Friday night’s National League wild card playoff between the Cardinals and Braves at Turner Field turned to chaos in the eighth inning following a controversial call by left-field umpire Sam Holbrook.
A bloop fly ball to shallow left by Andrelton Simmons set the wheels in motion. Cardinal’s shortstop Pete Kozma back pedaled to the outfield where he called off advancing left-fielder Matt Holliday. The ball would go on to drop in-between the two defenders where it was called dead by the infield fly rule put into effect just moments before the ball hit the ground.
A would-be one-out single to load the bases became a dead ball out in which both runners were held on base. The 52,631 fans in attendance erupted. Boo’s echoed throughout the ballpark, debris piled up on the field in an uproar that took the security staff and grounds crew 20 minutes to get under control.
One inning later and the Braves season was over. Despite finishing six games ahead of the Cardinals in the regular season, they lost their postseason berth on a single game. The most troubling aspect of the whole debacle isn't the blown call by Holbrook, but the rules in place by Major League Baseball that allow for such a situation to manifest itself.
Since the beginning of the modern era, baseball match-ups have been played in a series; three and four games at a time grinding out to 162. Following the agreement between MLB and the MLBPA prior to the start of the 2012 season, this is no longer the case. Now, in a single day following the regular season, the team with more wins foregoes their playoff spot to the team that was aided in victory by an umpire.
Herein lies the problem of this layout; placing the emphasis on a single game leaves no room for the intangibles created by the human element of the game. Players and fans alike know that bad calls happen but in confining a postseason outcome to nine innings, these calls will be much more difficult to swallow when they inevitably do happen. With his new system Selig has not only diminished the importance of the final games in a pennant race but also tarnished the face of the postseason.
Side note: <em>The Braves appealed the call to Joe Torre, Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations, who made the decision to deny the appeal based on the time and scheduling constraints of a single game playoff, stating "As far as 24 hours and waiting for a written report, practically, it just didn't make sense." </em>