As I said in a previous blog, along the same vein in my mind as the Braun issue, is the recent controversy surrounding Derek Jeter’s argument with the umpire in Monday’s game.
However, what I’ve taken issue to how ESPN has covered the event. For the record, the call was wrong, and Jeter was safe. I also do think replay is a good thing in all sports, and I am glad the MLB has jumped on the bandwagon.
However, I’m going to respectfully disagree with a lot of what was said. I’ve been a referee for three different sports: softball, soccer and wrestling. These are the three sports I’m most passionate about (replacing softball with baseball), and I have played all of them as well. I know how it feels to be on both ends of a judgment call, and how it feels to make that type of call.
In the age of replay, you can dissect a play a thousand times before you make a decision, once it’s on TV. However, in the heat of the moment, you don’t have that ability. You have to go with your gut. I’ve seen the replay of Jeter sliding in, and the ump was in the right position to make the call.
Relying solely on what your eyes and ears tell you, he made the right call. As the crew chief for that game even said—normally, if the ball beats the runner, he’s out. You look to see if his hand touches the bag before you hear the ball enter the glove—that’s how you make that call. In that split second, you are either right or wrong.
While I’ve never had any of my games analyzed by replay, I have made bad calls before. However, there’s nothing you can do. If someone argues it, you have to stand your ground. Half of being a referee is knowing the rule book well enough to defend a bad call, and the best referees know that.
Let’s not forget how hard it is to become a professional referee; these guys have to work almost as hard as the players do at their trade. They don’t, however, get paid millions of dollars to do it. The next time you’re at a ballpark, sit close enough to the field to see all the plays, then try to make the right call. I bet you can’t do it.
What makes this issue even more absurd is taking a look at Jeter’s history—he has barely ever been ejected or argued with an umpire. He hardly ever says anything bad about anyone in post-game press conferences, and he’s been through nearly everything imaginable after playing in New York for the last 13 years.
This does open up the debate for replay in baseball. I don’t think it should be used for plays like this. We as fans—and the reporters too—have to have enough sense and decency to leave it be. The guy is human, and is allowed to make a mistake.
While the Yankees did lose the game, and Jeter could have been the tying run, that’s a risk you take in sports. There are no guarantees —what if Damon had missed a fly ball later on that would have put the Blue Jays ahead? I do not doubt Damon’s fielding ability, but anything is possible. Just look at the Mets’ collapse each of the last two years, and how their injuries have plagued them this year, or at the surprising revival of Rick Ankiel’s career.
To me, what ties these two issues together is simple—neither of them should have ever gotten the coverage they did. Jeter is a great player, and has immense respect for the game he gets paid to play. There are so many athletes out there who can’t even say that. Let’s just pass stuff like this by next time, ok?