 2-0 count is gonna make Frieri groove one becuase he cant walk the bases loaded.

      Vets should know this. Rookies are the ones who typically struggle with this stuff. Young players try to be heroes and get over aggressive.

      Morneau should know better and if our vets are gonna perform like that. We probably ain't going to the playoffs and look at that... We ain't going to the playoffs.

      Yeah... I'd like to be pissed at the umps... They blew it... However... Morneau blew it first.

      I've seen too much of too much of this.
    1. PSzalapski's Avatar
      PSzalapski -
      I've responded here - short version: bad call, but correcting it after the fact still yields a double play. This needs to be called in the air.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Question: Can the umpire invoke the infield fly rule after the play is finished, or does he have to make the call while the ball is in the air? If he can make the call after the play, then there is no excuse for not correcting the umpire error. Somebody among the umpiring crew should know the rule well enough to get it right.
    1. jun's Avatar
      jun -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      The Umps blew the call... No question about it... But the call was a distraction for a problem that something can be done about.

      Why was Morneau with a 1-0 Count swinging at a ball? Frieri just walked and hit a guy... He started Morneau with a ball. Why is Morning swinging at an inside fastball that would have made the count 2-0?

      I understand that #3 hitter is a different mindset but so is the #4 spot. You are not going to crush the ball swinging at something out of the zone.

      You got a struggling pitcher... Don't help him!!!

      A 2-0 count is gonna make Frieri groove one becuase he cant walk the bases loaded.

      Vets should know this. Rookies are the ones who typically struggle with this stuff. Young players try to be heroes and get over aggressive.

      Morneau should know better and if our vets are gonna perform like that. We probably ain't going to the playoffs and look at that... We ain't going to the playoffs.

      Yeah... I'd like to be pissed at the umps... They blew it... However... Morneau blew it first.

      I've seen too much of too much of this.
      Absolutely agree with you!!!
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      Agree with Riverbrian - it was a bad call, but focusing on the call as the reason the Twins lost conveniently ignores the fact that Morneau had a bad at-bat in a key spot.
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      There was no reason to swing at all until Frieri managed to throw a strike. Only 2 total hits and bad judgement by a veteran was what I saw. That, and a very smart play by Frieri. Plus, there is no way I would have called an infield fly on that wimpy what ever it was that Morneau hit. Dwelling on a judgement call that could go either way to hope for a win is not in my wheelhouse. If that was a Twins' pitcher, would the song be about how smart and clever he was? I think so.
    1. Steve Penz's Avatar
      Steve Penz -
      Quote Originally Posted by Boom Boom View Post
      Agree with Riverbrian - it was a bad call, but focusing on the call as the reason the Twins lost conveniently ignores the fact that Morneau had a bad at-bat in a key spot.

      All of these points are very good and make more sense. A vet like Morneau should have had a smarter approach.
    1. bwille's Avatar
      bwille -
      Quote Originally Posted by h2oface View Post
      There was no reason to swing at all until Frieri managed to throw a strike. Only 2 total hits and bad judgement by a veteran was what I saw. That, and a very smart play by Frieri. Plus, there is no way I would have called an infield fly on that wimpy what ever it was that Morneau hit. Dwelling on a judgement call that could go either way to hope for a win is not in my wheelhouse. If that was a Twins' pitcher, would the song be about how smart and clever he was? I think so.
      I respectfully disagree that it shouldn't have been called an infield fly. I agree that Morneau shouldn't of swung with Frieri's control issues, that I will not argue; but my argument isn't whether or not Morneau should have swung. Whether or not Morneau swung or whether or not it was a Twins' player or an Angels' player is irrelevant. The bottom line is this: the play should have never been a judgment for the umpire because by rule, it was an infield fly. The language in the official rule book reflects this. Whether it was a high pop up or a wimpy pop up doesn't matter; the important thing to look at is whether or not the play could have been made with ordinary effort, which it could have. Thus, it is an infield fly.

      Did the call "cost" the Twins the game? No not exactly, but it certainly jeopardized their chances of scoring a run and possibly winning the game; that fact cannot be ignored. With better plate discipline, could Morneau have changed the outcome? Certainly, but again, that is not what I'm arguing about. The infield fly rule was designed to prevent situations like this where runners are left out to dry. Is it a smart play by Frieri to let that ball drop? Absolutely, but that doesn't make it right. Had the correct call been made, Morneau still can be blamed for swinging when he shouldn't have and the both runners would have been allowed to go back to their bases and this argument never would have existed. That's what should of happened; the fact that it didn't was the premise for my article.

      Thank you for the comments though, I appreciate the great discussion!
    1. mnfireman's Avatar
      mnfireman -
      The infield fly rule has to be called while the ball is in the air, remember the to do in last years playoffs? I also agree that Morneau should not have swung until Frieri threw him a strike. These are the kinds of things that can snowball - a bad at bat by one player leads to a bad at bat by several players, leads to a bad, series, week, month, etc...
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      Quote Originally Posted by bwille View Post
      I respectfully disagree that it shouldn't have been called an infield fly. ............ The bottom line is this: the play should have never been a judgment for the umpire because by rule, it was an infield fly. The language in the official rule book reflects this. Whether it was a high pop up or a wimpy pop up doesn't matter; the important thing to look at is whether or not the play could have been made with ordinary effort, which it could have. Thus, it is an infield fly.

      ..........The infield fly rule was designed to prevent situations like this where runners are left out to dry. .......Had the correct call been made, Morneau still can be blamed for swinging when he shouldn't have and the both runners would have been allowed to go back to their bases and this argument never would have existed. That's what should of happened; the fact that it didn't was the premise for my article.

      Thank you for the comments though, I appreciate the great discussion!
      I was at the game, so I may have limited perception without the aid of the cameras and close-ups they provide........ but from the club seats that look straight down the third base line (so on the first base side), I couldn't have called it a routine play, and one that "could be been made with ordinary effort" while the ball was in the air that short shallow time. While the ball was in the air was the key here. And whether it even went 20 feet up (I was looking down on the action, but it was pretty close) ..... all while in the air that short time. So I am not arguing a case here, just saying that I couldn't have called it an infield fly by the rules, for the reasons I stated. The assumption that, while in the air, it was obvious it could be caught easily, is something I could not make.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Riverbrians point about Morneau's pitch selection is spot on. Prior to that at bat, I was secretly hoping Morneau would bunt.
    1. Jack Torse's Avatar
      Jack Torse -
      The story is really the same old story. Morneau unable to get a big hit in a big spot for his team. That at bat was not just bad but absolutely pathetic.
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