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Saturday Morning Quarterback

Andy Reed areed@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:55 PM

When I get phone calls or emails from two different teams which just played each other in a baseball or softball games, the hits and errors rarely match.

Sometimes, I think it’s divine fortune the teams [or the scorekeepers] even agree on the score. One team’s hit is the other team’s error.

Back when I covered those games in person and kept my own book, it wouldn’t agree with either of the team’s. You might think we were watching three different games.

It makes it tough to decide how to write a game story with two different perspectives when I wasn’t there.

But broadcasters for the Cincinnati Reds and Miami Marlins had no qualms about the other team’s side Thursday night when probably the most controversial play of the MLB season unfolded before their eyes at home plate on South Beach.

Reds shortstop Zack Cozart was trying to score on a flyout to right field. Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis moved up a couple of feet up the third-base line to catch the throw and tagged out Cozart by a wide margin. Cozart didn’t slide and would have had to go out of the baseline to get around Mathis.

In the old days, meaning last year, Cozart probably would have tried to knock the ball out of Mathis’ mitt.

But MLB decreed over the winter that catchers could not stand over the plate or otherwise impede the runner unless he had the ball or had to go into the runner’s path to get the ball.

The intent of the rule is to eliminate the collisions at the plate which sometime rival what you might see in a football game and save the health of the catcher.

Listening to the Reds radio broadcast, announcers Marty Brennaman and Jeff Brantley said it was a clear case of obstruction by the catcher and Cozart should be called safe by the umpiring crew reviewing the video of the play in New York. In fact, Brennaman was becoming incensed that the decision from the review took over six minutes to make.

After the game, I went online and checked the replay for myself and listened to the TV announcers for both teams. Reds announcers Jim Kelch and Chris Welch echoed their radio brethren and said it was a no-brainer that Cozart should be called safe.

From the Marlins’ TV booth, their guy said Mathis did have the ball and that Cozart had every right to slide into him, and should have done so. One of the announcers [sorry, I don’t know their names] said it would be a travesty if the call was overturned.

My take: Mathis was in the line without the ball, which probably prompted Cozart to decide to try to go around him. But the ball arrived before the runner arrived. I suspect Cozart had already made up his mind and didn’t adjust in the split second.

After six minutes and 10 seconds, the unnamed umpires [they are regular MLB umps who take their turn monitoring the monitors in the Big Apple for a few days before being rotated back out to a stadium to call balls and strikes] reversed the call of plate ump Mike Winters and called Cozart safe.

Instead of the Marlins being out of the inning with a 1-0 lead, the game was tied and Marlins manager Mike Redmond, a 13-year MLB catching veteran, went into a rage. By rule, if a player, coach or manager on the field even starts to say something to a field umpire about a review from New York, he’s automatically ejected.

But Redmond, evoking the old days of Earl Weaver, Billy Martin, Lou Piniella and Bobby Cox, got his money’s worth with Winters, whose initial call actually went Redmond’s way and could do nothing to change the reversal now.

The Marlins’ TV mouth wanted to jump down to the field and do the same thing. He said the game would be forever changed from that moment and something would be done with Rule 7.13.

Now, the broadcasters are employed by the teams they cover and tend to, at least subtly, give the side of their guys. Media who cover the same team day after day are going to, at least subconsciously, root for them. It’s human nature.

That’s even true for media not paid by the team. A Miami writer, following the Reds’ 3-1 win [the go-ahead runs coming on a Ryan Ludwick single following the reversal] called Redmond’s argument “a justifiable cap-throwing, profanity-spewing boil.”

CBS.com’s Mike Axisa, in a story which was amended to reporting that Major League Baseball backed the reversal of the call, blatantly says Winters got the call right the first time and that it was the replay umps in New York who missed it.

Next time you sit down with somebody to watch a game, remember, the two or three of you may see entirely different events even though it’s the same game.

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