Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tim Welke: When Players Make Mistakes, So Do Umpires

Read it from cover to cover and the MLB Rules Book will tell you, there is no such thing as a neighborhood play and especially not at first base. Ask veteran umpire Tim Welke and he'll likely tell you the same thing.

Dodgers batter Jerry Hairston, Jr. was ruled out at first base by 1B Umpire and crew chief Tim Welke in the sixth inning of today's Dodgers-Rockies contest on a throw by Rockies third baseman Chris Nelson that, in real-time as well as after instant replay review, appeared to pull first baseman Todd Helton off the first base bag.

As Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly argued and broadcasters Eric Collins and Steve Lyons confirmed, Helton's foot broke contact with first base far before the wayward baseball bounced into his glove.

Consider the following exchange between play-by-play man Collins and analyst Lyons:

Collins: Steve, what happened here?
Lyons: Somebody missed a call.

From an umpire's standpoint, what happened? Did Welke's positioning combined with a poor throw contribute to a straightlined angle that prevented the veteran arbiter from seeing the daylight between foot and base? If Nelson's throw had been on line, would Welke necessarily have gotten the call right? Do player errors contribute to umpiring mistakes?

Officials across all sports are instructed to ascertain proper angles with which to make calls. If a player makes an unexpected movement or positional adjustment due to a poor throw or catch attempt, the official may be in jeopardy of losing the optimal calling angle. Is that what happened here?

What's your theory?

Video: Tim Welke rules Jerry Hairston, Jr. out on what appears to have been a missed call

20 comments :

kickersrule said...

Thanks for posting Gil.

Gil Imber said...

Sure. Whatever helps us all get these calls right.

Anonymous said...

>What's your theory?

Getaway day -- when in doubt, call 'em out.

UmpsRule said...

It almost looks like Welke had a bad angle to see Helton's back foot.

Anonymous said...

even without wearing my glasses I can still see in the video that heltons foot is clearly off the bag (I can probably make the call without them) and also, i'm surprised mattingly did not get ejected

Anonymous said...

Um...this page is called "Close Call Sports." That's not a close call. First he missed the ball hitting the batter in the batter's box, now this. He needs to go.

mnhopper1s said...

Ask for help!

Harlan said...

I have never made it above Little League as an ump, but I don't see why the training I received isn't relevant at the big-league level. If I'm in the A position and I miss a call like this, a coach will come out and ask me to ask for help. Assuming he asked politely, I go to my HP partner and asked him if he saw a pulled foot. HP often (in a two-man crew) has a great angle to watch for a pulled foot. My partner tells me I missed the pulled foot, I reverse my call. My reputation among all the coaches in my league is that I am a guy who wants to get calls right, and that is better than a reputation for stubbornness. Why didn't that happen today? And I'm not singling out Welke, it seems like the there are many instances where there should be more teamwork, but MLB umps refuse to do it.

Matt said...

I think in general the MLB umps do a good job of getting together to discuss close plays. It's too bad Tim didn't ask for help here, because it could have saved him some embarrassment. It looks to me like Tim just got that tunnel vision, where you only focus on the ball, and forget to focus on every other factor. Also, maybe his timing was a bit quick, and he made the out call before checking the foot. Either way it is too bad he didn't consult his crew. This is an unfortunate play, because it has already turned into an opportunity for the all-too-familiar ump bashing on TV.

Dan said...

Tim Welke is off to a shaky start this season.

Anonymous said...

@Matt I think just the opposite happened here. I think he got to focused on the bag and forgot one of the most important parts of taking plays at first base. He didn't read a 'true throw'. Instead of watching for a true throw from the third baseman, which if he had he would have been able to read that this ball was going to pull the first baseman off the bag resulting in welke being able to adjust his position and see this play better, Welke got caught up in reading a 'routine play' which resulted in him missing this one. Umpires at the professional level are taught that plays like these... if you're not blocked or you just know that you had a crappy angle, then you've got to stick with your guns. With Welkes poor angle, i don't believe for a second that he thought he got this call wrong. He was 100% that he got it right, but again has to do with his poor angle and non-adjustement by reading a poor throw.

Anonymous said...

This ball was hit to the third baseman's LEFT. Why is Welke so far in on the dirt to make this call? There's no way he can tell where the first baseman's foot is. Even if he could read that the (very quick) throw wasn't going to be "true", there's no way he could make any kind of useful adjustment to his position because it was so far out of whack to start. Arrrgh!

RichMSN said...

There's no way an umpire in a 4-man crew is going to get help from a plate umpire on a routine grounder to the infield. I wouldn't do it at the HS/College level in a 2-umpire crew. I'm a fan of getting calls right, but I'm not a fan of having coaches ask on every possible pulled foot for me to "get help", which is usually just code for "see if we can get the call to go our way." Yes, this was a mistake. And life goes on.

Anonymous said...

This might be the first post in UEFL history in which not one commenter tries to create some complicated (and unconvincing) scenario in which an obvious umpire error was actually a correct call. Anyone?

Anonymous said...

Welke's positioning was the critical factor. On a routine throw from F5, he would have been fine; however, this throw came from nearly the SS position. A couple of steps into fair territory would have given him a great angle for both the ball and the foot.

Anonymous said...

Welke seemed to be in a good position to monitor a good throw. The throw was bad, 1B adjusted and blocked Welke's view.
My sense tells me Welke knew this and let Mattingly rant--which should have been his first clue to get help from HP. No way he let's a manager rant like that over a simple call at first unless there's some question in his mind.

That having been said, people make mistakes. Ump blew it; fielder threw a bad ball; Hairston didn't hit it out of the infield. It's a game and everybody makes a mistake here and there. Welke's proven he belongs in the Bigs and will make calls today that many of us would miss quite routinely.

Jon Terry said...

Wow, that's a shame. My various umpire friends have been all over this all morning.

As a professional, I think Tim has to know that he was straight-lined. Where's the harm in asking for a little help. In fact, if I'm on the dish, I'm probably giving him some kind of sign, especially at this level cause he'd have to know that this would be all over the place within minutes.

UmpsRule said...

@ Anon from 9:59 AM: Well, since you asked, I'm not sure but Hairston may have been out of the base line (I don't think that is why he was ruled out).

Taking into account his reputation, I am a little surprised that Hairston didn't go berserk. After all, Jerry has been tossed 10 times in his career, according to Retrosheet.

UmpsRule said...

I might add that Tim Welke has previously ejected Jerry Hairston Jr. from a game: http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=8242593&c_id=mlb

Anonymous said...

He was straight lined, plain and simple. Thats why he missed it.
I agree with many here that he should have asked for help instead of being stubborn.
Also I think the reason Mattingly didn't get run is because he realized, at that point, that he HAD missed it and didn't want to look even worse on Sportscenter

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