August 29, 2012: Darwin Barney sits on 113 straight games without an error. It is already the Cubs’ single season record. It is tied with David Eckstein for the longest errorless streak for an NL second baseman (single season). Then…in the 7th inning…this happened.
The official scorer charged Barney with an error on the throw to Valbuena at third. If you’ve played the game at all, you can probably appreciate the scorer’s predicament. If Valbuena picks that cleanly, the tag is simple and everyone raves about the great play by Barney. But regardless of how it appears in replays, that is NOT an easy throw to handle. Barney hurls it sidearm, off-balance, and on the run – those things together are what gives the throw such crazy late movement. On top of this, the throw is coming to Valbuena over the shoulder of Jean Segura raising the degree of difficulty for the catch even more.
But is it really an error to Barney? I say yes. If Barney makes that same tailing throw to Rizzo at first and Rizzo can’t handle all the movement it would almost surely be deemed a bad throw and an error to Barney. It shouldn’t be any different simply because the ball is thrown to third base on a play where a tag is required.
But that night the official scorer changed his original call and credited the error to Valbuena – not Barney. It meant that David Eckstein’s kidney wasn’t the only thing that had been gruesomely wrangled from Eckstein’s possession. Barney would finish that game without further incident, breaking the little guy’s record.
And in a weird, but symmetrical, twist – Barney’s next milestone was the MLB record errorless streak in a single season for a second baseman. Placido Polanco held that streak at 141 games. But on September 28th of last season, Barney came within 3 outs of passing Polanco. Then Barney fielded and hurled this ball towards Rizzo at first. (See, I told you they’d score that an error!) Barney only managed to tie Polanco.
Curiously, Polanco’s streak was extended on August 26, 2007 under similar dubious official scoring changes.
It all begs the question: does every MLB team need their own official scorer? Why allow a clearly biased individual the responsibility of making so many subjective calls? The best answer I can proffer – that’s baseball. No, we can’t have Questec in every park because what if it’s not calibrated similarly everywhere (as if all 94 umpires have the same strike zone! – CB Bucknor might have 30 different strike zones just by himself). No, we can’t review safe or out; only objective things like fair/foul or HR/not a HR (because somehow safe or out is harder to determine than either of those).
That’s baseball; we get mad at pitchers for not throwing it over the plate, then get furious when they throw it over too much of the plate. We want guys to be aggressive on the basepaths, until they get thrown out. And we call it an error unless we can make a valid argument to the contrary – because I think we all know that Barney would still have that error to his credit were it not for his streak.
- Dale must’ve needed a nap – he got ejected before the Dodgers could even complete one at-bat on Wednesday. I’d love to know if a manager has ever been ‘successively ejected’ (that’s what I’m calling it) on check-swing related calls? Remember, this happened about 10 days ago. The blown call from yesterday wasn’t nearly as horri-awful as the Donnie Murphy one; but still, it wasn’t close. Puig MORE than swung his bat. Just judging from Sveum’s indignation, I wonder if his issue was that Lance Barksdale wasn’t paying attention to Puig’s at-bat (because if he had been, that was an easy check-swing to ring him up on). Or maybe Dale ran out of his Kashi Go Lean and missed breakfast on getaway day.
- Johnny Manziel is set to serve the most preposterous suspension in the history of suspensions. He will miss the first half of Texas A&M’s first game. Thank you NCAA for giving Bud Selig a new idea – in 5 years when he hears about this story, Bud will have someone suspended for the first 15 outs or 75 pitches (whichever comes first).
- Aaron Hernandez, it is claimed, was a heavy PCP user (maybe I should say IS, because for all I know he’s still getting the angel dust in jail). He seems like such a normal guy other than that…and the fact that he’s probably killed at least three people…and shot another guy…and has a myriad of crazy-looking tats…including some that adorn his wrists. PCP just seems out of character. *Isn’t Aaron Hernandez just the real-life Demetrius Harris? (The RB from the ESPN drama Playmakers)