I found myself watching the end of the San Diego-Colorado one-game playoff to determine the National League wild card last night and saw the controversial play at the plate on which the Rockies' Matt Holliday may or may not have touched home to score the game-winner in Colorado's 9-8 victory.
If you haven't seen it, Colorado came back from two down in bottom of the 13th to tie the game, 8-8, after Holliday's triple off San Diego's ace reliever, Trevor Hoffman. Hoffman intentionally walked the next batter and pitched to Jamey Carroll, who hit a short fly to right-fielder Brian Giles. Giles' throw was online and catcher Michael Barrett did an excellent job of blocking the plate but failed to cleanly field the ball and make the tag.
But Holliday's head-first slide (left) took him far to the dugout side of the plate and his left hand, reaching for the plate, appeared to be blocked by Barrett's left foot. While Holliday was still prone, dazed and bleeding from his one-point landing, Barrett retrieved the ball.
Home plate umpire Tim McClelland did not make a safe signal until after Barrett had grabbed the ball and was crawling toward Holliday to make the tag.
That was a little weird. If Holliday had caught the plate to begin with, why didn't McClelland make the call as soon as the ball eluded Barrett and rolled away? After a reader urged me to review the play to re-examine the sequence, the delay doesn't seem quite as long now as it did in real time but the signal is still pretty casual.
Surprisingly, the Padres did not protest. Of course, what good would it have done?
So, the play at the plate raises the question of instant replay in baseball yet again. Two problems with that as it applies to last night's game. For one thing, tag plays are usually not part of the discussion when it comes to instant replay in baseball. The plays most often mentioned for instant replay are fair-or-foul and whether a deep drive leaves the park or stays in play. Second, several camera angles failed to show conclusively whether Holliday has yet to touch home plate.
Photo credit: Will Powers/AP