Let's try a pop quiz, shall we? Does the base runner on this play look safe or out to you?
May 23, 2014
If you said "out," you are clearly not qualified to be an SEC baseball umpire. Sure, the tag has been applied. And, yes, the runner is not touching the bag. But the umpire saw clearly that the runner -- in this case, Joe Serrano -- is safe. And he called it as such.
No big deal -- it's baseball. Sometimes the calls are going to go against you. Except that Serrano would come around after that call in the ninth inning to score the winning run, capping off an Arkansas rally from down 6-0 early to winning 8-7 and eliminating Ole Miss from the SEC tournament. The game could also play a role in whether the Rebels get a national seed in the NCAA playoffs that begin next week.
None of that is to take away from what the Razorbacks did in this game. They were down 6-0, they did come from behind and they did tie the game again in the eighth inning after Ole Miss took a 7-6 lead in the seventh. If Serrano was called out, the Hogs still might have gone on to win in extra innings.
Which is why calls like this are unfair to both teams. Ole Miss goes home wondering if they really should, and fans everywhere are left wondering if Arkansas should have moved on to play LSU tomorrow. After the game that both teams played, the Razorbacks deserved a clean win as much as Ole Miss deserved a clean loss. Thanks to the umpires, neither will get what they deserved.
There's a way to fix this, of course: Instant replay. The conference is trying replay out in the tournament this year, but not on plays like this -- a play that would have been reviewable under MLB's new rules, coincidentally. Hopefully, it's just the beginning of a process that will lead to fewer blown calls -- and fewer questions during the regular season and the tournament.