The Oakland Athletics and the Cleveland Indians now officially have a history of strange events happening when the two teams play in Cleveland. Oddly enough the events have all been missed calls by the umpires.
It began last season when what was clearly a home run by Athletics’ second baseman Adam Rosales was called a ground rule double. Umpire crew chief, Angel Hernandez, reviewed the call under last season’s replay rules. Hernandez maintained that he had called it correctly the first time.
It was a game changing call that would have tied the game in the top of the ninth. After the Indians failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, that home run would have sent the game into extra innings. The call by Hernandez was officially labeled a missed call by Major League Baseball the next day. It has since been dubbed the “worst of the missed call of the year” by many and was a factor in the drafting of the new expanded replay rules that are being utilized in the current season.
The A’s arrived in Cleveland, for the first and only time this season, on Friday. The first game of the series played without incident as the A’s routed the Indians 11-1. In Saturday’s game the drama began early. Starting pitcher Scott Kazmir, as the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser wrote,
“was frustrated with an erratic strike zone in the first two innings, and after his third walk of the game, he hollered at home-plate umpire Jerry Layne – who then ejected the A’s starter. Kazmir and manager Bob Melvin really let Layne have it after that, Kazmir waving his arms and yelling some obscenities. Up until the ejection, it appeared Kazmir only questioned the strike zone, obviously upset at the final ball he threw to Jesus Aguilar, which Layne presumably thought was low.”
According to my observations and the comments of Oakland’s broadcasters, Ray Fosse and Glen Kuiper, the pitch called a ball by Layne was clearly a missed call that should have been strike three to Aguilar. Kazmir’s ejection forced Melvin to go to the bullpen in the second inning which will render them clearly depleted for tomorrow’s final game of the series. A’s starter for Sunday’s game Jesse Chavez will be expected to go deep into the game.
It’s hard to believe that the umpires could possibly miss yet another call between the two teams. They somehow managed to in the top of the seventh inning. On what was an obvious home run, to most, by A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson, it was unclear to the umpire crew whether or not the ball had surpassed the yellow home run line.
Being that it was the seventh inning and managers cannot use their challenges anymore, Melvin came out and asked if they were going to review the would-be home run. Layne, the umpire crew chief whose discretion it is to make the decision under the new replay rules, initiated the review. The ruling on the field stood after the play was reviewed by the umpire in New York.
Yet after personally watching other camera angles and listening to the broadcasters’ commentary I was, once again, not in agreement with the ruling. There was no doubt that it was, in fact, a home run that Donaldson should have been credited for. The ball landed above the line, like Rosales’ 2013 homer, almost hitting a fan who had to pull his hand away to miss the ball. The ball then bounced off of the railing and back onto the field. When asked about the call being reminiscent of last season, Slusser reported that Melvin answered,
“Way too much. I’m glad Moss got the hit right after that. With all that was going on in the game, it was a pretty tough one to swallow at the time.”
Donaldson’s response echoed that of Melvin’s,
“It stinks that it’s twice here.”
It’s almost impossible to understand how these events could happen at all especially under the new expanded replay rules. Even more strange that it happened in the same city, in a game between the same two teams in less than the course of a single year. The new expanded replay rules did nothing here but come to the same wrong conclusion regarding the home run, the same way Hernandez did on his own in 2013.
While there was no replay on Kazmir’s pitch that should have been the third strike to Aguilar in the second, the consensus was that the umpire’s call was not correct. Kazmir also should no signs that he should have been kicked out in the first place until after the ejection had already been issued. The question then becomes not just about the pitch but also about if the ejection was warranted in the first place.
Put together the individually questionable calls and you end up with three, in a single game, in a place where a similar incident occurred the previous season. With all the games in a single baseball season, yesterday’s game was more than likely only a mere coincidence. Even so it cannot be called anything but strange by anyone involved or anyone who witnessed the bizarre series of events.
The game did eventually come to a conclusion with the Athletics outscoring the Indians 6-2 for their 27th win of the season. It was the A’s eighth win in their past nine games. The A’s are currently in first place in the American League West.