By Kevin Oklobzija
Where’s Ian Kinsler when you need him?
His voice of reason — also known as deserving criticism of bad umpiring after his critique of Angel Hernandez last week — sure could have been used at Frontier Field on Monday night, when Scranton/Wilkes-Barre defeated the Rochester Red Wings 4-3.
This wasn’t a night of sparkling moments, or easy calls, for the crew of Charlie Ramos, who worked the plate; crew chief Jansen Visconti, who was at first base; and James Rackley, who was at third.
^^ In the third inning, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s Donovan Solano belted a David Hurlbut pitch to straight-away center that just cleared the fence, hitting above the yellow line. Or so it seemed. That would have been a home run. The ball then bounded back into play.
Visconti, who was between first and second, ruled the ball hit the top of the fence, and because center fielder J.B. Shuck fielded the carom and fired back into the infield, Billy McKinney was stopped at third and Solano reached second.
RailRiders manager Al Pedrique asked the umpires to huddle, which they did, but they stuck with Visconti’s ruling.
It sure seemed like it was a home run, and if so, the call cost the RailRiders two runs because Hurlbut retired the next batter, Mason Williams, for the final out.
There is no replay for umpires in Triple-A, nor are there a multitude of great camera angles. The call stood.
^^ In the bottom of the third, Wings left fielder Daniel Palka mashed a Chance Adams pitch high and far to right, hugging the line. It cleared the fence by 20 yards. Visconti, in perfect position on the foul line, ruled foul.
Palka, who was jogging to first in a sort-of home run trot, seemed to disagree. He stopped as he rounded first and had an incredulous look about him. He, too, had the perfect view. One of them was right. I’ll side with the umpire because he was right where he was supposed to be.
^^ This is where it gets bad for the crew. In the top of the sixth, SWB had already scored twice and had runners on first and second when Williams lofted a fly ball to shallow left. Shortstop Engelb Vielma raced back and Palka raced in. Vielma veered off and Palka, reaching down to shin level, made the catch for the third out.
The Wings en masse trotted off the field, Williams stopped his jog to first and started across the infield to the RailRiders dugout, and everyone else began preparing for the bottom of the inning.
Everyone except Rackley. He was standing on the infield grass to the left of second with both arms straight out to his sides, indicating no catch.
How he made this call is beyond comprehension. Palka’s glove was well off the ground and never got near the ground, nor did the ball. Yet he ruled safe.
Can you say chaos? When disorder was restored, the umpires again huddled. Ramos and Visconti must have told Rackley that Palka made the catch because Rackley soon raised his right arm and said Williams was out on the catch of the fly ball. No runs scored.
^^ When the bottom of the sixth began, Adams’ first pitch to Niko Goodrum split the plate. Trackman, the automated pitch-track device, showed it nearly perfectly centered in the strike zone.
Ramos called it a ball.
SWB catcher Eddy Rodriguez lost his mind. He said the magic word, or words, and Ramos immediately ejected him. Rodriguez then began drawing lines to show the path of the ball, and probably about a whole lot of other pitches from the evening. Ramos will be fined. He got his money’s worth.
Kinsler wasn’t at the ball park to offer his view, so we’ll rely on Red Wings broadcaster Josh Whetzel for the perfect summation, who on his broadcast said: “I think the umpires spent a little too much time looking at the solar eclipse.”