A relatively normal baseball game in Queens came down to the Mets loading the bases in the ninth of a tie game, and then … this:
That’s Michael Conforto leaning his armored elbow out over the plate and into a glancing blow by an Anthony Bass 83 MPH slider, for the game-winning hit-by-pitch. Everyone was up in arms! Even the audibly disgusted Mets’ TV booth of Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling, once again showing why it’s the best in baseball.
So, a few things here:
1. It was within plate ump Ron Kulpa’s power to call the pitch a strike and not award Conforto the base. He should have, but he did not, and the Marlins were boned from there. Because, per the replay rules, umps are only allowed to review whether the pitch hit Conforto—and it did—not questions of balls and strikes. “He knows it was a strike … but it’s probably too late,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly.
2. Conforto leaning into the pitch is, from one angle, just smart baseball. Chickenshit, bush-league? Sure. But “a win’s a win,” as he noted. Maybe he takes a fastball in the ribs the next time these teams meet on Saturday—so, you like getting hit by pitches, do you?—but that’s a trade he’ll take every time. It’s fine and even good to shame Conforto for this, but recognize that he absolutely will not care.
3. You want to fix this, or make sure this doesn’t happen again? It’d be as easy as extending replay review to cover this specific situation, and no other. It wouldn’t come up much, but it’d be pretty easy to get those calls right. But I don’t think there is or should be much appetite for more replay. So just accept that the Marlins got screwed by an umpire’s bad call, the way teams since time immemorial have gotten screwed by umpires’ bad calls. It happens.
4. It’s also really funny. Baseball is better for weird shit happening and going uncorrected.
5. I cannot believe something this weird happened in the Mets’ favor. If you had told me this happened in a Mets game, I’d have laid 1/5 odds on the Mets being the ones fucked over. Perhaps they merely ran into the rare even-losing-er franchise in the Marlins. Or perhaps the Mets, with new ownership and a series of smart front office moves, have actually, finally turned the corner and left Metsing in the past. Frankly, this is a horrifying possibility that should concern everyone.