In the sixth inning of the Phillies-Marlins game played on Sunday, September 4th, Florida manager Jack McKeon and Umpire Crew Chief Joe West combined to make both an illogical instant replay request and the most asinine call in recent memory.
With Ryan Howard at first, Hunter Pence drove a ball to deep right field. Marlins' right fielder, Bryan Petersen (who, as it turns out, is a better complainer than fielder), jumped for the ball. Two fans, one in a Phillies jersey, one in a shirt that did not betray his rooting interest, reached over the outfield wall.
Petersen closed his glove in mid-air. As he did, his hand and the hands of the two fans collided. The ball bounced off of Petersen's closed glove and rolled to the right field corner. Pence reached second. Howard reached third.
Before the throw from Petersen reached the infield, he began complaining about fan interference. McKeon, who has never met an on-field decision that went against his team that he wouldn't protest, came out of the dugout and asked for the crew to review the play. One problem: Instant replay is used to review home runs. This was a double, not a home-run.
The crew reviewed the instant replay, and West seemed to totally make up a rule by calling Pence out and sending Howard back to first.
Try to follow this logic: The Phillies were the team on the road. Now, one of the fans who interfered was wearing a Phillies jersey, but had both fans been wearing regular, non-descript polo shirts and interfered, the umpires would have no clue as to their rooting interests.
They would also then have to presume, being in Florida, that the two were Marlins fans, which sends this message to Major League Baseball fans: should the outfielder on the team you're rooting for have a difficult play at the wall, simply interfere with the play.
The batter will be called out and should any baserunner have theoretically advanced (as Howard could have, had he tug up at first and Petersen made the difficult catch at the wall), he will be sent back to his previous base with no chance at advancement. To be safe, wear the opposing team's jersey when you interfere with the play.
The other bit of illogical nonsense is this: calling Pence out means West assumed Petersen was going to make the catch, which was not a given at all. It was an extremely difficult play with Petersen having to perfectly time his leap and the closing of his glove. He closed his glove too soon, the ball bounced off, and Pence made it to second.
In calling Pence out, West assumed he knew what was in Petersen's head. He assumed Petersen closed his glove only because he saw two hands reach over the wall. West also has anointed himself as overseer of the universe by predicting in his mind and making it a fact on the field that effected the outcome of a MLB game that Petersen would've closed his glove in time and held onto it as he crashed into the wall.
In football, hockey and baseball "clear and convincing evidence" is needed to overturn a call on the field/ice. Unless it is clear cut, then the ruling on the field stands. The ruling on the field was a double for Pence.
By calling Pence out, West had determined clear and convincing evidence existed, proving had those two fans not been there, Petersen would've timed his leap perfectly, caught the ball squarely, held onto the ball as he crashed into the wall, landed on the warning track and make a throw to the infield to prevent Howard from tagging and advancing to second.
All of this is a pretty big stretch, considering the footage available. Despite what he believes to the contrary, West cannot see inside men's souls.
Finally, had one of the fans actually caught the ball and pulled it over the rail, the initial call on the field would've been a home run. Now, this call could've and almost assuredly would've been protested by McKeon, and he'd have been right to do so. Had the fans caught the ball, West would've reviewed it, ruled fan interference...and awarded Pence a ground rule double. A double is exactly what Pence hit and was originally awarded.
This is just another in a long list of boneheaded and arrogant decisions made by West, a man who in a poll of MLB players in 2010, was voted the second-worst umpire in baseball. We can see why.