Friday, July 1, 2011

Discussions: Losing Count & Broadcast Bias

Update: Last night (7/2/11), the Padres benefitted from an apparent three ball walk in the 5th inning, which ultimately led to the only run of the contest, which the Padres won 1-0 over the Mariners. Padres batter Cameron Maybin drew the 3-2 walk on an off-speed pitch from Mariners pitcher Doug Fister. Replays indicate the scoreboard switched from 1-2 directly to 3-2 after the ball two pitch and that no one - not the players, coaches, umpires, broadcasters, nor fans, seemed to notice the jump. After the game, Mariners Manager Eric Wedge pointed the blame squarely at himself: "Ultimately it's [the manager's] job to watch the game."

HP Umpire Phil Cuzzi relayed his thoughts through the words of Crew Chief, Umpire Tom Hallion: "My plate umpire thought his count was wrong. The scoreboard had 3-2 and he thought he was wrong because when Maybin took off for first, nobody said anything... The catcher didn't react, the dugout didn't react so he thought he had the wrong count." Surely, Cuzzi isn't the first umpire to experience a case of losing the count...

  • Pitcher
    D. Fister
  • Batter
    C. Maybin
189Fastball (Two-seam)Called Strike
288SliderSwinging Strike
390Fastball (Four-seam)Foul
489Fastball (Four-seam)Ball
589Fastball (Four-seam)Foul
790Fastball (Four-seam)Ball

Original Entry
Here at the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League, objective analysis is the name of the game. Nonetheless, as we discussed in Polls: Best Broadcasters, poor rules knowledge, overly critical commentary, and excessive fanaticism (or "homerism") all contribute to what we like to call "bad broadcasting." Perhaps in applying our own objectivity, we expect too much from broadcasters who cannot match that level of realistic analysis. Or perhaps we are incorrect in our assumption that sports broadcasts and news coverage alike should be free from bias.

Whatever the case may be, Jon Terry referred us to the recent Mets-Rangers series, in which the Fox Saturday crew pointed out an apparent 3-2 pitch to Rangers batter Nelson Cruz, ruled a ball by HP Umpire Mike DiMuro, that resulted in a ball three call. The broadcasters stated, "the count was 3-2... that should be ball four." Though not even the harshest critic can truly find much malice emanating from the Fox Saturday broadcasters towards the umpires, Jon Terry points out the power of editing:
Anyone know what happened here?
The video editing certainly makes the announcers look right, but with no argument from either the batter or the bench, there has to be something not shown on the tape.
Given the available online video, it certainly appears Cruz saw four balls during his at bat. The play-by-play also shows four balls during the Cruz at bat. Of course, as Jon Terry accurately states, we very well may be missing a key piece of the puzzle, which would explain the apparent fourth ball not resulting in an awarded base. The Rangers would lose that game 14-5.
  • Pitcher
    J. Niese
  • Batter
    N. Cruz
191Fastball (Four-seam)Swinging Strike
291Fastball (Two-seam)Ball
392Fastball (Two-seam)Called Strike
476CurveballBall In Dirt
593Fastball (Two-seam)Ball
693Fastball (Four-seam)Ball
792Fastball (Four-seam)Foul
888Fastball (Four-seam)Swinging Strike

Turn the page to Sunday's Mets-Rangers contest, carried by the regional FSRangers broadcast, and in which 2B Umpire Jim Reynolds called Mets baserunner Jose Reyes safe on a close play at second base. This time, the announcers are more overtly biased toward the team which their broadcast represents: "That's a shame... the throw was there, the tag was there, he was out easily, you get everything but the call," "and if you say, well, you know, the glove could have been a split second too soon, well fine, there's no way you could have seen that, the throw was there, the tag was there, the only thing you can do is call him out," and later, "There's no doubt, that's a shame... This crew really hearing it now, and this is one day after HP Mike DiMuro made things a lot harder on the Rangers early when he lost count of the balls and strikes and what should have been ball four to Cruz, he called ball three, and Cruz ended up making an out, and things went downhill from there on. This has been not the best work this series from this crew of Andy Fletcher, Tim Welke, Jim Reynolds, and Mike DiMuro." Recall, in the "things went downhill" contest, the Rangers would end up losing 14-5. By contrast, the Rangers would lose Sunday's contest to the Mets, 8-5. For the record, the UEFL would have ruled Sunday's tag play "correct," for lack of video evidence to conclusively show a recorded out. Reynolds had told Kinsler, "you missed [the tag]."

The most blatant case of broadcast bias remains the June 24, 2007 Cubs-White Sox Type B Obstruction call (the play occurs in the top of the 8th inning) that resulted in Joe West's ejection of White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen. The Quality of Correctness for this ejection was "correct," Cubs baserunner (R1) Angel Pagan was clearly obstructed by White Sox shortstop Juan Uribe while rounding second base. The play resulted in a single for Cubs batter Mark DeRosa, Uribe declared safe at second base and Pie declared safe at third base. Initially, Pagan had been tagged and declared out at second base after taking a while to recover from his collision; Pie subsequently was tagged and declared out at home plate. Watching the White Sox broadcast, the obstruction isn't evident other than 2B Umpire Ed Rapuano or 3B Umpire Ed Hickox signaling the infraction at 0:08. Had MLB featured the Cubs broadcast instead, viewers would see the replays clearly showing the entire play, including the obstruction; the White Sox replays began after the obstruction had already occurred.

Discussion Point: Jon Terry referenced the effect of broadcast bias. The Cubs-White Sox obstruction call is the clearest instance of Broadcast Bias I could locate. How about you? What are your memories of broadcast bias? Keep in mind, our next poll, "Worst Broadcasters," very likely may be related to the issue of broadcast bias. Is it reasonable to expect our broadcasts should be free from bias? You make the call.


Anonymous said...

I don't know. I think we all want our broadcasters to be as neutral as they can, but at the same time, they can't really, because they're employed by the team they represent.

Except for the ESPN Sunday Night or FOX Saturday crews, I don't know if it's very fair to expect 100% neutrality. Then again, I expect a little less bias than I saw from the Rangers and White Sox announcers there.

Tony Hendrix said...

In April 1990, Opening Day, the Cubs opened at home with Harry Wendelstedt's crew scheduled. As I had attended Harry's school that winter, I was looking forward to seeing Harry work the plate. The start time was delayed by snow. it kept snowing and as I recall the time was delayed by 30 minutes several times.
Harry Caray and Steve Stone decided the snow was not heavy enough to prevent the game from being played. With every additional delay, Caray began to criticize Wendelstedt, the crew chief, for his lack of judgement in not starting the game. he even said, "I used to endorse his Umpire School, but how can I if the owner has so much trouble making this decision?"
Wendelstedt eventually had a note sent to Caray stating that the home team is responsible for starting the game. As I recall, Caray made a pretty weak apology.

Jim R. said...

Agree, mostly.

But there's a BIG difference between being biased toward a team and being "homers", who view *every* call that goes against their team as a screw-job.

Anonymous said...

Clicker Vs no clicker: Tim Tschida does not use a clicker, Cuzzi does. I think the clicker can hurt more than help. For the last 10yrs (way less than half of my career) I only use the indicator for outs, I'd keep the count in my head. Last year I threw the damm thing away. I think you stay in the game better keeping the count in your head. I don't recommend new umpires do this because you have a lot to think about when you 1st start, the indicator can be a crutch when your young.

Anonymous said...

If you call the damn thing a clicker one more time....

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