This was a trapped ball. It was pretty clear, and indisputably so on replay. Yet umpires upheld their initial ruling of a catch, even after Ron Gardenhire's challenge. My headline up there isn't some huffy hyperbole on just how baffling the call was—it's about how umpires literally didn't give an explanation for how this got screwed up, and that's kind of the problem.
Here's the play, by Kansas City's Alex Gordon in the third inning of last nights' 2-1 Twins victory:
Gardenhire came out to argue, and it's really hard to blame him—even if it's illegal and he was quickly ejected by home-plate ump Ted Barrett. Gardenhire said he and his coaches saw the ball clearly trapped on the replays on the jumbotron and in the clubhouse. Why didn't MLB's replay official see the same thing?
"I just wanted to go out there and see what happened," Gardenhire said. "I came in here and looked at it and I don't get it. I didn't get an explanation and I think that's something managers want...I was just looking for an explanation and he threw me out really quick."
Taking the ultimate call on replay reviews out of the hands of the umps on the field is largely a positive move. If there's controversy, managers can't possibly blame them or hold it against them—the impartial eye in MLB's central replay office in New York has all the power.
But one big drawback is the lack of accountability. Did the replay official simply not have access to the angles that fans in the ballpark and TV viewers at home did, the ones that showed Gordon trapping the ball? If not, why not? These are pretty important questions that fans, let alone players and managers, deserve some kind of answer to.
"I don't understand that part of it — I get no explanation," Gardenhire said. "That's a part that a lot of managers are trying to find out here: What did they see? Teddy [Barrett] threw me out pretty quick there, and told me he didn't have to tell me anything."
Bank on this: MLB will put out some statement later today that will acknowledge the ruling was incorrect, but still won't explain the process that led to the mistake.
For all the complaining I've done about it this year, I like replay. I think it's wonderful. I criticize it because I want it to be better. It almost always gets things correct, which is more important than anything else. And I could easily live with the occasional instance of it getting things wrong, if it were transparent enough for me to understand why.