All pardons if you didn’t stay up to watch the end of the Rockies-Phillies game. Even those who go to bed before 11 on the west coast would have probably missed the pivotal play, to say nothing of the hardy souls on the east coast who had to stay up well past 2:00 to see Brad Lidge close the game out. Playoff baseball: it’s awesome for insomniacs!
If you missed the crucial play, then, allow us to recap. With one out and a man on third in the ninth inning, Chase Utley fouled a pitch off his leg, then ran to first anyway, where the throw beat him. For his trouble, Utley was declared safe and the Phillies scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly by the next batter, Ryan Howard. You may think we’re using deliberately partisan language out of some deep bias against the Phils, but no - evidence shows that Utley had no business standing on first.
As you can see from the above photo (taken from this FLICKR.COM photostream), Utley’s ball can be seen next to his leg, directly above a cloud of dirt behind home plate, where his foul ball hit the ground. For more evidence that it wasn’t a more permanent scuff, you can see from this picture that the cloud dissipates shortly thereafter.
After home plate umpire Jerry Meals inexplicably rules the ball in play, pitcher Huston Street fields the ball and throws out Utley. At that point, first base umpire Ron Kulpa (we hope his middle name is “Mea”) declares Todd Helton’s foot off the bag. Picture time? Picture time.
With Utley’s foot on the side of the bag, there’s simply no way his shoe can completely obscure Helton’s without Helton’s still making contact with the base. Further, you can plainly tell Helton has control of the ball, and Kulpa never disputed that Utley beat the throw.
Another angle? Why, sure.
Sadly, we can’t embed the play, because MLB.COM is where dreams go to die. You can watch it here, complete with bewildered live-action commentary from the announcers.
It’s also complete with a full admission from the umpires that they blew the call. Granted, we don’t know if it cost the Rockies a win - that’s too much of a leap in logic, considering the game was tied at the time and it wouldn’t have been a third out - but it significantly swung the balance of the game in the Phillies’ favor, and the Phillies ended up winning because of the run that was scored afterward. That’s a problem.
The worst aspect is that we demonstrably have the technology to review these calls. We just don’t do in baseball, unlike every other major sport. It’s pretty obviously time to make that change.