David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Breaking Down Angel Hernandez’s Ninth Inning Decision

As we detailed earlier today in the game recap from last night’s game, the Indians squeaked out a victory over the Oakland Athletics thanks largely in part to the umpiring crew. More specifically, the Indians can thank crew chief and resident instigator Angel Hernandez for a decision that left everyone bewildered. We should probably all chip in and get him an Edible Arrangement or something. All kidding aside, it raises a serious question – What on Earth was Hernandez thinking when he signaled double?

It’s hard to find a logical reason for why Hernandez signaled double. When the play initially occurred, it was fairly obvious that the ball had hit off of the railing. Perhaps it’s just because I’ve seen that happen so many time during my years watching the Indians, but I knew instantly that the ball had hit the railing. When STO cut to the replays, it became even more apparent what had happened. Just take a look at the screen shot below and you can see where the ball hit.

A couple of hours later I wondered to myself whether my understanding of Progressive Field’s ground rules were still accurate. My understanding, along with what was being said on the telecast , is that any batted ball hitting above the yellow line is to be ruled as a home run. It’s the whole purpose for why the yellow line is in place – to differentiate the railing and the wall and make calls like these easier to make.

So, I did what any obsessive compulsive baseball fan would do in a situation like this. I looked up the ground rules for Progressive Field on the interwebs. Low and behold, on Indians.com is a complete listing of the Progressive Field ground rules. Pay particular attention to the seventh rule down:

  • Batted ball hitting foul pole or attached screen: FAIR BALL.
  • Thrown or fairly batted ball that goes behind or under field tarp or drum covers and remains: 2 BASES. Ball rebounding into playing field: IN PLAY.
  • Ball striking the roof or color facing of dugout, camera pits, or diamond suites is considered in the dugout: 2 BASES.
  • Thrown ball that enters camera pits, dugouts, or diamond suites and remains: 2 BASES
  • Pitched ball that strikes the roof, facing, or enters the camera pits, dugouts, or diamond suites: 1 BASE.
  • Ball passing through or under outfield fence: 2 BASES.
  • Fair batted ball that travels over the yellow line on top of the outfield wall (on the fly): HOME RUN.
  • Thrown ball that strikes fence rails in front of third and first base camera pits and returns to the field: IN PLAY.
  • Thrown or fairly batted ball that goes over, or between fence rails from dugouts to foul poles: 2 BASES.
  • Fair batted ball bouncing over outfield wall: 2 BASES.

So, a batted ball hitting anywhere above the yellow line is a home run. So what happened? Did the umpires not receive an adequate feed of the network replays? That seems unlikely. The umpires receive replays from both television feeds via an MLB studio in New York along with national network replays, if the game is being nationally televised. It’s unlikely that the replay feeds were malfunctioning, so what was the deal?

Did the umpires forget the ground rules when playing at Progressive Field? That too seems unlikely considering the umpires go through the ground rules with the managers before the game begins. There is no reason why the umpires forget the ground rules. If that is what happened, they should be ashamed of themselves.

There is also no history, at least none that I could find, that had existed between A’s manager Bob Melvin and Angel Hernandez, so the decision clearly wasn’t out of spite. On could argue that this was a case of Hernandez seeking a look at me moment. He is often at the center of situations such as this. Because of these hi jinx, Hernandez is regularly ranked as one of the worst umpires and was once voted the third worst umpire in baseball by players in a Sports Illustrated pole.

However, that doesn’t explain the situation either. The call was not Hernandez’s alone. Two other umpires reviewed the replay with Hernandez and together they came to the conclusion that the hit off the bat of Adam Rosales was a double. This proves that there is no full proof way in which to institute instant replay. If such a simple call can find a way to be ruined, how does anyone expect more complicated decisions to be made? They can’t, that’s how. No matter how hard you try, the human element will always find a way.

So while the Indians were gift wrapped a victory thanks largely in part to the inability of umpires to properly analyze a simple play correctly, the A’s are left scratching their heads. Yes, baseball is a long season at 162 games, but how often does baseball come down to the last day of the season? This game could make all the difference for the A’s come September.

As for the Indians, the decision helps them out immensely. It continues their hot stretch of solid baseball as they compete with the Tigers and Royals for the top spot in the AL Central. It just goes to show that sometimes in sports you don’t just have to be good. Sometimes you have to get a bit lucky too.

Tags: Angel Hernandez Bob Melvin Cleveland Indians Justin Masterson Oakland Athletics

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