High-stakes call in Arizona pads case for replay
Dodgers lose run, momentum and Gonzalez after bang-bang play
PHOENIX -- A bang-bang play at the plate in the sixth inning at Chase Field on Wednesday night, when Michael Young was called out trying to score on an Adrian Gonzalez double, was a perfect example of why Major League Baseball is considering a blanket instant-replay system to be implemented as early as next season.
Whether the call was right or wrong, by 2014, a manager may be able to use one of his challenges to contest it.
Had manager Don Mattingly been afforded that opportunity, the Dodgers may have not lost a run, their momentum or even Gonzalez, who was ejected for arguing the call.
"It changes the game right there," Mattingly said after his club's clinching party was delayed at least one more day because of the 9-4 loss to the D-backs. "It would have been 4-3 with [one] out. Yeah, it would have been great to be able to use [replay]. Nothing against the umpires, but all we want to do is get it right. Let's get it right."
Did first-base umpire Jim Joyce, rotating home to make the call on the play, get it right or wrong?
"He missed it," Mattingly said. "I thought I got a good look at it. I thought [Young got his hand in]. Obviously, it happened so fast, but it looked to me like he was safe."
On the play in question, home-plate umpire and crew chief Joe West rotated toward third base as Gonzalez split the outfielders with a searing line drive to left, sending Young sprinting around from first base. Left fielder Adam Eaton picked up the ball at the fence and relayed it to rookie Chris Owings. The shortstop turned and pegged to catcher Miguel Montero, who applied the tag just as Young's hand seemed to touch the plate.
"It was a really close call at the plate, and I was in really good position to see it." Joyce said. "And what I saw was that his hand was tagged before it hit home plate."
Under the new rules proposed by MLB, a manager will have three challenges during the course of a game -- one during the first six innings and two more from the seventh inning on. If you're wrong, you lose it. If you're right, you retain it. And that will add an entire new dimension of strategy to a game that is ripe with moves and tactics.
If Mattingly had had his challenge remaining in the sixth inning, he certainly would have used it. All discussion and argument would have ceased while a group of officials reviewed the play in New York, and the call would be sustained or overturned.
Instead, the course of the game irrevocably changed. There were numerous reasons why the Dodgers lost and will have to try again to clinch the National League West here on Thursday as their magic number remained at two. But after Gonzalez yelled at Joyce and was ejected, the Dodgers had to play the remainder of a crucial game without their healthiest high-level player.
"I could clearly see he was safe from second base," Gonzalez said. "Jim Joyce made [the call] and that's why I got tossed. I was yelling, but I was saying, 'If you're going to move around, as a crew, hustle and just get there. Get in position to make the call right.' I could see he was still pretty far from home plate. His view wasn't that great. That's what I said, and [second-base] umpire Andy Fletcher thought it wasn't appropriate, so he tossed me. I mean, that's his decision."
Joyce declined to comment about what Gonzalez said, and West simply stated that the first baseman was ejected "for comments that were derogatory toward another umpire."
"He can't do that. He knows he can't do that," West added.
The fact the proposed challenge system would have nullified the whole situation wasn't lost on Gonzalez.
"Then I wouldn't have gotten tossed," he said. "We would have gone to the instant replay and I wouldn't have had to argue."
That's a good thing.
"Absolutely, I'm all for that," Gonzalez said. "We're not against the umpires. We just want the call to be right."
The new system is still being tweaked and must be approved by the unions for the players and umpires before ratification by the owners. Right now, replay is only used to determine home run calls -- in or out of the park, fair or foul.
But that's all in the future. In the present?
"You can draw your conclusions wherever you want to there," West said. "As the union president, I'm not saying anything about what's going on with instant replay, because it's still in negotiations. But under the guideline we have, there's no way that was reviewable."
Perhaps next year.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.