Tigers vs. Rangers Bunt: In Wake of Blown Call, Leyland Firmly Against Replay

Gil ImberAnalyst IIApril 23, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 13: Manager Jim Leyland #10 of the Detroit Tigers sits in the dugout before the opening day game against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on April 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

As Texas Rangers second baseman Alberto Gonzalez attempted a gutsy 11th-inning squeeze bunt against Detroit on Sunday, the Tigers infield stood stagnant: First baseman Miguel Cabrera forgot to cover first and pitcher Thad Weber, who had fielded the ball, didn't bother throwing home.

Yet while the Tigers froze in confusion and Texas celebrated a go-ahead score, Detroit's venerable manager Jim Leyland knew exactly what to do, marching right up to home plate umpire Tim Welke and claiming that the ball should have been declared dead long before bedlam broke loose.

Leyland had seen an odd carom at home plate and was questioning the play's physics: Gonzalez had bunted the ball straight down and it had ended up in front of the pitcher's mound.

Welke gathered his crew of umpires, including Paul Schrieber, Mike Everitt and Mike Estabrook, consulting with them for several seconds before determining that none of them had seen anything out of the ordinary.

The play stood and Leyland dejectedly retreated back to his team's third-base dugout.

Replays indicated that Leyland's argument had merit; Gonzalez appeared to have bunted the ball straight down and into his right thigh, the baseball deflecting off of his leg and into the field of play.

The correct call? A foul ball.

The call on the field? An RBI infield single.

Leyland, fit to be tied, could understandably demand instant replay expansion to fair and foul calls at the plate. He could become angry and blame the umpires for his team's loss, especially after Welke admitted to a pool reporter that, after watching replays after the game, the umpires had determined that the ball did hit the batter.

But that's not Jim: "I'm not going to get upset...I'm not going to sit here and blast the umpires."

Leyland continued, "You can open up a can of worms with too much replay. I mean, where do you stop it?...That's fair enough. [Welke] did check, but nobody else saw it."

This is not the first instance in which a late-game missed call has proven costly for the Tigers.

In 2010, then-Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga had his perfect game broken up by an infield single by Cleveland Indians batter Jason Donald with two outs in the ninth inning.

Though replays indicated that first-base umpire Jim Joyce had incorrectly ruled Donald safe at first, the call stood and Galarraga was denied perfection after securing the 27th out upon facing the very next batter.

Following the game, Joyce emotionally admitted he had missed the call, defeatedly stating, "I thought he beat the play and now that I'm standing here and I've seen it on the replay...I missed it. This isn't a call, this is a history call and I kicked the [expletive] out of it and there's nobody that feels worse than I do."

The imperfect game led to a tremendous round of sportsmanship by Galarraga, Joyce and Leyland, culminating in the Galarraga-Joyce book Nobody's Perfect and a sportsmanship-related appearance at the ESPY Awards.

At the time, as in the present, Leyland voiced his steadfast opposition to expanded instant replay: "This is the human element of the  game, it's going to remain that way forever—I think it should...That's the human element and it's a good element because the umpires do a great job."

A late-game missed call isn't going to change that.


Gil Imber is Bleacher Report's Rules Featured Columnist and owner of Close Call Sports, a website dedicated to the objective and fair analysis of close or controversial calls in sports.