Players embrace baseball scoring appeals process
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
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 just
hours after being sent down to Triple-A from 5.94 to 6.51 without
throwing an additional 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
Minnesota scorer Stew Thornley said he has had calls overturned
on appeal and likes the new process better than the confrontations
with players or team officials that used to more frequent.
He sympathizes with players who are upset about calls they
disagree with, because he used to do his share of complaining
before becoming a scorer himself.
”You think you got jobbed by a scorer’s call, you’re unhappy. I
totally understand that,” Thornley said. ”That’s part of the job.
That’s why any clown out there can’t do it because boy, I used to
be one of those clowns. `Boy if I were doing this job.’ Then you
find out what it’s like to do it from the hot seat and get some of
While baseball’s rules say judgment calls by an official scorer
should only be changed if they are to be determined to be ”clearly
erroneous,” players who like the new process acknowledge there is
rarely unanimity on disputed calls.
Oakland shortstop Cliff Pennington said when he polls teammates
about disputed calls, the clubhouse verdict is usually split.
”We’re judges the same way you think of a judge in court,” New
York scorer Billy Altman said. ”It’s not completely possible to
standardize that. No court can standardize how judges approach
things. … If every call was black and white, they would not need
an official scorer. These are judgment calls. They can go either
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 an admittedly subjective
Like past efforts to try and make strike zones consistent from
umpire to umpire, MLB wants scoring decisions applied
”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.
One of the most specific sessions was led by Tampa Bay scorer
Bill Mathews, who is also the head baseball coach at Eckerd
College. He gave scorers clues on what to look for in terms of how
hard a ball is hit, the angle a player takes and a fielder’s
position when a ball is caught.
”There’s still human judgment,” Mathews said. ”Scoring is
about judgment, feel and knowledge of the game. It’s about making
tough decisions under pressure at the right time. That’s what makes
it fun. I’d say 94 percent of plays are a piece of cake. That 6
percent are what you take home and lose sleep over because you just
want to get it right.”
There has been a strong trend leading to fewer errors in the big
leagues with the 11 highest fielding percentages of all-time coming
in the past 11 seasons.
Errors per game have dropped about 25 percent the past 40 years
because of better fielding, improved groundskeeping, better replays
that allow scorers to see bad hops or other factors that could
change an error to a hit.
Some also believe scorers today are less likely to hand out
errors and more likely to give batters the benefit of the doubt
with a hit.
But many players still believe scorers are too quick to call
errors, failing to recognize how difficult it is to get a hit or
field a ball cleanly in the big leagues.
”In Toronto, they mostly score hits as errors,” Blue Jays
infielder Omar Vizquel said. ”The guy is pretty tough. He must
have 10 Gold Gloves because he can make every play out there. I
don’t know if it’s something personal or if he knows about
baseball. Sometimes there are some calls that are very
While a scorer’s call can never change the outcome of a game
like one from an umpire, it still can rankle players who are often
times judged – and paid – based on their numbers.
”I don’t think it lasts very long but it does bother us when we
think we get screwed,” said Eric Chavez of the Yankees, a six-time
Gold Glove winner at third base. ”We have an appreciation for how
tough the game is so we tend to err on let’s give him the benefit
of the doubt whether it’s an error for the fielder or a hit for the
Scorers are sympathetic to frustration by players but get angry
when people try to attach motives to their judgment decisions –
such as helping out a home team player, punishing a disliked player
or making a ruling based on a possible historical achievement.
”I have no problem about people questioning me because when I’m
not scoring, I’m the guy who is questioning as well,” Bay Area
scorer David Feldman said. ”But don’t question my integrity. Don’t
say I’m trying to do something.”
AP Baseball Writers Jon Krawczynski, Janie McCauley and Noah
Trister contributed to this report.