Summer officiating goings-on

It has been a quiet summer in officiating.  Only one major kefuffle, and that involved the opening match of the World Cup, where Brazilian striker Fred went down in the box after the Croatian defender put a hand on him.  With one look at full speed from referee Yuichi Nishimura’s angle, I can understand a penalty.  Unfortunately, Nishimura didn’t have the multiple looks in slow motion and multiple angles that showed Fred diving.  It was what one mentor of mine calls a “fool-the-referee play”, and it worked.  While others grab their pitchforks and torches, I always–every single time–feel sympathy for the official.  As I see it, the only question that matters as far as those critcizing Nishimura goes is this:  did they have a no-call with one look at full speed?

Which brings me to diving.  It seems the issue of diving is similar in my sport of basketball as it is in soccer, except that in soccer the reward for a fool-the-referee play can be even greater.  That said, as players get more skilled at diving (and I think high school basketball players are) and as there are more video angles to create referee excoriation if they are fooled (Nishimura certainly was victimized by this, but even I can be victimized by a Youtube video), that there has to be a strong anti-diving push at all levels.  And it seems obvious how this must happen.

After any game/match, if the video review shows an obvious flop, that player misses the next game.  Period.  The NBA is starting on this with fines, but I’d say stiffer penalties will clean up the game more quickly.

Meanwhile, baseball has added replay.  After that early-season weirdness about the transfer rule, things have settled down a bit.  Until we had this play, which is fascinating in its ramifications for replay.

I’m not sure what the umpires have the power to do.  I’ll take crew chief Bill Miller’s word that they could only go on what happened on the field, in which case he and the replay umprie in New York did the only thing they could do…call Kawasaki out and then count the run.  John Gibbons’ challenge was legitimate as well.

But I’d argue that Melvin’s protest (which turned out to be nothing, since the A’s won the game)  was incredibly important, and I hope MLB does something to clarify the rule.

The issue is this:  The A’s catcher, Stephen Vogt, did exactly what he was supposed to do after Vic Carapazza gave his “safe” signal.  He has to act based on that assumption.  If Carapazza had signalled “out,” then I’m 100% sure that Vogt would have tagged the runner, and we’d have had a double play.  For that reason, it seems to me that if we are going to review that play, we have to call it a double play.

And this is where replay, which I typically suppport, turns problematic.  Umpires are left in a position of determining what -would have happened next- if the call had been made correctly.  And this play, made on a larger stage, might make all sorts of deeper ramifications.  The league office had better come up with some guidelines before the pennant race gets too deep.

I think those guidelines might include reasonable guesses as to what the players would have done had the call been made correctly.  While it’s possible Edwin Encarnacion might have put on the breaks and returned to third in that situation, it’s an infinitessimal chance.  And while it’s also possible that Vogt misses Carapazza’s out call and fails to make the tag, I sort of doubt that too.

So, while I don’t like any possibility here, I think that if you’re going to make that kind of play reviewable, you will have to attempt to reconstruct the rest.


About Paul Hamann
I am a basketball referee in Washington State, working mostly high school games.

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