Error, umpire: Call gets overtuned, Sox take charge

Error, umpire: Call gets overtuned, Sox take charge
October 23, 2013, 8:30 pm
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BOSTON -- File it under: Plays that will never again happen after this World Series.

With Red Sox runners at first and second and one out in the bottom of the first inning, David Ortiz hit a double-play ball to second baseman Matt Carpenter. Carpenter flipped to shortstop Pete Kozma, but Kozma dropped the ball. Second-base umpire Dana DeMuth, however, emphatically ruled that Kozma had possession long enough to force the runner, Dustin Pedroia, and that he'd lost control of the ball during the transfer to his throwing hand. Pedroia was out, DeMuth ruled, giving the Sox runners at first and third with two out.

Trouble is, there are TV monitors on every pole in the park, and the replays showed that not only didn't Kozma have control, but that it wasn't even close. The fans erupted in fury with each replay showing the ball caroming off Kozma's glove before he ever got the chance to close his hand.

A year from now? No problem. Sox manager John Farrell would have challenged the play and the call would have been overtuned in about 10 seconds.

This year, however, we went the traditional route. Farrell argued long and hard with DeMuth, delaying the game for three or four minutes.

"From the dugout, I thought it was pretty clear it just tipped off the fingertips of his glove," said Farrell. "We're fully accepting of the neighborhood play" -- where the infielder doesn't necessarily touch the base with his foot while turning the double play -- "but this wasn't close to that." 

Speaking to a pool reporter after the game, DeMuth admitted he never saw Kozma drop the ball.

"My vision was on the foot," he said. "I stayed with the foot too long. That's how I ended up getting in trouble. And when I was coming up, all I could see was a hand coming out and the ball on the ground. All right? So I was assuming."

Because this is the World Series, the umpires agreed to gather and discuss the play. Eventually the call was overturned.

'"When I hear [the other five umpires] say we are 100 percent [certain that Kozma dropped the ball], then I say, 'Okay, we need to change this,' " said crew chief John Hirschbeck. "It's as simple as that."

"It's an awful feeling, yeah," said DeMuth about being overturned. "Especially when I'm sure I have the right call."

"To their credit, they talked it over," said Farrell. "[It was] surprising, to a certain extent, but they overturned it and they got it right."

And that prompted a long-and-hard protest from Cardinal manager Mike Matheny.

"I just explained to him . . . that five of us were 100 percent sure," Hirschbeck said. "Our job is to get the play right. And that's what we did. I said, 'I know you are not happy with it, that it went against you, but you have to understand that the play is correct.' "

Hirschbeck was right: Matheny wasn't happy.

"Five umpires got together and said they saw something the sixth umpire didn't see," said Matheny, who later added about umpires overturning a call: "That's not a play that I've ever seen before. It's a pretty tough time to debut an overruled call, in the World Series. Just a tough one to swallow."

But Matheny also said he hadn't seen a replay, which clearly shows Kozma never came close to having possession. So in the end the right call was made, but something that will take less than a minute in the future held up the game for about five minutes this time around.

Not that the Red Sox minded. The next batter, Mike Napoli, cleared the bases with a double to the wall in left-center, giving Boston an early 3-0 lead, and the Sox were never headed as they coasted to an 8-1 victory in Game 1.

"If I catch that ball and turn that double play," said Kozma afterwards, "it stays nothing-nothing."

Fact is, it isn't the first time umpires have gotten together and overturned a call in the postseason. In fact, the Red Sox were beneficiaries of two overturned calls in the same game.

Remember Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS at Yankee Stadium? Early on, Mark Bellhorn was awarded a home run after the original call was a ground-rule double. And later -- as every Red Sox fan knows -- Alex Rodriguez was ruled out for slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove after it was originally called a mere collision.