Sports

Baseball players approve of new appeals process

OAKLAND, Calif. – Oakland’s Coco Crisp tracked Robinson Cano’s drive to right-center. He seemed ready to make the catch – until he got caught between deciding whether to jump or stay on his feet and the ball bounced off his glove.

Cano easily got into second base as New York Yankees teammate Curtis Granderson came around to score. Official scorer Chuck Dybdal ruled it a two-base error.

To many at the ballpark, the call seemed routine. But the Yankees were bewildered. They filed an appeal with Major League Baseball the following day to give Cano an RBI double. And their wish was quickly granted by MLB executive vice president Joe Torre, a pattern that is being repeated much more frequently under a streamlined appeals process for official scoring calls.

“You can see it and then you can appeal,” Cano said. “It’s a good thing you can appeal, because sometimes those things, maybe can be the one that – you can hit 2,000 hits. Maybe a double, you can hit 500 doubles. Or the RBI – you can get 1,000 RBIs. Who knows? You know how hard it is to get a hit or double in this game.”

Don’t forget how hard it is to pitch. The Mets took a shot at getting R.A. Dickey’s one-hit gem against Tampa Bay on Wednesday belatedly changed from a one-hitter to a no-hitter. But no luck. That appeal got turned down.

“We took advantage of the process,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “You can do it, so we gave it a shot. We didn’t win it. We didn’t expect to win it. Just gave it a try. If we had won it, we’ve got another no-hitter.”

Both cases have their roots in player complaints about official scoring during last year’s collective bargaining talks, leading to a new appeals process and an effort by MLB to try and bring more consistency to official scoring decisions from city to city and scorer to scorer.

Team officials are not supposed to “initiate communication” with scorers and MLB will punish people who “intimidate, influence or pressure” scorers into changing calls.

Instead, a player or team can appeal any call to MLB within 24 hours after it is made. While baseball will not release numbers on how many appeals there have been this year, scorers, teams and players say it is up considerably from last year when 12 of 58 plays appealed under the old system were overturned.

“It’s a good thing because it’s less of a distraction as the game goes on and there’s a call that, at face value, you say, ‘That’s a hit or that’s an error,’ ” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “There’s a process in place where you ask the league to take a look. It’s one less distraction that can happen in the dugout, where guys are saying, ‘Are you (kidding) me?’ ”

After a successful appeal, the call and corresponding statistics are changed with no fanfare or announcement.

In the play involving Cano and Crisp on May 25 in Oakland, A’s starter Tyson Ross had three earned runs added to his ledger hours after being sent down to Triple-A, moving his ERA from 5.94 to 6.51 without throwing a pitch.

“That’s unfortunate because I believe I should have caught that,” Crisp said. “That works out in my favor, but Tyson doesn’t deserve those runs. It should have been an error.”

Baltimore’s Nick Johnson was on the winning side of an appeal earlier this year when Torre ruled a ball Eduardo Nunez of the Yankees allowed to fall in left field on May 1 should have been a double not an error.

“I like it,” Johnson said of the new process. “I think it’s going to work well. Just another set of eyes to take another look at it. You hear back from them in two, three days and go from there.”

The streamlined appeals process is just one change in how baseball is handing official scorers this season. MLB also brought at least one scorer from every city to New York this offseason to try to bring common standards to a subjective process.

Like past efforts to try and make strike zones consistent from umpire to umpire, MLB wants scoring decisions applied consistently.

“We want more uniformity of calls,” MLB senior vice president Phyllis Merhige said. “A little less variation of what gets called one way in one city and different in another city or among different scorers in the same city.”

To help achieve that, scorers looked at tapes of last year’s appealed and overturned calls and had breakout sessions addressing press box announcements, how to deal with a ball getting lost in the sun or lights, sacrifice bunts and defensive indifference.



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