Even the most casual of St. Louis Cardinals fans in this corner of the universe were likely watching Friday’s National League Wild Card Game between the Redbirds and Atlanta Braves. And if so you probably saw, and have seen numerous times since, the infield fly ruling by left-field umpire Sam Holbrook that Atlanta fans will from this point forward contend was the worst judgment call since Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s decision in 1864 to torch Atlanta.
During the course of that particular baseball game, as with any pro baseball game, there were countless decisions that to some degree or another influenced the contest’s outcome.
Obviously, every out call made by an umpire during the St. Louis-Atlanta contest – 54 total, 27 for each team during the nine-inning game – was a judgment ruling. Obviously, some were far easier to make than others. A throw to first to retire a runner by 20 feet is far simpler to judge than whether or not Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig kicked first base with his toe ahead of Braves runner Chipper Jones in the ninth inning.
But umpire calls were not the only judgment calls made at Turner Field on Friday. Every time Cards’ catcher Yadier Molina called a pitch, a judgment was being made regarding what pitch had the highest chance of success against that particular batter at that moment. Each batter had to make a split-second decision to either swing or take every pitch. It was also the judgment call of Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma to veer off at the last second instead of catch the eighth inning pop up that precipitated the eruption of protest both on the field and in the stands.
As a former baseball umpire, I believe the call was a correct one. I, like countless other fans across Cardinals Nation, was ready to fling my TV remote after the pop up fell until I realized an infield fly had been called. And after watching the replay, and noting that Kozma could have caught the fly with “ordinary effort,” I concurred with the men in “blue,” not that anyone cares.
But what struck me as interesting was the reaction of those on TV who spend far more time making sure their make-up has been properly applied than in learning the rules of a game they are supposed to be commenting on.
One of ESPN’s talking heads went so far as to suggest that it’s time to do away with having umpires stationed along the left and right field foul lines during playoff games, since instant replay could be utilized to help render decisions on close (controversial) calls that might occur somewhere beyond the infield. It’s a laughable suggestion, considering a judgment decision would still be required by someone staring at a TV monitor.
Page 2 of 2 - Regardless of the game, without the decisions of athletes, coaches and officials/umpires, what would you have? Whatever it would be, it certainly wouldn’t be a sport.
We can no more do away with judgment calls in sports than we can do away with them in our day-to-day life. Think about it. Virtually everything we do is governed by a decision of some type.
Do I go to work or stay in bed?
Do I eat bran for breakfast or a doughnut?
Do I buy a Ford or a Chevy?
Do I go and worship God at a church, synagogue or mosque?
Do I vote for the Democrat or Republican candidate, or just stay home on Nov. 6?
Do I treat people with respect or disdain?
The ability to make daily judgment calls regarding one’s life is called “free will” in church circles. What would life be like without free will? Likely a life not worth living.
Beware of those - friend, foe and government - who seek to chip away at that freedom.