Saturday, May 25, 2013

Disputed Double Play: Watching the Ball into the Glove

A brand of slight of hand magic turned a double play in Seattle Friday night as the Texas Rangers practiced their own art of prestidigitation courtesy of pitcher Justin Grimm and first baseman Mitch Moreland. With none out and two on, Mariners batter Jesus Sucre grounded to Moreland, who threw to shortstop Elvis Andrus for the force out at second base, setting the stage for baseball's very own l├ęger de main trick.

Safe or out...or...Who has the baseball?
As Andrus prepared the throw, both Moreland and pitcher Grimm converged on first base in an apparent pitcher's fielding practice play gone wrong—except it ended up switching completely right. For Moreland stretched to receive Andrus' slightly-wide throw, the interplay between Moreland's left foot and the first base bag providing the trick's misdirection element, distracting 1B Umpire Jeff Nelson just enough so that he focused on Moreland's foot rather than on the ball at the critical moment. As the ball arrived at first base, Grimm stepped in front of Moreland, stealing the throw into his glove, Grimm's inadvertent palm creating the simulation that Moreland had received the throw. Cognizant of the error, Grimm huddled with Moreland and walked back to the mound, preserving the illusion and a more unconventional hidden ball trick. Because Nelson too turned away to walk back down the first base foul line, Grimm did not need to ditch the baseball nor load it into Moreland's glove.

This is hardly the first time magic has made an appearance on the diamond. In 2012, Mike DiMuro famously ejected Indians 3B Jack Hannahan after DiMuro ruled a phantom catch by Yankees outfielder Dewayne Wise. Hannahan had confronted DiMuro after viewing a replay that clearly showed DiMuro had been duped by yet another unconventional incarnation of the hidden ball trick: a fan actually held the baseball as a trophy just feet from DiMuro when Mike made his incorrect out call. DiMuro later admitted, "I should have asked him to show me the ball since he fell into the stands and out of my line of vision."

As the Penn & Teller Orchestra with Gary Stockdale sang in the one-hit wonder "Liftoff of Love / Ripoff of Love," "ain't no mystery, it's just trickery." Or in baseball-speak; Keep your eye on the ball.

Video: Nelson rules an out because Moreland's foot was on the base, though Moreland didn't catch the ball

9 comments :

Gil Imber said...

One of the downsides of calls at first being made largely by sound. Nelson technically should have made sure that Moreland actually had the ball before calling him out. I'm guessing he didn't even realize Grimm was there and/or able to make the catch, considering how quick the call is and how quick he is to walk back to his position.

Gil Imber said...

This is what happens when you listen for the ball to hit the glove and watch teh runner and fielders foot on the bag. Freak play that fooled everyone (except the unblinking eye of instant replay)

Gil Imber said...

Just saw a very similar play in the Brewers/Pirates game. Main difference being 1B umpire Eric Cooper waited to see who had the ball before making a call.

Gil Imber said...

But can you honestly say that if Jeff Nelson didn't make his faux pas yesterday? I think that was a wakeup call to the umpires.

Gil Imber said...

Probably not, although in this example the pitcher was much closer to the bag than he was in Nelson's, meaning it was easier for Cooper to see him. I still think Nelson didn't even realize Grimm was there.

Gil Imber said...

Jeff Nelson discussing the play: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130525&content_id=48609586&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

Gil Imber said...

It's one of the basic rules that Red Barber learned as a broadcaster, based on one of the basic rules of umpiring - just as an umpire must officiate the ball, a broadcaster must broadcast the ball. I know it's what umpires are "trained" to do, but if you train yourself to give up sight of either the bag or the ball (but ESPECIALLY the ball) you are setting yourself up to fail. This is one of those instances where that statement makes crystal-clear sense.

Gil Imber said...

I am a Yankee fan and STILL think DiMuro should have been suspended (as Cubby was this year) for an egregious error. And in this case if you don't go to instant replay when someone comes out and tells you that the 1B did not catch the ball and the SP did, you deserve it even more. People make mistakes, it is how they are ameliorated that is significant.

Gil Imber said...

Still inexcusable if you ask me. I think this is as bad as Angel Hernandez's blown HR call earlier this year. I try not to be critical of these guys, but accountability is important.

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