During last week’s series finale between the Red Sox and the Blue
Jays, you could practically feel the steam coming out of David Ortiz‘s
ears as he was called out on strikes in the bottom of the ninth inning. J.D.
Drew had just driven in Boston’s first run to pull within two runs, so with a man on second,
the Red Sox had a legitimate chance at a comeback and a series sweep.
Instead, though, Ortiz was called out on a pitch that was clearly
way outside the strike zone, and it seemed like everyone could see it
except home plate umpire Dale Scott. The next batter, Adrian Beltre,
singled to center, bringing home Drew — but after Darnell McDonald
popped out, the game was over and the Red Sox fell 3-2.
What would have happened if Ortiz hadn’t made the second out on a terrible call? Nobody knows.
“Thank God I wasn’t hitting right-handed, because that would have
hit me in the ribs,” Ortiz said of the offending pitch. “Have a nice
rest of the day guys, because I won’t.”
And Ortiz wasn’t the only one who noticed the inconsistent strike zone.
“I don’t know man. That was interesting,” said second baseman Dustin
Pedroia. “[The umpires] must’ve had a flight. I’m gonna check on that,
see if they had a flight, make sure it’s delayed.”
The umpires have a lot of power over the outcome of a game —
particularly when it comes to calling balls and strikes in the waning
innings of a close contest between divisional opponents. In a division
like the AL East, when the final standings often come down to one or
two games, each of these teams needs every single win it can get, and
it just doesn’t seem right that — in a worst-case scenario — one bad
strike call could be the difference between second place and third
place at the end of the season.
And everyone knows that
the difference between second place and third place in the AL East often equates a
playoff berth or an early end to the season.
Maybe something needs to be done about this. Baseball is no stranger to innovation for the sake of accuracy; it did, after all, recently implement instant replay for questionable home-run calls. Maybe umpiring crews
shouldn’t be able to create their own arbitrary strike zones. Maybe
something like this should be regulated, somehow, with one standard strike zone that every umpire is required to abide by.
What do you think? Should umpires be able to use their discretion, or should Major League Baseball implement a standard strike zone that they all have to use?
Share your thoughts below. The best comments will be read on NESN’s Red Sox GameDay Live or Red Sox Final.
May 17: Should Theo Epstein start to consider making a trade?