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Shoddy Umpiring Nearly Cost Marcus Stroman and the Blue Jays

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

It would’ve been a real shame if the difference-maker in Sunday’s tilt between the Blue Jays and Angels was a technicality buried in MLB’s rule book. Luckily for Marcus Stroman, it was a moot point.

Stroman overcame a few bizarre sequences with home plate umpire Ramon De Jesus to help the Blue Jays secure a much-needed 6-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels. Despite the four-run cushion, the win didn’t come easily and without controversy.

The first incident: the bottom of the third inning. Stroman delivers a pitch to Cole Calhoun, however home plate ump Jesus awards Calhoun first base. Without any sort of on-field explanation, everyone on the Blue Jays’ side is confused.
 



Incident one – the illegal quick pitch

At the time, the call seemed pretty egregious; Calhoun was in the batter’s box, he looked ready and didn’t call for time, Stroman was already in the process of delivering the ball and then De Jesus called an illegal quick pitch (or at least, that’s what we’re led to believe).

Maybe I’m old school, but if you have two feet in the batter’s box and you’re looking directly at the pitcher on the mound, then you should be ready to hit the ball. Just because Calhoun relaxed his hands and stepped out of the box, doesn’t mean De Jesus was obligated to call a quick pitch.

If you’re a proponent of speeding up the game (which MLB is trying to do) and the batter is in the box and looks ready, let the pitcher throw the damn ball. Stroman was trying to do exactly that and he was unfairly punished.

For those who may be unfamiliar with Stroman, he’s been varying a lot with his deliveries as of late. Stroman added a quick pitch and hesitated-delivery pitch to his arsenal as of late. Most recently, Stroman used these pitches with great effectiveness in the World Baseball Classic.

If an umpire had never called a Stroman start before, they may think Stroman is trying to pull a fast one on opposing hitters. He is, but he isn’t; for some reason, De Jesus deemed this to be an illegal pitch.

And then of course, that’s when things started to unravel. Mike Trout Singles – Albert Pujols singles – the Angels plate a run. Here we go again as the Baseball Gods continue to punish the Blue Jays.

Had the Blue Jays not picked up Stroman in the eighth and ninth inning, that incident with the umpire is all we’d be talking about. But that narrative was pushed to the back-burner thanks to the late game heroics of Devon Travis, Kevin Pillar and Ryan Goins.
 

Incident two – the late time call



It may have been the hot afternoon Californian sun, but for whatever reason, it simply was not De Jesus’ day. He then awarded time to Martin Maldonado on this full count pitch.

Here’s the thing – Maldonado called for time after the ball was out of Stroman’s glove and he was throwing to home … and De Jesus awarded time anyway!

Maybe we’ll just chalk it up to De Jesus having a bad day at the office, but those calls were pretty bad. In my mind, the second one is way worse than the first. At least in the case of the illegal quick pitch, the phrase “in the umpire’s judgement” allows for grey area.

The late time call does not. The first controversial call against Stroman may have been borderline, but this one was just blatantly bad by De Jesus.

As Richard Griffin noted in the Toronto Star, De Jesus was front and centre during another umpiring call involving the Blue Jays last summer. The infamous “no-balk call then tell the pitcher how not to balk” incident of August 2016 involving Mike Clevinger of the Cleveland Indians.

Despite these hiccups with the home plate umpire and despite the shoddy calls from behind the plate, Stroman secured a complete game victory over the Angels.

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Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

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1 Comment

  1. Scorekeeper

    April 24, 2017 - 6:04 pm

    Everyone keeps reporting that the batter was awarded first. This isn’t accurate.
    The pitch was called an illegal pitch. That’s a judgement call.
    Once he made it, the penalty is clear: Balk with runners on, Ball without runners on. No runners here, so it’s a Ball.
    It just happened to be ball four. So, he walked.
    The judgement call:
    Generally in MLB and college, catchers wait until the batter is settled in the box (no just having both feet in the box), to drop the signs. This ensures plenty of time for the hitter to get ready.
    The catcher here went really quickly. The batter was in the box but didn’t appear to be settled in. Catcher’s do this as a courtesy and because that’s what they want when they come up to hit.
    In any case, it’s the umpire’s judgement on a quick pitch.

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