By Steve Kallas
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You know the play. Game 2 of the World Series, top 9, St. Louis 1, Texas 0, nobody out, Ian Kinsler has just stolen second, Elvis Andrus at the plate. Andrus singles to center, John Jay fields the ball on one hop and comes up throwing home. Albert Pujols is the cutoff man but can’t catch the (offline) throw. Kinsler stays at third while Andrus moves on to second on the (errant) throw.
This, of course, is huge as the next two batters (Josh Hamilton and Michael Young) hit sacrifice flies and both Kinsler and Andrus score.
Final score: Texas 2, St. Louis 1. Texas steals home field advantage away from St. Louis as they go to Texas tied at 1 game.
TIM McCARVER SPEAKS; EVERYBODY LISTENS
As soon as the play happened, expert analyst Tim McCarver decided that Albert Pujols should be given an error. After all, according to McCarver, Pujols touched the throw and, thus, should be given an error. McCarver later expanded, stating that the fact that Pujols touched the ball hurt the chances of Cardinal catcher Yadier Molina to throw out Andrus at second.
An interesting analysis, unchallenged by Joe Buck (or anyone else, for that matter, as everybody seemed to jump on the Pujols-made-a-big-error bandwagon).
But that analysis, on this play, was dead wrong.
LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT THE RULE
Interestingly, the official scorer, originally, did not give Pujols an error. He was correct, but must have bowed to pressure and changed his decision AFTER the game, giving Pujols an error on what turned out to be a play that changed the game and, possibly, the 2011 World Series.
Here’s the rule (Rule 10.12(a)(8)):
“The official scorer shall charge an error against any fielder:
(8) whose failure to stop, or try to stop, an ACCURATELY thrown ball permits a runner to advance.” (emphasis added).
NOW COMPARE THAT TO THE ACTUAL PLAY AND THROW
Take a look at the replay. The throw was a bad one. Albert Pujols, coming over from first base to be the cutoff man lined up with home plate, took one step, then another, and lunged to try and get the ball. The throw wound up 15-18 feet (maybe even a little more) from home plate up the third base line.
Under no definition of accurate was that an accurate throw.
Therefore, under the definition of an error set forth above, that simply could not be an error AGAINST ALBERT PUJOLS.
And while Tim McCarver said that Pujols tipped the ball, that wasn’t clear to this writer even on a slow motion replay. But let’s assume he did slightly tip it: if he tipped it a little, it was 15-18 feet up the third base line. If he hadn’t tipped it (again, assuming that he did on the actual play), it would have been 12-15 feet up the third base line.
Either way, a bad, inaccurate throw by John Jay.
Had Jay made a perfect throw, the ball would have been right on Pujols’s chest, an easy catch. If he had made a good throw, Pujols would have taken one step to his left and caught the ball easily. But once you go to two steps AND a lunge, well, there’s no chance that this was an “accurate” throw.
And, thus, no chance that this was an error on Albert Pujols.
WAS THIS AN ERROR ON JOHN JAY?
Well, a far more interesting question, since this clearly was not an error on Pujols. Once again, let’s look at the rule: Rule 10.12(a)(6): “The official scorer shall charge an error against any fielder: (6) whose wild throw in attempting to prevent a runner’s advance [Kinsler] permits that runner or any other runner [Andrus] to advance one or more bases beyond the base such runner would have reached had the throw not been wild.”
The only question now becomes: Is there anything between an “accurate” throw and a “wild” throw? But that is beyond the scope of this column (if there is nothing between accurate and wild, this was an error on the outfielder, not the lunging first baseman).
There’s no chance that the throw from John Jay was an “accurate” one. Again, just watch the replay. If it’s limited to accurate or wild, then it was wild. If there is something in between (inaccurate? bad?), then I would vote for an inaccurate throw or a bad throw.
But, whatever it was, it was not an accurate throw.
And, whatever it was, it was NOT an error on Albert Pujols.
While everybody (other than the official scorer, and keep in mind that the New York Post actually reported that there were official scorers, plural, who changed the scoring after “numerous reviews”) immediately (and later, see, for example, every expert on SportsCenter) accepted Tim McCarver’s explanation as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, the reality is that he made a snap judgment which, frankly, given the rule and the actual throw, was incorrect.
But don’t take my word for it. Watch the replay, watch the throw, watch Pujols take two steps and lunge, watch where Molina fields the ball and draw your own conclusion.
Sometimes even the experts make mistakes.
But if this error stands (and, hey, presumably it could be changed again) and the Rangers win the World Series, 10, 20 or 50 years from now (or maybe even next week or next month), someone will “break down” the 2011 World Series and come to the conclusion that that big error by Albert Pujols in Game 2, which allowed the winning run to unnecessarily get into scoring position, was the key play in the Cardinals defeat.
And, frankly, that would be dead wrong.