I was away from a computer for most of the weekend, so I'm a bit late to the party.
Of the Orioles series, I was only able to watch the last few innings of Saturday's game, so I was able to see "the call," but it was one of those calls that was so bad, it can only raise suspicions. Then yesterday, Runge tried to rob Marcus Thames of a homerun, and subsequently rob the Tigers of their second go-ahead run in as many days before 2007 Tigers nemesis Greg Gibson corrected the call. I listened to yesterday's game on the radio, and the Orioles' broadcasters were readily willing to admit both calls should have gone in the Tigers favor.
Saturday's game was unacceptable on so many levels. This isn't the difference between a strikeout and a 2-2 count; this was a go-ahead run in extra innings. Often times, due to the nature of having to make a call in a split second, an umpire will make the wrong call as a result of anticipation. This happens frequently when a fielder is slow to get a tag down and the umpire is thinking ahead of time the player will be out. This could not have possibly been the case Saturday. While it was strong throw, it was to the first base side and it was going to take a great tag by Ramon Hernandez to truly retire Polanco.
While I want to call out Runge for corruption, a look at Saturday night's tape reveals how he missed the call: he was not in position to make the correct call. In my 9+ years of umpiring roughly 100 youth games per year, I gained a lot of experience making bang-bang calls at home plate. I have always found that I was in position for calls at home being on the third base side of home plate. From this angle, I was always able to see when the runner touches home plate and if it is before the tag is applied. From the first base line, you risk being blocked out by the catcher, and you have a difficult time seeing when the runner touches home plate and when the tag is applied. I have no idea what they teach in the Major Leagues, but I can tell you that it makes a big difference. Where was Runge?
Runge was in about the only place in the park where you could not have properly seen that Placido Polanco touched home plate and scored the go-ahead run before being tagged. While his blown call Sunday raised suspicion of corruption, it was actually poor mechanics that led to Saturday's botched call.