Last night’s game against the Dodgers ended when Chris Denorfia was thrown out at second base on a would-be double – with the Cubs down 5-2. The play was reviewed, and it was very close, but the out call stood.
Joe Maddon was seen shaking his head in disbelief as he left the dugout. Thereafter, he made his disappointment clear.
“I cannot believe the conclusion,” Maddon said in his post-game press conference (Cubs.com, Tribune, ESPN). “To say there was nothing definitive right there, I could not disagree more strongly. I have no idea why they would say that. It makes zero sense to me whatsoever. I’m just being honest. It made no sense …. Right now, I’m curious if you need more than one confirming opinion in regards to making the change, because that might be the worst non-overturn I’ve seen to this point.”
Maddon went on to suggest that maybe an independent group of video “nerds” would be better suited to accomplish the replay task, rather than the current system of rotating umpires through New York to review plays.
I have three takes on all of that:
- On that particular play, I thought there was a combination of angles that made it look like Denorfia’s left bicep was tagged either just before his left hand reached the bag, or right about the same time. Since the call on the field was out, that combination of angles told me that it was too close to overturn. I know several folks at the game were saying the big board was showing an angle that looked pretty definitively like Denorfia was safe, so maybe we weren’t seeing everything on the CSN broadcast. I won’t fight anyone either way – I’m just saying that what I saw was one of those close ones that the Cubs have seemed to have all year: had it been called the other way on the field, it would have stood.
- Whether Denorfia was safe or not, it was a terrible baseball play. He knows it, and, even as Joe Maddon does a great job defending his player by focusing on the replay aspect, he’s gotta know it was a bad decision, too. Yes, it took a perfect bounce off of the outfield doors (if that ball hits the ivy, Denorfia walks to second), a perfect fielding by Scott Van Slyke, and a perfect throw to get Denorfia. But, here’s the thing: sometimes those perfect things align, and you get thrown out. If the game is tied or the Cubs are down one or up one, maybe it’s worth heading to second there (it sure looked like a double off of the bat). And if Denorfia is thrown out, you say, “Well, it was worth the 95% chance that he would make it safely.” But with a three-run deficit and the play in front of you, even if it looks like a sure double off of the bat, you just can’t get thrown out. If it’s a single, the defense probably lets you take second base on indifference on the next pitch anyway. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant were coming up next. Just can’t do it in that situation. (None of this is to rail on Denorfia, by the way, whom I think has been a fantastic addition to this team. He just made a mistake in the heat of the moment. It happens.)
- Maddon is right that something is just a little off about the way replay is handled. Too many times this year (this time notwithstanding), I have found myself struggling to understand a replay decision. An obviously too-close-to-call play is overturned. An obviously wrong call is not overturned. I’d hate to think that there’s some politics involved behind the scenes – umpires handling the replay, and other umpires awaiting their fate on whether they made the wrong call – but it’s really hard to figure. Maybe Maddon is also right that an independent body is needed.
In any case, here’s video of the play in question: