Saturday, October 16, 2021

A blown third strike call ends the Giants' season and advances the inevitability of automated umps

One argument against automated strike zones goes this way: Without a soul, without the human touch, a lifeless machine cannot "manage" the game. 

Thus, if the score is 12-0 in the seventh, the fat guy behind home plate recognizes that this game is basically over, and that everybody wants to go home.  Thus, he widens the strike zone, a mercy-killing, and the stadium staff will thank him. 

A machine cannot change its diabolical ways, to the detriment of all.

Which brings me to the brutal, final call in Thursday night's game between the Dodgers and Giants. If you haven't seen it by now - "the checked swing heard round the world" - you probably don't give a fuck about baseball, so - I mean - why do I bother? What are you doing here? Did you get lost? WTF?  It's all over the interweb. Google it. Or go here.  


Having watched the replay about 10 times, I believe it's obvious that umpire Gabe Morales blew the call. At best, it was a 60-40 choice, and he chose the 40. Awful. 

So it goes, right? Human error. Blown calls - like the kissing bandit and rally monkeys - are part of the game, right? 

But what's so infuriating is that - well - this is exactly why humans are supposed to be preferable:  In key situations, people are supposed to show discretion. 

In a close call - (I don't believe this was close, but let's not belabor it) - the thoughtful choice should have been to error on the side of the game - to let the players determine the outcome.  That's what Morales did not do. Instead of using discretion, he threw up his thumb and literally chose the winner. Horrible way to end the game, the series, the season.

As fans, I feel we see this often - especially in the NFL, where last-minute holding or pass interference penalties regularly determine the outcome. In part, this is because of TV's ability to dissect each singular play, each movement. Still, time and again, we see what's obvious: At the point where discretion should be applied, none is given. The pass might have soared over the receiver's head, but the flag is thrown, the ball is moved within FG range, and the game is over.

San Francisco - no less than the world headquarters of Big Tech - will be screaming about Thursday's call for the rest of our lives. I believe Morales just advanced the end of his profession by about five years. The inevitable march toward automated strike zones - (even though this came from a first-base ump) - just got its poster boy. 

As Yankee fans, let's be grateful that our team sucked so badly that we won't be forever haunted by a blown call. Little victories, I suppose.

14 comments:

Parson Tom said...

the blown call on that check swing brings to mind the controversy over the final out in Don Larsen's perfect World Series game. I was four months old at the time so I remember it vividly ... or maybe I've seen grainy black-and-white replays and perhaps read a few complaints from the Dodgers of the day. In any case, Dale Mitchell struck out on a dubious strike, Yogi ran out and jumped onto Larsen and the Yankiverse has basked in the victorious legend ever since. The Dodgers were left to grumble just as the Giants are today. Larsen's umpire seemed to be caught up in the moment just like Gabe Morales the other night. somewhere deep in their souls, perhaps those two umpires were rooting for the results that they facilitated?

and football officiating? changes the game in so many ways you cannot begin to count, from the pass interference calls el duque mentions to the arbitrary and capricious placement of the ball after each play. awful.

Publius said...

A running joke in the Olympics coverage was that the umps never...I mean never...called a checked swing strike on a ball out of the zone. I've come tolike that approach. A checked swing is just that, a checked swing. Not a swing. "Gotta break the wrists" I remember from my youth. Maybe that oughta be the rule. Strong presumption with hitter on checked swing. Would certainly help offense.

Joe Formerlyof Brooklyn said...


My occasional watching of professional football tells me that lineman holding penalties and defense pass interference BOTH could be called on every single pass play. Lots of holding and illegal blocking on run plays, too.

OK, so maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there are potential penalties on every other play.

This puts an awful lot of power into the hands of the officials. Even if you swear on the honesty of every single NFL official, it's still possible that some of them are roughly as good at their profession as, say, Gary Sanchez is at catching. They certainly must review film, and know that there are penalties galore that they are NOT calling. Therefore, suddenly it's a function of (a) the official's discretion, (b) what he sees and does not see, and (c) what he considers an egregious violation and what is not.

In comparision, Baseball's check swing thing is just weird. You've got to give the batter some leeway when pitches are coming in, routinely, at 90 to 95 mph. On the other hand, if your team is a contender, why the F did the outcome of the game come down to a single pitch? Why didn't you already have a 4-run lead?

Not that our particular team generally has a 4-run lead, even in games in April.

el duque said...

I also believe there should be a rule change regarding pitches that are up and in, when batters inadvertently "swing" while trying to get out of the way. This happens all the times. A pitcher throws a dangerous bean ball and gets rewarded because the batter pretzeled himself trying not to get hit.

Also, there should be a "self-defense" rule regarding fouls off the bat handle. A batter should not be penalized when all he was trying to do was safe himself.

Vampifella said...

They got Judge out like that numerous times in the past in various playoff series. Umps play the "he should have got it" card with an expanded strike out zone. I welcome Roboumps as a strike zone should be consistent, not arbitrary.

Anonymous said...

The picture on the lower right —- looks like a southpaw is throwing.

JM said...

There are some terrible umps and some good umps who make lousy calls from time to time. Supposedly, umps are graded or somehow judged on ball and strike calls vs. the actual location of the pitches using the "magic 3D strike zone box" or something. Yet the terrible umps still show up every year until they retire.

You think the Cashman GM for life situation sucks. The umps don't seem to have any accountability, either.

As for football...well, as my brother shockingly said years ago (he being the one who got me watching the Giants in the early 70s), "Football is a stupid game." It is. And while some people think baseball is dull because there's so much time where nothing happens, good God, what about football? Three hours to play a one-hour clocked game, and often even more. Plus the kind of bullshit endings that Duque points out.

I'm old, I'm cranky, and I'm pissy and angry about the Yankees and their inability to correct basic problems year after year after year. Winter cannot come soon enough for me, although my knees are not happy with the cold.

Fuck Hal and fuck Cashman. Those guys are useless.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Whoa, Parson Tom! Let's not write off one of our Yankees' greatest accomplishments just like that.

Yes, I, too, would have preferred to have that last strike in Larsen's perfect game be perfectly unambiguous. And I know that Dale Mitchell spent years afterwards bitching about the call.

BUT:

—First, Mitchell, who had a legendarily good eye—he struck out only 119 times, in 4,358 lifetime plate appearances—IS, at the very least, ALMOST going after that pitch, which means HE thought it was pretty damned close to a strike. I've never see an analysis as to just how far out over the plate his bat is, but if he did check his swing it was a very near thing.

—Two, we have no film record of that pitch whatsoever, save from up in the loge (or wherever the camera was) and behind the umpire and catcher. We have no real idea where that pitch is—except that, thanks to Mitchell, we know that it's very close to a strike.

An umpire's lot was a much happier one back then.



DickAllen said...


The fix is on.

The Dodgers are a better sell than SF.

Publius said...

Dodgers v BoSox is FOX and Manfred's preferred matchup, yes. Must admit the checked swing call, and the iffy strike three call on Wade just before...Max sent up a breaking ball that didn't break but just floated to the upper most and most away corner of the strike zone, maybe...brought a few dark thoughts. I'd hate to think MLB's business is so precarious and its desperation is so great that it would descend to NBA levels of rigging, but those calls, in that situation, were very suspicious.

Rufus T. Firefly said...

Baseball is dead to me.

Barney said...

There's no technology that could automate checked-swing calls. But they should at least be reviewable.

Carl J. Weitz said...

Football is by far the worst officiated game in professional sports.
First of all, they have to stop using part-time officials which backgrounds generally are woefully inadequate. Such as lawyers, insurance agents, teachers, etc. who have experience refereeing high school or college football. They need to be full-time, well-trained, year round professional NFL employees who are paid a decent salary.
Secondly, the NFL should no longer hire middle-age to senior citizen officials who are out of shape and cannot keep up with today's NFL players and, therefore, are often not in the right position to see the play.
Thirdly, there must be more consistency in calling (or not calling) penalties. On some plays, the grabbing and holding is so bad it almost looks like WWE wrestling and nothing is called while at other times all one needs to do is seemingly wink at the opposing player and a flag is dropped.
Lastly, the league and the officials need to make more plays reviewable and stop hiding behind such excuses as "the whistle blew".

13bit said...

Boston sucks dinosaur balls.