Jose Bautista has a very good eye for the difference between balls and strikes. (Even otherwise critical former teammates of the Pittsburgh Pirates would concede that much.) Maybe too good an eye. Ordinarily that is an advantage. But yesterday afternoon, may have been a different story.

Saturday was not one of Bautista’s better games. No home runs for one. And no other hits, either. Whatever contribution he is going to make will be through his other main weapon, walks.

Two strike outs in his first two at bats. The third time he was up, the Yankees led 5-3. But with two outs in the top of the fifth, Bautista worked the count to a full 3-2, then drew a fourth ball for a walk. Vernon Wells hit a deep outfield single, sending Bautista around to third. Starter Javier Vasquez, who was approaching 90 pitches, six recently to Bautista, was lifted one out before he could be credited with a win.

Lyle Overbay smacked a double scoring both Bautista and Wells. Tie score 5-5.

Looked at in the traditional way, Bautista is the 0 for 2 batter that the Pirates remember. Looked at using on base percentage, he is a respectable .333, with the one walk counting toward both “plate appearances,” and “on bases.” He stepped up to the plate again in the top of the seventh inning to see what he could do.

An unhittable pitch off the plate. Ball one. Another unhittable lob, but this one on in the inside of the plate. Strike one. Our hero didn’t even try to swing at either one.

A third throw is taken for a ball. But the fourth one is over the plate, just at shoulder height, barely inside the strike zone. Strike two.

A replay shows that to be the case, albeit on the borderline. It’s so close that we wouldn’t fault the umpire for going the other way.

Bautista doesn’t like the call. He protests, then got back into the batter’s box before anything happens.

The next pitch was clearly a ball.  Full count, 3-2. The final “payoff throw” was off the plate. Ball four, or so it seemed. Bautista started toward first.

But the umpire raised his fist. Strike three. You’re out. Bautista protests again. This time he’s “out” again—of the game. It’s just as well, because he’s not going to be much use in the rest of this game.

It was America’s President Abraham Lincoln who advised, “Yield in large matters to which you have no more than equal claim, and in small matters, though clearly your own.”

The first call was clearly borderline, and should not have been argued. Umpires do get the benefit of close, and not so close calls. And if it wasn’t, maybe there wouldn’t have been a second “close” call.

It might be expecting too much of a professional baseball player to consider it a “smaller matter” when the replay showed that this was clearly ball four.

But there is an unofficial feature of umpiring that we call “rectification.” To use an example, there was a case where Bautista’s former Pirate teammate, Jason Bay, was wrongly called “safe” at second base. A replay showed him to be out, and the umpires knew it.

A few plays later, Bay tagged at third base, heading for home after a fly ball was caught. Another umpire called him out for leaving the base before the fly was caught. A replay showed this not to be the case.

By one measure, Bay had been wrongly deprived of a run. By another measure, the umpires were ” rectifying” their original error to prevent Bay from scoring a run, because he should not have had the opportunity in the first place.

If the umpire felt his original “strike” call was wrong, he might have called subsequent strike a ball. On the other hand, having been challenged once, he may have decided to stick to Bautista a second time.

And it’s possible that the second call was an honest judgment. Our views where those of the camera, from the pitcher’s side. But a home plate umpire has to “set up,” much like a catcher, with that catcher in the way.

Almost invariably, the umpire will lean to either the inside (in this case) or outside of the plate, making it harder to call pitches accurately on the other side.

After Bautista was ejected, his manager, Cito Gaston got into the act. Perhaps baseball ought to move toward a manager challenger system as in football, where managers can challenge a ruling based on a reply, and a charged for the resulting time out if it is sustained. (Baseball managers could be charged an out.) Here, Bautista might have been upheld instead.

Or perhaps baseball will stick to 20th-century style justice that relies entirely on human rulings, even when wrong, and even when replays say otherwise, even if it affects a record, like an otherwise perfect game.

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