Saturday, September 27, 2008

Instant Replay Creates Pinch-Runner During Home Run Trot

I was at the Giants/Dodgers game last night and saw that weird instant replay play first hand, right in front of me. That had to be one of the most bizarre plays in baseball history. Giants catcher Benjie Molina came to bat with a runner on and hit a line drive off the top of the right field fence. It bounced back to the outfielder and he was held to a single. But the top of the brick wall at AT&T has a green tin roof that slopes back toward the field (link courtesy Google Image). Ground rules state that if the ball hits the tin roof (including both the edge and top) it is a home run. There's no need for the ball to go into the stands.

Molina is the slowest runner in the majors, so Giants manager Bruce Bochy sent Emmanuel Burris out to pinch run. The Dodger pitcher wanted a new ball, so threw the old one in. But it had green paint on it, proof that it hit the tin roof, so Bochy called for instant replay to determine if it was a home run. Somehow the powers that be missed the fans down the right field line twirling their fingers in the air with the home run signal and screaming "home run!". The ball obviously hit the roof because we could hear it. It is a loud thud, kind of like a baseball hitting a tin roof.

The umpires conferred and retreated to the instant replay area in a tunnel behind home plate. They reversed the call and declared it a home run. But Burris was already at first, and the umpires directed the runners to continue home. Burris had the most hilarious smile on his face, because he didn't hit the ball. Both runs scored and the game was tied.

But because the pinch runner was put in, neither Molina or Burris were allowed to continue playing. Bochy played the game under protest because if the umps had made the correct call in the first place, there would have been no need for a pinch runner. There will be a new rule next year regarding instant replay, for sure. There was also question as to how the play should be scored. Nothing like this has ever happened. Molina hit the home run, but Burris scored the run. Molina should get the RBI's, but does he score the run? Should Burris be in the box score? Essentially, the way the umpires ruled the play, a pinch runner was put in right in the middle of a home run trot.

What should have happened is this. The umps should have reversed the call, called Burris off the field and sending Molina back to first. Then the runners should have continued running the bases (giving the Dodgers the right to appeal in case either runner missed touching a base), allowing each to score. Burris' entrance into the game via a pinch running appearance should have been struck from the record, and Molina should have been allowed to continue playing. Burris would go back to the bench and be available to Bochy to play later in the game. The new rule should read that in case of instant replay overturning a ruling on the field, all interim lineup moves between the contested play and the first pitch (or pickoff throw to a base) afterward should be nullified.

Such a wacky play as this should have occurred at Candlestick Park. But it did happen in San Francisco.

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