Foul Territory

May 9, 2014

Official scorer has plenty of support amid debate

The MLB rulebook and the Elias Sports Bureau support Steve Weller, a 20-year veteran.

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Steve Weller, the official scorer for Yu Darvish’s second near-miss at a no-hitter, isn’t some rookie, and he has plenty of support to back his judgment that the ball David Oritz hit in the seventh inning Friday night was an error.

Weller, who has been scoring Rangers games for 20 years, gave right fielder Alex Rios an error on a flyball that fell between him and Rougned Odor for the first base runner against right-hander Yu Darvish after he had retired the first 20 Boston batters, a decision that kept Darvish’s no-hit bid intact.

Darvish fell behind 3-0 to Ortiz, who lofted a 3-1 pitch into right field. Odor was playing in shallow right field as part of a shift on Ortiz, and he backtracked toward the ball. Rios, meanwhile came in on the ball to make a catch.

The ball, though, ended up hitting the ground after a miscommunication. The ball didn’t hit either player’s glove, but Weller judged that Rios should have made the catch and stuck him with an error.

That decision set off a debate in the press box as well as on Twitter and on MLB Network and ESPN. Ortiz, though, ended much of the drama with a two-out single in the ninth inning to spoil Darvish’s shot at history.

The MLB rulebook, though, supports Weller. So did the Elias Sports Bureau. Weller also attended a meeting of official scorers two years ago in which they were advised to rule as he did Friday night.

“In my judgment, when the ball goes up in the air, I felt like the second baseman or the right fielder under normal effort could’ve clearly caught the ball,” said Weller, the athletic director at Parker University in Dallas and the former sports information director at UT Arlington.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of argument about that. Under the rule, 10.12(a)(1), it clearly states that a flyball that lands — that’s allowed to hit the ground, that in the judgment of the official scorer under normal effort could be caught — you’re to award an error on the play.”

The rule he cited reads, in part:

“The official scorer shall charge an outfielder with an error if such outfielder allows a flyball to drop to the ground if, in the official scorer’s judgment, an outfielder at that position making ordinary effort would have caught such flyball.”

Weller didn’t take his call lightly. He was on the phone over the final two innings, and he explain himself to Rangers and Red Sox officials. He looked at the replay several times on video, even going frame by frame to see if he could tell what the outfielders were saying to each other.

It was the first time in Weller’s career that he had a no-hitter go to the seventh inning.

“I didn’t want to be in this position, explaining my call,” said Weller, who makes $160 a game before taxes. “I am just like an umpire in that all I want to do is get it right. I know what it looks like. Some people thinking he’s being a hometown scorer and trying to protect the pitcher.

“I looked at the replay a dozen times, and it has not changed my opinion. From my perspective, the perfect game was more coincidental to the call than getting the call right.”

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