Mike Napoli of the Texas Rangers argues a call with first base umpire Ron Kulpa after Matt Holliday of the St. Louis Cardinals is called safe after a tag in the fourth inning during Game 3 of the MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 22, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Most of today's day-after recaps of Game 3 of the 2011 World Series are going to be all Albert Pujols.
That's all well and good, since Pujols arguably had the greatest game of anyone in World Series history. But I'm here to talk about the blown call in the fourth inning that may have set up that amazing game.
You've all seen it, and probably dozens of times, but it merits another look:
It is, of course, impossible to know exactly what would have happened in the game had that call been made correctly by first base umpire Ron Kulpa. (Let's get the puns out of the way right now, incidentally: "He was Kulpa-ble"; "He needs to issue a mea Kulpa"... I'm done.)
That would have been the second out of a double play. At the time, the score was 1-0 Cardinals on Allen Craig's first-inning home run; Rangers starter Matt Harrison had allowed three other baserunners (a first-inning single by Holliday, Ryan Theriot reaching on an error, and a single by Pujols, who was out on what should have been the first out of that double play). The ball hit by Holliday was Harrison's 51st pitch -- a little bit of a high pitch count for the top of the fourth inning, but not extraordinarily so.
There would have been two out and no one on base with the right call. To me, it seems likely that Harrison would have gotten out of the inning unscathed; instead, the blown call appeared to rattle him and the rest of the Rangers. The next five Cardinals reached base and four runs scored in the inning; there was another error made, by Napoli, and 22 pitches later Harrison's work for the evening was done. No one in the Rangers' bullpen could get Pujols out, nor most anyone else; Texas relievers gave up nine hits, five walks and 11 runs, all but one of them earned.
As I said, no one knows what would have happened if the right call had been made. But why do we even have to talk about this? I have written multiple times about blown calls since the summer of 2010, and just two days ago, in a long interview, Bud Selig said that new uses of replay review may be coming:
MLB is planning to add "small things" to video review, perhaps limited to fair/foul calls down the lines.
"Small things"? Just fair/foul calls? It would seem to me that safe/out would be a far more important choice; if the commissioner were really serious about this, he could institute it right now. There are a couple dozen high definition cameras shooting multiple angles of every play. Add another umpire to the crew, put him in the press box and give him some replay monitors. If there's a call like this, the crew on the field can call time and ask for booth help. Saturday night's game took over four hours as it was; what's an extra two or three minutes to get the call right?
Maybe Albert Pujols would have had his monster game and the Cardinals would have won by nine runs anyway, if Holliday had been correctly called out.
Or maybe they wouldn't. We'll never know, because MLB refuses to join the rest of the North American major professional sports and review close calls like this one.
The results of the game should reflect what the players actually do on the field. Use review. Get the calls right.