Back in college, we used to play NHL 94 on Sega Genesis. It was already the year 2000 and we were still playing Sega Genesis, but that is not the point of the story. We used to play this game very, VERY, competitively at all times and we kept track of who won what and the winner would get to stick around and play the next competitor. Unfortunately, in the game it is possible to finish with a tie. These ties would lead to giant arguments all the time when we were looking for a winner.
One of my friends was firmly in the camp that in order to break a tie, you could just play the first period of a new game and see who was winning at the end of it because it was unfair to make everyone else wait for an entire second game to be played. Another of my friends would proclaim that that wasn’t fair due to the fact that there was no way to explain to the computer players that it was really an overtime period and not just the first period in a new game. He claimed that he didn’t have a manual laying out the specific types of intelligence that EA Sports used to program the game, and he wasn’t willing to take the chance that he might get ripped off because his computer team might not play as hard in the first period of a three period game as they would if it were a sudden death overtime.
Sounds tedious, right? Well now it applies to the Indians and their game with Baltimore last week in real life.
During the Tribe’s loss to the Orioles the umpires waived off a run that should have scored. Grady Sizemore caught a fly ball and doubled up the runner at first. The runner at third, Nick Markakis, tagged up and crossed the plate before the ball got to first to record the second out of the double play, and the third out in the inning. The run should have counted, but the umpire waived it off. The Orioles were silent about the play until later on in the 4th inning of the game.
The umpires came back and awarded a run to the Orioles in the 6th inning, which made it Indians 4, Orioles 3, when minutes earlier it had been Indians 4, Orioles 2. The Orioles scored two runs in the 8th and another two runs in the 9th and the game finished 7-4 in favor of the Orioles.
Now at first glance, it appears that one run didn’t decide the contest. What’s the big deal? Well, the problem is two-fold.
First of all, what kind of precedent does this set that a score can be changed well after play has resumed? What if the run breaks a tie game in the 6th inning? What if it breaks a tie in the 8th or 9th? Is it OK only because it didn’t change who had the lead in the game?
The second problem is that even though the Indians were winning, every play, every move, every situation in baseball is dictated by stats. Balls, strikes, runs, outs, and number of runners on all determine how everything is played. I am not here to look into a crystal ball and tell you that the game would have turned out differently, but I am saying that you never know. Maybe the Indians would have played with a greater sense of urgency in those innings between when the mistake was made and when the run was thrown on the scoreboard in the sixth if they had only a one-run lead instead of a two-run lead.
It’s just like in video game hockey where your video game players are playing the first period of a new game under false pretenses. I never thought I would agree with the roommate who insisted on playing a complete second game to determine a winner, but it appears his theory holds true for me in the real world. The umpires missed the call. They made a mistake in correcting it so late in the game. This is a bad precedent for Major League Baseball and the league should do something to fix it.