Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas
If you watch plenty of baseball, it’s a play you see eight or ten times a year or so. Friday night, Yankees at Twins, bottom seven, Yankees winning 6-4, Brendan Harris on first for the Twins, nobody out. Carlos Gomez hits a slow grounder to Robinson Cano at second. Cano catches it in the baseline and, as many of you know, his first thought is to tag Harris and throw to first for the double play.
But Brendan Harris has a clue and stops about halfway to second or so. Cano has to make a split-second (but not that difficult with a two-run lead) decision: Should he get the lead runner easily by either tagging him or flipping to second (remember, Cano is in the baseline between the runner and second base)? (Answer, by the way: Yes). Or, should he throw to first and let the first baseman try to throw Harris out at second for a possible double play (of course, if Harris makes it to second, you’ve foolishly allowed a runner to get into scoring position in a two-run game and you also lose the force at second)? (Answer, by the way: No).
Cano makes the wrong decision and throws to first to get Gomez while Harris then beats the throw and slides safely into scoring position at second.
Not a big deal – if you’re an announcer, you simply point out that, in this situation, you want to get the lead runner because you’re only up two runs and you will then, with a man on first, still have a chance for the double play when the next hitter steps into the box.
But, somehow, this escaped former professional baseball players and current Yankee announcers John Flaherty and Ken Singleton. Michael Kay, the Yankees play-by-play guy (the game was shown on MY9 and replayed on YES), also didn’t get it at first. But a short time later, he did (maybe somebody whispered in his ear that, over on the radio side, the radio announcers had said that Cano made a mistake by not getting the lead runner or maybe it just dawned on Kay), bringing up the fact that maybe Cano should have got the lead runner out. But Flaherty and Singleton would have none of it, crediting Harris with a good play rather than saying the obvious — Cano made a bad decision. When Kay continued with his correct shouldn’t-they-get-the-lead-runner question (most unknowledgeable (and maybe even most knowledgeable) fans would believe the two former pros over the play-by-play guy), Singleton actually said the play was caused by Harris’ good baserunning.
Well, yes and no. The ONLY intelligent thing a baserunner can do in that situation is to stop. If he keeps running, HE’S the idiot who allows the fielder to get an easy double play (by quickly tagging him out and throwing to first). But when he does stop, it puts the onus on the fielder to do the smart thing – in this case, get the lead runner (for you sophisticated baseball people, you’ll understand that much of the decision of the second baseman is dependent upon where the runner is – for example, if he’s only 25 feet off first, then it is correct to throw to first first because the runner will either be out by 20 feet at second or, more likely, will get in a rundown). But where, as here, Harris was halfway or even a little more to second, it was clear when Cano threw to first that the Yankees weren’t going to get the out at second.
Too picky, you say? I don’t think so. This is the kind of thing you see in baseball games. It’s a play you see sometimes but, depending on the situation, has very different approaches. For example, if there are two outs, none of this matters (because the inning is over on the out at first). If you’re up 10 runs, rather than one or two, you should still get the lead runner but it’s not as important (because you’re up 10 runs). Maybe if the next guy had singled in Harris from second (he didn’t), it would have dawned on Flaherty and/or Singleton that, in fact, Cano had made a mistake.
By the way, this incorrect television analysis went on for a couple of minutes. So, to give you a better flavor with exact quotes, I taped the Yankees encore (a two-and-a-half hour version of the game shown later that night and/or the next morning) on YES (again, the game was originally shown on MY9 in New York with Yankee announcers and replayed on YES).
But a funny thing happened on the way to getting these not-so-great (for the announcers) quotes: YES simply decided to skip over the bottom of the seventh (YES does skip parts of a game to fit in the two-and-a-half hour window – why they don’t always show the whole game is beyond me since YES is the Yankee network). It simply was eliminated from the replay of the game. One could argue that nothing happened in the bottom of the seventh – after all, the Twins failed to score. But one could also argue that an interesting baseball play took place and with a correct analysis on the radio and a terrible analysis on TV, YES didn’t want to show again and again mistakes made by their broadcasters.
So, where does that leave us? With a hope that announcers will see their mistakes quickly and correct them (good luck waiting for that). Or, at least, that when the replays are shown later that night or the next morning or both, the fan who missed the game the night before won’t be deprived of interesting plays because the announcers didn’t quite grasp the obvious (or decided not to criticize a Yankee).